A reflection: How quickly could I have done this? My bachelor's degrees came out with a total of 174 credit hours listed on them; my master's degree involved 45 credit hours of graduate study. I spent five years on my undergraduate work, and two on my master's degree; fourteen semesters, with the summers off. I did earn some money over my summers for my troubles, though not all that much.
On paper, the maximum credit hour enrollment at my undergraduate institution is 18 credit hours. So, beginning with no credit, it would take ten semesters of sequential full-time work at a full load, with six hours of slack - which would be needed, since a few classes were 2, 4, or 5 credit hours instead of the usual 3. The maximum credit hour enrollment for graduate students is lower - 12 - and so I would need to take the full four semesters.
So fourteen semesters is quite reasonable. But it's not the theoretical top speed. I started with 24 hours of AP and placement credit, and it's possible to exceed 18 credit hours with special permission - easily given to a student in the honors program, as I was. So my undergraduate work could have been crammed into 8 semesters (by averaging a little over 18 hours per semester); perhaps I would not have had the time to sing in Higher Ground, or fence, but possible.
Had I been more proactive in high school, and better at convincing administrative types, I would have covered more math and science credit in high school. Spending a single year on geometry, going Calc BC instead of AB, and taking a math class each semester at UNC as an independent study would have meant covering 14 additional credit hours of mathematics early - and had I been particularly convincing, I might have been able to finagle my way out of introductory physics, which was only interesting during the honors lab section, another 10 hours.
So now, I'm down to 126 hours that I "had" to take at college - which could be done in seven semesters. But I'm not done. If you were in my shoes, and were trying to accelerate as quickly as possible, you'd take summer courses. By taking two summers of core courses in each of the two summer sessions, the undergraduate study could be cut to three years for the triple major course of study. Assuming scheduling worked out perfectly, of course; and then, by overloading four extra graduate level math courses into 20-21 credit hour semesters, I could have theoretically completed my master's program in a year and a half with all the same coursework.
So yes. I'm a very lazy fellow, since if I were as diligent and directed as possible, I could have completed the same coursework before I turned 23 instead of after turning 25. But I don't think I would have quite the same education, as I have had so many other learning experiences outside my coursework that would not have fit in such a schedule. Some wasted time as well, yes, but I will not greatly regret taking the same length of time we would normally expect such a course of study to take.
Indeed, by taking minimal full-time loads, another person, perhaps one more like Van Wilder and less like myself, could have easily spent nine years as a full time student on the same course of study without failing or repeating a single class. Throw in failed and repeated courses, and we might be able to stretch that another year to a full decade. And I am at least not that lazy.
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