A graduation plan provides a framework for your education. Within this framework, you can create a personalized path to graduation. You and your academic advisor will want to review your graduation plan each year.
Having a plan helps you answer questions like: Should I take summer session classes? If I change my major, can I still graduate in four years? How many electives do I have? Can I complete a minor?
You and your advisor will look at all of these things as you work on your graduation plan during your first year.
The Four-Year Graduation Plan
Students follow diverse paths to complete a bachelor’s degree. One path is choosing to complete the degree requirements within four years of the initial first-year enrollment.
There are many reasons students want to complete their degrees in four years: Some want to enter the full-time workforce as soon as possible, others are planning to continue their education and do not want to prolong undergraduate study, and many want to save money.
How the Plan Works
Students who elect to participate in Iowa’s Four-Year Graduation Plan will work closely with their advisors to ensure that degree requirements are met and appropriate course sequencing is followed.
Students who are interested in the plan and whose intended major qualifies usually make the decision to sign the Four-Year Graduation Plan Agreement during Orientation at their academic advising appointment. If you didn’t but are interested, see your advisor as soon as possible. You may choose to sign up for the plan at any time up until the end of your second semester at the University.
This Agreement holds both the University and students who participate in the Four-Year Graduation Plan responsible for clearly defined actions. If you follow the provisions of the Four-Year Graduation Plan, the University will ensure that graduation with a single major will not be delayed beyond four years by the unavailability of required courses. The Plan does not apply to second majors, minors or certificates.
Every semester, you and your advisor will monitor your degree evaluation to ensure that you are completing your requirements and to keep track of the number of semester hours you are earning toward your degree. Your plan will help you to see the overall picture and serve as your map to your graduation goal.
To graduate in four years you need to:
- Each year complete one-quarter of the semester hours needed to graduate. Some students do this by taking half of their required hours for the year in each semester. Others will take fewer hours each semester but schedule summer classes to make up the difference.
- Be somewhat flexible—sometimes you’ll have to take a class at a time that may not be convenient, or you may need to substitute an alternate course for one that is unavailable during a specific semester or at a specific time.
Many events in your life, however, cannot be predicted. An opportunity for a valuable internship, a double major, or a significant extracurricular activity may arise, resulting in your decision not to complete your studies in four years.
New interests may cause you to change your goals and your major or to add course work before graduation. Illness can intervene, as can other emergencies. Some technical and career-focused majors require additional time to complete a degree and do not participate in the Four-Year Graduation Plan.
There is no penalty for withdrawing from the Four-Year Graduation Plan Agreement. Whether or not you graduate in four years, planning your progress toward your degree will add depth to your University experience and ensure that you are in control of your education.
Can I Follow the Four-Year Graduation Plan Regardless of My Degree or Major?
The short answer is “no, but...” Although most of our undergraduate degrees and majors participate in the Four-Year Graduation Plan, a few do not. Some departments have determined that they cannot guarantee that the major can be completed in eight semesters due to specialized course sequencing.
However, with good planning and close work with their academic advisors, many students are able to complete their majors in four years.
Impact of Dropping a Class
Students drop classes for many reasons. Some reasons are justifiable and definitely in your best interest, while other reasons may be whimsical at best. If you’re planning to graduate in four years, you’ll need to complete 14–16 s.h. each semester. If you average only 12–13 s.h., you’ll need five years to graduate, unless you earned credit by exam, transfer credit to the University, or take courses during the summer.
Dropping a class should be a last resort. The best strategies are to speak with the instructor and your advisor and to seek tutoring or other academic help.
If you are in serious academic trouble in a class, it may be preferable to drop the class even though doing so may increase the number of semesters before graduation. Other factors to consider include:
- Financial Aid—A drop in semester hours may affect your current financial aid and can have an impact on your future financial aid eligibility. Also, dropping below half-time will impact any federal loan deferments that have been authorized for you. Check with a financial aid counselor in the Office of Student Financial Aid (208 Calvin Hall) to determine if your financial aid eligibility will be affected.
- Health Insurance—If you are 18 or older, and covered by your parents’ health insurance, have them check carefully before you drop below 12 s.h. Some health insurance companies drop coverage as soon as full-time status ends.
- Income Tax Deductions—If your parents claim you as an exemption on their income tax return, you must be a full-time student for at least five months during a calendar year. Consult the IRS for further details.
- Housing—Generally, dropping only one of your classes should not affect your status in the residence halls. Contact the Contracts and Assignments Office for more information.