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Graduates tout the rewards of finishing in four years

Completing an undergraduate education in four years can be a challenge. But the rewards can be many -- personal accomplishment, financial savings, and moving on to the next stage of your career-building. 

Finishing a degree in four years isn't always easy, though. That's where Fort Lewis College's Finish in Four! program comes in. Finish in Four! is an agreement that first-time freshmen can make with the college that guarantees students access to the classes needed to graduate in four years in exchange for deadline commitments.

Participating students work with Finish in Four! advisors to develop academic plans that identify critical course sequencing to assure a timely graduation, saving students the time and costs of longer undergraduate careers.

The effort to graduate in four years can be worth it, say several graduates who in April achieved their dreams of participating in Commencement ceremonies four years after they began their undergraduate studies:

Kathleen (K.D.) Cox//Geology

Kathleen Cox
Kathleen Cox

For lack of a better word, I feel incredible for having finished my degree in four years. I not only earned a degree, but I earned a hard sciences degree in four years! The hardest part of achieving my four-year goal was staying focused. I did not transfer nor did I switch my major. I knew what I wanted to do and I stuck to it, and that kind of determination and focus is not easy to keep going, especially for four years.

Setting a four-year deadline for myself is what kept me on track. I had a time limit on my scholarships, so as long as I finished in four years I would be graduating without any kind of debt. I made my four-year deadline and am now debt free!

My best pieces of advice for incoming freshmen are:

  • Get your work done first.  Getting your work done before you play will put you on the track to success. I know it's hard when you live somewhere as amazing as Durango, but that has to to come first!
  • Take time for yourself. You're in college, and you are going to face stresses and challenges. So get out on your own and go for a hike, meditate, work out, or bike so that you can clear your mind and reset.
  • Have fun. I have taken my college education seriously, but I still had some amazing experiences and fun. Make new friends and join in on clubs or go on an Outdoor Pursuits trip. Durango is amazing and the people are great, so enjoy your short time here!
  • Eat healthy. Avoid that freshmen 15. You will feel much better in the long run!
  • Bug your professors (respectfully, of course).  Office hours are posted for a reason. Use them! If you are falling behind in a course or just struggling in general, most professors that I have had over the years have been concerned for my well-being and willing to help in anyway they could so that I could succeed. This is a small college and most professors will have the time to talk to you face to face, so do not be afraid to approach them.

Molly Blum//Art

Molly Blum
Molly Blum

I'm happy and proud for having finished on time. The hardest part was balancing and my schedule each semester. It has definitely been an organizational feat keeping track of what classes I had taken, and what ones I still needed to take. Other than that, time management and fitting my school work in with my ski schedule and social life helped me succeed.

What helped me stay on track and make it through was keeping a running list of all the classes I had taken, and also a list of what classes I still needed to complete. By doing this I was able to track my hours completed and credit hours needed. Registering as early as possible was also ideal in making sure I was able to get into the classes I needed.

My advice for incoming freshmen who want to stay on track to graduate in four years is:

  • Declare your major early. That way you can start planning your schedule as early as possible.
  • Don't be scared to talk. Your advisors, and even upperclassmen, can offer great advice about your classes.
  • Get your general education requirements finished early on. That way you have more leeway when scheduling the classes you need for your major.
  • Look ahead. Before deciding on classes, look to see what prerequisites you need, and what classes are only offered certain semesters.

Lewis Wittry//Psychology//ASFLC Vice President

Lewis Wittry
Lewis Wittry

Graduating on time was important to me because if I didn't graduate on time, I would not have been able to pay for college. When I started school my parents made a deal with me that they would pay for my schooling for a maximum of four years. If it took me any longer to graduate, I would be on my own to pay for it, so graduating in four years was really the only option I had.

Now I feel good having done it. I actually could have graduated a semester early, but instead decided to reduce my credit load and get involved in Associated Students of Fort Lewis College, the student government. This ended up being a much better option because I learned a lot, and this opportunity served as a sort of two-year-long internship in leadership and government.

My advisor helped me stay on track and make it through. I really like academics and was almost constantly interested in my classes, so that helped me stay on track with school. I think getting involved in Student Government also helped college added a change of scenery and pace to my life. You should look into extra-curricular activities like that because they get you out of the classroom and into a different environment.

Honestly, graduating on time wasn't really that hard for me. I planned how many credits I would have to take in my major to graduate in four years at the start of college and just worked with my advisor to make sure I was still going to get out on time.

Find out more about the Finish In Four! program.

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