How Long is Too Long in College

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Pursuing a whole new level of education will take quite a lot of time and money for any student. Some people reach college graduation years before their guidance counselors expect them to; other people take much longer to earn their degree. What they share is a degree of control over this time and money.

What causes these differences in length? How long is “too long” in  college? Let us go over the various factors that influence a college student’s stay.

How Long Do Most People Stay in College?How Long Do Most People Stay in College?

People go to college to pursue a degree in the major or field they wish to make a career in, such as science, math, physics, computer science, etc. Getting a degree is, for most people, a long process that involves a lot of studying and research, no matter what you want to major in. But how long does this really take? How long is too long in college?

Earning different degrees may have your time in college vary significantly. The average college or university degree program goes for four years. For community colleges and other accredited colleges, it may take two years. But most of the time, it depends on the degree you pursue.

An Associate’s degree is a two-year degree offered at community colleges, technical colleges, career colleges, and specific four-year colleges. However, an associate’s degree is less significant than a Bachelor’s degree, which most college students seek to earn.

In order to get a Bachelor’s (or Baccalaureate) Degree, a student needs to complete a four- to five-year program and be trained in a specific field. This is the standard type of degree; thus, most people will pursue a Bachelor’s degree. Students who earn an associate’s degree can start their Bachelor’s degree halfway, meaning they only need to complete an additional two years.

Finally, Graduate degrees are degrees that students pursue after earning a bachelor’s degree. Graduate degrees may take two years, but this is on top of the time you took to get a bachelor’s.

The average student will go through four or five years of college. However, this does not include other factors involved when going to college, such as:

  • How well a student is doing in their classes. Failing a class means having to retake it at a later date.
  • How a student organizes their schedule. If you take fewer classes a semester than expected, your time in college will take longer.
  • Whether a student is able to afford tuition and attend their classes. Factors include money for tuition, desires and passions outside of class, or simply needing from school for personal or mental health reasons.
  • And finally, what degree a student pursues in the first place.

We’ll expand on these points later, but for now, the last point is most important, as we’ve stated that degrees have varying lengths of completion. Which degree has the longest program?

What Degree Has the Longest Program?

What Degree Has the Longest Program?

There are three types of degrees: Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s. But which degree has the longest program? The answer will depend on how you approach the topic.

Objectively, getting a Bachelor’s degree will take the longest time in a single program, needing four years to complete. However, students who have taken an Associate’s degree can immediately pursue their Bachelor’s degree with a whole two years off, counting the courses they took under the associate’s program. However, that still counts as four years.

After completing a Bachelor’s degree, a student can also pursue a Master’s degree. A Master’s degree is a two-year program, but the requirement of earning a Bachelor’s means that it will take at least six years for a student pursuing their Master’s to graduate with one.

In this case, while a Bachelor’s degree takes four years, the longest program is the Master’s degree, with a whopping six years needed to obtain it. But is six years too long for college? Actually, how long is “too long” to be in college?

How Long is Too Long in College According to Research?

How Long is Too Long in College According to Research?

While it is always good to be just a bit more educated, there is a limit to the amount of time you should spend in college. It is a risk to your money and your time to spend longer than you should. At the same time, rushing through college may leave you with subpar grades and education, which is not why you decided to attend college.

A student should always attend college at the pace they are comfortable with. Some people may have the acumen and schedule to graduate relatively early. Others may be under the thrall of factors both within and beyond their control that will result in them taking much longer to complete their education. How long is too long? As long as you feel like you shouldn’t, ultimately.

However, the amount of time is not what you should be wary of. What causes delays in graduation? What would make you have to stay in college longer than you would want to? That question we need to answer.

3 Factors That Cause Delay for College Students to Graduate

3 Factors That Cause Delay for College Students to Graduate

Many factors may cause delays in a college student’s graduation, whether it is in the student’s control or not. By being aware of these factors, you can avoid these pitfalls and graduate with your degree on time. We are giving you three essential things to keep in mind when you go to college:

Poor Schedule

An understated part of college is the ability to choose which classes you take for a semester. Which classes you go to and when are significant to many students, as classes can range from very early at 6 AM to incredibly late at night, like at 9 PM. Additionally, not every class you need to complete may be available for various reasons:

  • The class may be at a time that you are unable to attend.
  • The class may have prerequisites to enter (such as another class).
  • The class is simply not available for the semester.

To ensure your graduation is completed on time, you need to carefully organize your schedule around your current and future availability, which can be incredibly difficult as no one is fully aware of what may happen in the future.

Insufficient Funds

Another reason for a delay is that you may be unable to afford the next semester’s tuition. Financial troubles can be due to several reasons, such as not having financial aid. If you cannot pay tuition, your classes will have to be held off until the next semester, as most colleges have a deadline and a required attendance quota for students to participate at the beginning of a semester. If you happen to acquire the necessary funds after the deadline, it is still very unlikely that you will be able to attend that semester, as the class will have gone through the material.

How you procure the funds for tuition and other fees is up to you; however, a college may offer you programs or assistance to help make going to college cheaper, including student loans.

Difficulty Passing Classes

One last factor that may delay your graduation is difficulty passing classes. You know the old adage, “Cs make degrees?” for many students? Even making Cs can be quite difficult. Depending on your choice of major, it can be even harder to pass your classes. College becomes a sticking point for many students because it is where they begin to learn hardcore concepts and subjects.

Most colleges have you repeat a course if you achieve lower than a C grade; this is especially the case for core and general education credit courses. In addition to the previous factors of having a schedule that will support your classes and having the money to afford those classes, failing even a single class can be a catastrophic hit to a student’s curriculum. It can delay them by a semester or even a year.

Wrapping Things Up: How Long is Too Long in College

We have gone over the average lengths for a student to take in college, the longest programs and degrees, the various factors that may influence a delay until graduation, and ultimately how long is “too long” in college. There are so many different reasons why students have their college stay extended: the important part is that a student uses this time to get themselves fully educated and make their future career a reality! How long is too long in college? Ultimately, the college experience is for one to make their own.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...