Look, I’m usually all for the time-honored morals taught to us through childhood fables. Sometimes, though, we have to undergo a little bit of introspection and question our blind faith to ideals of the cherished storybook characters of our youth. Take, for example, the lesson from the classic story, The Tortoise and the Hare. If you were deprived of a happy childhood and have never heard of this famous work of fiction, the tale describes a race between a cocky rabbit and a tenacious turtle. The boisterous bunny hops too quickly, and then takes a nap in the middle of the race because he gets tired, and so the slow-but-steady turtle eventually beats him out for the victory. The moral of the tale: Take our time, don’t give up, and eventually we will reach our goals. True, but why not speed up the chase if we can?
Wanting to push some boundaries and stir the pot a little bit, I decided to join the accelerated physical therapy track with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
If you have thought, “Hey, I like saving money,” or “Wow, I value my time,” then maybe an accelerated bachelor’s degree is for you. At Arcadia, many programs allow you to expedite your degree in everything from business administration, international relations, international business and culture, to psychology and communications. You also can enter accelerated undergraduate “tracks” that will get you ready to apply for graduate-level programs faster, such as physician’s assistant, forensic science, and physical therapy.
Speaking from experience, there are pros, cons, and a few misconceptions to speeding up your degree. First, the good stuff.
Money, money, money. I can vibe with a lot of Jessie J’s song lyrics, but sometimes it really is all about the money. The thought of saving up to a year’s worth of tuition is basically equivalent to the joy of consuming three bowls of chocolate ice cream. Arcadia even helps you out a little bit more if you attend graduate school here. You are still considered an undergraduate student throughout your first year of a graduate program if you finish early, which allows you to retain your original financial-aid package and scholarships. It is just another way Arcadia allows you to keep your cash in your wallet, where I’m sure we all believe it rightfully belongs.
Fast track to the fancy paper. We go to college to get a degree, that fancy, embellished sheet of paper that says, “Hey, everybody, I studied really hard for a really long time, so I’m qualified to work in the field of (insert major here).” We’re not exactly fixated on the degree itself as much as its implications. We want to use that lavish document to get a job, or better yet, a career. No offense to the tortoise, but when you accelerate your degree, you can get on with your life much faster.
So I’ve shared some pros, but I’m going to be real with you. There are some aspects of an accelerated degree that might make you think, “What did I do to myself?” Here are a few cons.
Hard pivot. An accelerated degree requires a fairly large commitment. Even though many related programs have a good deal of crossover between them, it can be difficult to change your mind about your degree the further you get into the process. Personally, though, I like to use that initial “pledge” to keep myself focused and goal-oriented. That is not to say you couldn’t just drop an accelerated program whenever you want. If you decide you may want to double major or do some extra studying abroad later on, returning to a 4-year plan just requires a simple discussion with your friendly academic advisor.
Saying “See You Later.” One negative is having to leave all of the amazing friends I have made one year early. It will be difficult, but the good-bye is, unfortunately, an inevitable reality. If anything, I will use this as an excuse to constantly visit Arcadia so that I can see my friends often and stay involved with my school even as an alumni. With the phenomenal people I was fortunate enough to meet so far, I take solace in knowing the good-byes will only be temporary.
And now for the misconceptions. As you consider pros and cons, let me also clear up a few false assumptions so that you can make an educated decision if you decide to pursue an accelerated degree.
Accelerated students must overload every single semester. Stay calm, friends, because that most certainly is not the case. While you will have the occasional semester of taking 20 credits, you also will have some with 18 or even 16. The cool part about an accelerated program is that you do not have to take as many credits as a student graduating in four years to get the same degree, so it will not be as overwhelming as many expect it to be. For example, I plan to get my bachelor’s degree after only completing 112 credits while a typical 4-year student would need to complete 128 to achieve the exact same result.
Your social experience is a bust. While shortening the academic portion of college, some think they also will be reducing their time to enjoy the college social experience. While this concern is somewhat accurate from a literal sense, let’s look at it positively. I choose to take a different approach. If I am only here for three years, I want to get involved and take advantage of every single opportunity I possibly can to make the most of every minute of my college experience. The looming time constraint was actually a huge benefit as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to become an active member of our campus. You can still partake in all of the glorious opportunities Arcadia has to offer. Many of the accelerated programs come with service learning, internships, and, yes, study-abroad components. Even with my compressed degree program, I was lucky enough to participate in Preview my first year and travel to the Philippines for eight days, where we hiked up volcanoes, rode on motorized Filipino tricycles, and rafted under waterfalls.
All things considered, I love my accelerated program here at Arcadia. Every day presents new and exciting challenges, but I love every single second of them. You will have your ups and downs, but that’s true of any program. Mine has supported my growth and spurred me to join so many awesome organizations and activities here, each providing me with stories and memories that I cannot wait to share with you. I hope that if the accelerated track interests you, that you are not afraid to take a chance and reap the rewards of being a hare.
And that’s the moral of my story.
Lead photo via Phobiac