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I graduated from college early to save money; I regret it – Business Insider

Ten years ago, I graduated from college a semester early. I wanted to save money, but I ended up missing out on experiences.
The moment I entered college, I was already thinking about when I could graduate. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there; I liked school. I loved learning and studying, so the library felt like a second home. I also liked exploring the campus and working out at the recreation center.
But I couldn’t enjoy myself knowing that every moment spent on campus meant I was accruing debt. Since I was paying for college with loans, I wanted to finish and get my degree as quickly as possible.
So I did just that — but I regret it to this day.
Since I graduated early in December — instead of in the large May ceremony — my graduation was a scaled-back event. It was held inside a nondescript building instead of the massive football stadium.
I didn’t know anyone I walked with, which meant I had no pictures with friends. So much of college is about communal experiences: eating, studying, and laughing together. But I couldn’t reminisce with anyone on graduation day.
Also, my graduation was on a weekday, which made it difficult for friends and family to attend. Because I didn’t have many familiar faces to pose with, I have just two pictures from that day. I rushed through what should have been a celebratory day.
I didn’t get to take classes outside the courses required for graduation. Some classes sounded fun, but I didn’t have time to take them.
College should be a time for exploration, but because of the financial undertaking, I simply didn’t have time or money to take classes — however fun, eccentric, or interesting — that weren’t required.
I still wonder whether those outside courses could have somehow changed the trajectory of my interests, major, or life.
Since I was hyperfocused on graduating early, I loaded up my schedule. After freshman year, I increased my course load and didn’t meet that many new people. I focused on finishing school and fell into a comfortable routine with people that I already knew. That can be limiting, especially since so much of post-college revolves around networking for jobs. If I had more time, I would have focused on meeting more people.
My biggest regret, though, is not studying abroad. It felt like an out-of-reach luxury at the time, but it would have been a great way to see the world. I realize now that I could have found a way to make it work.
Ultimately, another semester wouldn’t have changed my financial trajectory.
I still have undergraduate student loans that I’m paying back, so while I did save money, I’m not sure if rushing through such formative years even helped me that much.
I came from a low-income background and had scholarships and grants, including the Pell Grant. Finances were always a concern, so I spent a lot of time thinking about that instead of focusing on the experience.
While the financial aspect certainly matters, the college experience may be more important.
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