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If you’re worried you’re not going to finish community college in the standard two-year timeline, don’t be. 

A lot of students spend more than two years in community college. Sure, in your ideal scenario, you’d be done in two years and moving on to complete your 4-year degree. Or heading off on your chosen career path.

But the truth of the matter is, life happens. Many students have to work, go to school, and handle family responsibilities. With all of that on your plate, there’s a lot that could go awry. Some students, burden by these responsibilities, feel shame for not completing their education on a timeline and eventually drop out altogether.

According to the Community College Research Center, 25% of community college students who enroll in the fall semester often do not come back for the Spring term. Beyond that, one-fifth of those that finish their first year don’t start their second year.

That’s a lot of people dropping out before allowing themselves to finish. Here’s what we want you to know about the timeline for community college students.

It’s what works best for you

Many students have to work. Not being able to take full-time credits extends the amount of time you’ll be in class. 

Look at this as a good thing. The last thing you want is to be overwhelmed by work and job responsibilities and fail your classes. If you’re one of those students who is working and going to school, it could take you as long as six years to complete community college. 

Truthfully, the amount of work you can handle before overwhelming yourself is an entirely individual thing. No one is better than anyone else for being able to take on more work. So, don’t put more pressure on yourself to finish faster and disrupt your education in the process. 

Understand your work/life balance

As a working adult, there’s a lot to balance when you’re in school. You can’t risk your job or your education. That’s why it’s crucial to find a balance.

Balance might be hard at first. Figuring out what class load you can handle while also working takes time. We suggest starting small and adding on from there. Working adults should be fully aware that finishing a community college education is going to take longer than the norm. It’s all dependent on how much time you can dedicate to school. 

Don’t overload your schedule and let other parts of your life suffer. Classes will always be there. The opportunity to graduate will not be taken away from you. Go at your own pace.

Know the level of difficulty for your major

What you study can also affect how soon you graduate

For instance, the further you get into nursing school, the more time consuming it becomes. Working a full-time job might not be entirely possible. Or maybe for you, it will be. 

Still, it’s vital to get a sense of how difficult your major is. If you’re overloading yourself with classes that take a huge chunk of your time in the form of studying and assignments, you might find you can’t handle it all on top of your other commitments. 

There’s nothing wrong with taking fewer classes. Of course, it will extend your time in school, but it will also allow you to do your very best. 

You could eventually run out of federal aid

While there’s nothing wrong with taking longer to complete community college, it’s important to know that you could eventually become ineligible for federal aid. 

If you’re a student aiming for a bachelor’s degree, the federal government has the 150% rule. It allows you six years to complete your degree and still get federal funding. 

If you’re dependent on financial aid to complete your education, being aware of the time limit is helpful. It gives you a sense of what timeline you need to aim for in completing your education. 

However, don’t forget there are other opportunities to get your education funded. From scholarships to employee benefits, make sure you’re taking advantage of any free aid you can get. 

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why it could take you longer to complete your education. Don’t let the pressure to finish fast keep you from finishing at all. Remember, everyone’s situation is different. Move at your own pace, do your best, and complete your education on your own terms. 

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.