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Students Crack the Code on How to Graduate in Three Years

Earning a bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego in just three years may seem like a daunting feat, but recent alumni such as Siyi Ye, Brianna Lonquich and Albert Chang did so despite having either double or capped majors and studying abroad.

Why do some alumni attempt to graduate early? UC San Diego is a top 10 public university and recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious research campuses—so it’s already a rigorous academic experience for students who graduate in four years.

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Siyi Ye, '16

“For me, I was able to save time and money,” said Ye, ’16, who double majored in visual arts and linguistics. “It also gave me the opportunity to take a year off after graduation to explore what I wanted to do in the real world.”

A marketing specialist for an international printing company, Ye said she found her home at Sixth College and drew inspiration from its theme of Culture, Art and Technology. Originally from China, she is the first in her family to attend college and the first to study in the United States. She was able to graduate early with a double major by taking 16 to18 units each quarter, plus enrolling in summer session courses. She earned several Advanced Placement (AP) credits in high school prior to attending UC San Diego.

Ye said the support she received from First-Generation Student Link, a program for Sixth College students who are the first in their family to attend college, was key to her success at UC San Diego. In addition to managing a heavy course load, she worked part time at the college as a student affairs intern.

“I found the work rewarding when I helped college students achieve their academic goals in the rigorous environment while maintaining a meaningful social life,” Ye said.

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Brianna Lonquich, '16

Brianna Lonquich, ’16, says having the opportunity to graduate from UC San Diego in three years came as an unexpected surprise. The biology major took several courses at a community college while attending high school in Valencia, Calif. She first learned she could graduate early after applying to study abroad in Costa Rica and viewing the number of credits she had amassed.

Lonquich also held a part-time job while attending UC San Diego, which helped jumpstart her career. She began volunteering in a lab at the campus’s Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, then became a student worker there during her second year. Today, she is a lab manager at the consortium.

“I was extremely fortunate in my choice of lab because my volunteer time provided me with enough skills to be useful and engaged in the lab,” she said. “It was luck that a position as a new lab manager opened up when I had graduated.”

She said studying abroad in Costa Rica for a quarter was a highlight of her undergraduate years at UC San Diego, but the friends she made on campus made an even bigger impression. “My best memories are with the girls I met freshman year in the dorm,” said Lonquich, who also attended Sixth College. “We had endless laughs and adventures around San Diego, from impromptu beach days to pumpkin picking in Del Mar. The friends I made here are the best!”

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Albert Chang, ’16

Another Sixth College alumnus who graduated a year early, Albert Chang, ’16, says the same of his best memories at UC San Diego. “I met a couple of inseparable friends and formed some lifelong bonds with some of the people that I’ve worked with at UC San Diego,” he said.

Friends and an academic support system were critical to Chang’s success in graduating in three years–something he wanted to achieve from the beginning of his freshman year.

“It was a clear decision for me,” said Chang, who majored in computer science and engineering. “The cost of an extra year’s tuition and living costs versus the salary that I could be receiving was large. I was also able to take most of the classes and have most of the experiences that I had wanted in college within three years.”

Chang now works in Silicon Valley as a software engineer for Uber. He took several AP classes in high school and completed courses at a junior college which, coupled with what he calls “laser focus” on academics and passion for his major, allowed him to graduate early.

He added that graduating early presented him the opportunity to have a greater work-life balance. “You’re able to escape the stress of homework and midterms sooner,” he said. “Technology companies adopt loose work schedules so you get to take over more control of your lifestyle, giving you the choice to make what you want out of it.”

For students interested in graduating early, Ye, Lonquich and Chang have the following tips:

  1. Study a subject you are passionate about: If you are going to graduate early, you would have to take more than 12 units per quarter, so be sure to pick a subject that you like learning about. Even if you don’t graduate early, picking a major that interests you will ensure your success as a student.
  2. Prepare for college by taking AP courses in high school and/or taking courses at community colleges. The more credits you have going into college, the more quickly you will be able to reach your major and general education requirements at UC San Diego.
  3. Use the summers to take courses: Check out the most common courses offered at UC San Diego in Summer Session. Also, look at what courses from other institutions give you transferrable credit via ASSIST.
  4. Increase your quarterly course load: “I took an average of four courses (16 to 18 units) each quarter,” Ye said.
  5. Seek academic advising early and often: Click here to view academic advising resources for students, and go here for a list of online academic advising tools available.
  6. Manage your time effectively from academics to extracurricular activities: Learn to prioritize projects while managing your course load in addition to extracurricular activities and/or working part time. Click here for tips on using your time wisely.
  7. Create a support system: Cultivating relationships with friends were critical to the success of Ye, Lonquich and Chang, all of whom made lifelong friends while attending UC San Diego.
  8. Get involve through the myriad resources UC San Diego offers: Studies show that the more engaged a student is in college, the more likely they are to graduate on time and even early. Whether it’s joining a club through the Center for Student Involvement, finding an internship through the Career Services Center, taking a workshop through the Teaching + Learning Commons, or finding a mentor through your undergraduate college, there are many ways in which UC San Diego students can connect with each other and with opportunities that will support their success as a graduate and beyond.
  9. Be mindful of your health: It is important for any successful student to have proper self-care which includes a nutritious diet, exercising regularly and getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
  10. Don’t give up on your dreams of studying abroad: If you have always wanted to study abroad and plan to you can still graduate early. There are a number of ways to earn college credit while studying abroad. Please contact UC San Diego’s programs abroad office to learn more.

For more information on timely degree completion, click here.