8 critical steps to earn a Bachelor's degree
A bachelor’s degree is an excellent way to launch a successful career. Many careers require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions and earning one will allow you to lay the groundwork to either start your career on the right foot or pursue a graduate degree. If you are interested in earning a bachelor's degree, there is a certain path you need to follow to get there. This guide will walk you through what you need to do to earn your bachelor’s degree.
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Why earning a college degree is important
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the gold standard for many careers. It also opens the door to higher income potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a bachelor's degree earn, on average, $907 higher weekly salary than employees with an associate degree or no degree. Higher earning potential and more job opportunities make earning a bachelor’s degree an important step to take as you move forward with your career.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree?
Traditionally, a bachelor’s degree requires four years to complete, with two semesters per year and summers off. The National Center for Education Statistics reports a 52-month median in the length of time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree from first enrollment to degree completion. A student can speed that timeline up by taking more credit hours per semester and taking classes over the summer. Additionally, today’s online learning options have made it possible to earn this degree in less time through accelerated and flexible programs. Adult learners may also be able to claim work experience in their field for certain field-specific college credits, which could shorten the time even further.
How to earn a bachelor’s degree
There are many perks of earning a bachelor's degree that make it a valuable investment. If you are ready to step up and earn your bachelor's degree, here are six steps to help you get there as quickly as possible.
1. Research and choose a degree program
First, determine what you want to study. This requires some self-reflection. Consider your interests and overall career goals. If you can find a course of study and career path that aligns with something you are already interested in, you will enjoy the process much more. After this self-reflection, determine what degrees best align with your interests.
Next, look at schools that are interesting to you and review available programs. Knowing what you want to study will help you narrow down your options a bit. When looking at schools, consider the academics, reputation, campus culture, learning delivery model, and extra-curricular options. Find a school you would feel comfortable attending that offers the right degree program.
- Cost – Financial aid can help lower the cost of your college education, but you do need to consider the cost along with other factors when choosing a program.
- Location – Do you want to stay close to home or experience a new location? Are you considering studying online to live at home, or do you want the campus experience? Choose a location that is convenient and aligned with your overall goals.
- Program length – How long do you want to study? Do you need an accelerated or flexible learning program, or does the traditional four-year model work for your goals?
It is possible that one school will stand out from the rest. If so, then that is the one that you want to pursue. It is also possible that you will have multiple schools with strong potential. If that happens, narrow down your options to two or three schools and programs, then move to the next step.
It is also possible that you won’t know exactly what degree program you’d like to pursue. Don’t worry, many schools will not require you to choose a program when you apply.
2. Prepare for and take any required admissions tests
Reach out to the schools you are considering and examine their eligibility requirements. Many will require the ACT or SAT as an admission requirement. Find out what test they require, and sign up to take it. Some will require industry-specific testing or certain courses taken in high school, such as AP science or math courses. Make sure you can fulfill the program requirements.
These tests do require a little bit of preparation. You should know what to expect when you take the test, so you can score well. However, don’t try to cram for these tests. The goal is to see what you know and what your abilities are. Learn the format and some test-taking strategies, and then do your best.
Submit the scores of the tests and any other required materials that demonstrate your aptitude, and you are ready to begin the application process.
3. Apply for admission
Submit the application to the schools on your list. You will likely need transcripts from your high school and letters of recommendation from teachers or employers. Gather this information before you start the application process.
Some schools will require an essay with your application. Take time to write this carefully. You are not only showing your writing abilities with this essay, but you are also showing your ability to reason through challenging topics. Have someone grammar check your essay, so you are confident it does not contain typos, spelling, or grammar errors.
You can apply to more than one school, but there will be a fee for the application. Some schools offer application fee waivers during certain points of the year. Check-in with your school’s admissions office to learn more about the possibilities.
4. Apply for financial aid and scholarships
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). That will help the schools you apply to communicate to you what need-based financial aid and scholarships are available to you. You’ll also want to check with your school’s office of financial aid and scholarships to learn more about merit-based scholarships the school offers. If there are any private loans or scholarships available, apply for those as well. Don’t forget to inquire about scholarships from professional or charitable organizations within your desired course of study.
5. Attend an orientation
Once you have chosen your school, you will need to attend an orientation before you start taking classes. Orientation allows you to meet with your advisors and review the potential class schedules. Take this time to ask any questions you have about your degree program or the recommended coursework you should take in your first year.
6. Register and prepare for classes
Register for the classes you wish to take. Be mindful of your schedule and the location of your classes, so you can be certain you get to class on time each day. Once you have your schedule figured out, pay tuition and registration fees. Buy your books, if required, so you are ready for the first day of class.
Prepare your books and supplies for the first day of class. If you are attending school in person, take a tour of the campus, so you know where the classrooms are. If you are doing an online program, take some time to log in and get to know the online platform. Make sure you are completely ready for the first day of class when it rolls around.
7. Complete degree requirements
Attend your classes each week. Complete the assignments on time, and turn them in. When exams roll around, take time to study and prepare well. In addition to the classwork, homework, and exams, you may have internships, student teaching, or clinical hours to log. Make sure you know what these are so that you can stay on track for graduation.
If you find that you are struggling, seek out academic support and resources. All schools have programs to help struggling students get caught up and succeed.
Throughout your degree, meet with your advisor from time to time. You will need these meetings to help you stay on track as you push through your coursework.
8. Graduate and pursue career opportunities
Once you’ve completed your courses, participate in your school’s graduation ceremonies. You have worked hard, and you deserve to celebrate a bit. Have some fun as you celebrate your accomplishment.
Now you are ready to start applying for jobs. You can also pursue additional professional development, depending on your career goals and requirements. Either way, you have now completed your bachelor’s degree and are well on your way to higher pay and more income potential in your career.
Find your degree with Central Michigan University
If you are ready to pursue your bachelor's degree, Central Michigan University is ready to support you. We have a long list of online and on-campus programs that could help you reach your career goals. Browse our undergraduate programs to find one that fits your needs. You can also reach out to our admissions team for advice about choosing a program and enrolling with Central Michigan University.