How I (Almost) Finished College in 3.5 Years


Nina throughout the years: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (I clearly use my hand as a crutch)


I obsessively planned out my four years of university to a T.

My favorite pass time was combing through the hundreds of courses my school had to offer and I checked my school's degree navigator, an app that ensures you fulfill all your requirements, almost once a month for my first three years of university. I took summer courses every single summer and never took a break. I am the first in my family to attend college and I was set to finish early.

I met with my advisor as a third year and she told me I could finish all my courses in December 2017 and walk in the May 2018 ceremony if I completed X amount of credits in the coming terms. I went home that day and began to map out my last year of university. I stopped checking my degree navigator in my final year because I was so confident that I knew how many classes I was meant to finish in 3.5 years, or so I thought. Somewhere along the way I must have gotten my numbers wrong.


I took five courses in the spring, three in the summer and three in the fall. And on November 30, 2017, I left class beaming because I had just finished what I thought would be my last class ever. I submitted a graduation check online and waited patiently for the green light. Two days after my submission, I receive an email for my advisor telling me that I am not qualified for graduation and I am missing one class to graduate in 4 years.

I broke down right then and there, in the middle of a coffee shop and sobbed all over my bagel with cream cheese. I felt so cheated. I spent all those summers slaving away at school so that I could finish early. I had so many plans to work and create in my 6 months before graduation. I had already found someone to move into my place and booked a one way ticket back to San Francisco. I could have taken an extra class during the summer, or an extra one during the fall. But instead, I took a lighter load because I thought that was all I had left to complete. Another whole term of school for ONE MISSING CLASS.


For that first week, I put all the blame on my advisor, for not being more explicit or careful. But at the end of the day, it was my responsibility and that is why I got so upset. I was mad at myself because somewhere along the way I must have gotten the numbers wrong. It was all my fault.


The good news is my last course is an elective, so it can be literally anything. I enrolled in a Distance Education 100 level science course so at least I can take it online while in San Francisco and return to Vancouver in the spring to take my final and walk across the stage.

After sharing my story with many friends and peers, I have come to realize that this happens to a LOT of people. It seems like everyone has a story about how advising or course selection has messed up their degree timeline.

Moral of the story is pay very close attention to your degree navigator. Check it every single term to make sure you are on track. Count and recount and then count again. Finally, take responsibility for your future because even though advisors and meant to be knowledgeable and helpful, they can certainly make mistakes that will affect your degree.

So that is the story of how I almost finished college in 3.5 years. If you're tryna finish early, know that it is definitely possible with hard work, focus and the ability to count. 




NOTE: I attended University of British Columbia, not SFSU as my hoodie suggests.

Nina Huynh