Why Many American College Students Graduate in 5 Years?

Why Many American College Students Graduate in 5 Years

According to CNBC Make It, only 41% of American college students graduate in 4 years. Despite that, graduating early has many benefits. Most people spend 5 years or more in school before rounding off their education. But why is American College Students Graduate in 5 Years?

Why do many American college students graduate in 5 years?

Some of the commonest reasons why most American college students don’t graduate in 4 years or less are as follows:

  1. Inadequate preparation
  2. Low financial capability
  3. Personal problems
  4. School facilities and resources, and more.

Although it is not a desirable situation, it is a reality that American parents, students, and the government have to grapple with. Because this has been the trend for years, it is difficult to pinpoint the real issue. 

However, in this article, you will learn why most American college students graduate later than expected, year after year.

What Are the Reasons Many College Students Graduate Later than 4 Years?

Studies by different organizations show that only a few American college students graduate in four years, which is quite abysmal. Despite the efforts of the government and other private agencies to assuage the issue, the trend continues every year. There are many downsides to finishing school later than the ideal 4-year period. What’s more, both parents and students know the risks and are willing to avoid them. Yet, more people end up using up to 6 years in some cases. Some conditions influence this situation and make it a recurring trend over the years. The most common causes of the issue include the following:

1. Inadequate Preparation

More students get into college under-prepared for the requirements. This gap is mostly caused by the lapses and differences in elementary, middle, and high schools. The average or low-income earners in America tend to send their kids to low-budget schools, so they can hold their finances together and still get things working for them. Unfortunately, some of these schools fall short of the standard curriculum, staff, equipment, or other resources that might help prepare students for college. As a result, most students from these ‘inadequate’ schools struggle to catch up with the pace in college. More often than not, students whose parents could afford expensive and qualified schools get into college prepared, though it is not always the case. Studying in such ‘adequate’ schools gives them an upper hand to perform excellently and match up to the requirements in college. College preparation is not only about the curriculum students were exposed to in their elementary, middle, and high schools. It may also be due to finances and more other issues, which we will treat uniquely in subsequent paragraphs.

2. Low Financial Capability

Considering that the vast majority of students get into college on loan, it is obvious that many people would have financial struggles all through their study in college. While those with sufficient financial backing might find it easy to focus on why they are in college, the others may get distracted with side hustles or the financial pressures that come to them. To mitigate the issue, the government, individuals, and other private institutions provide financial aid for college students. However, this might not be a one-size-fits-all approach for completely solving the problem of late graduation, as many students do not benefit from scholarships and financial aid. To compensate for the heavy burden of debts from high tuition fees, textbooks, transportation, personal upkeep, and other commitments, most students opt for part-time or full-time jobs. In this kind of situation, such students will no longer be focused on schoolwork since their commitments are now more. Also, there is the inapt case where people drop out of school because they no longer believe they can repay their college tuition loan after graduation. The burden can be so overwhelming that people might easily lose concentration and perform poorly in school.

3. Personal Issues

While everyone has a fair share of life’s circumstances, not everyone can handle the pressures they come with. Before college, many students had their parent’s full attention and support, which helped solve many of their problems. However, now they have to make their life decisions without their parents many times. Sometimes, they make wrong decisions that affect their output in school. Only a few college students are strong and well built to adapt to their difficulties while studying.

4. School Facilities and Resources

Some schools have a large population of students to cater to, but they do not have commensurate resources to that number. This can affect student’s performance and commitment to academic work. For instance, if there were fewer laboratories than the number of students to use them, the situation might affect the students’ understanding of lab work. Consequently, their performance might also be affected. In the long run, their period of study in school may be affected. Although students choose to determine the number of credits they take on each semester, a school’s course credit structure can affect concentration, time management, and overall output.

What Are the Other Common Causes of Late Graduation from College?

Besides the most common issues we have listed above, other problems have more to do with the individuals. Still, they affect how long people use in college before they eventually graduate. Some of the other common causes include the following:

1. Time Management

This issue cuts across different classes of people, not only college students, though it tells on them greatly. Because they are involved in many activities, including academic, extracurricular, and maybe work, they tend to lose touch on their most important goals and maybe jeopardize their academics altogether. It would help if there were more time management programs in school to help college students control their time. It would also help if students learned quickly that it is not how much they do per time that counts but how well they do the little, insignificant things.

2. Health Condition

Often, this is beyond the control of the victims, but it affects their overall performance in school. Depending on the nature of the health condition, some might have to take long breaks from academic work. However, they might still have to meet up with all the requirements for their courses, which results in more time spent studying in college.

3. Relationships

Humans are created to bond and influence one another, but it’s not always a smooth ride. Some relationships hit the rock and might affect the emotional health of those involved. Students are mostly young and may not handle the heartbreak, disappointment, and pressures that come with such circumstances.

4. Problem Socializing

Connecting with people who share similar challenges has a way of mitigating pressures and boosting focus. Sadly, some students are poor at making new friends. On the other hand, some students are unlucky with meeting the right people. On that note, they lose out on the benefits that should accrue to them, and maybe their academics might be truncated in the way.


Graduating from college in 5 years or more has been a recurrent trend. In our opinion, preparing students for college life can go a long way in curbing this trend. What’s more, the government, parents, and students all have a role to play if there must be a complete turn-around in this situation.

Also read Example Answers to “Describe a Challenge You Overcame”

Why Many American College Students Graduate in 5 Years?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top