Some college students take five years to complete their bachelor’s degree – but don’t accept that as the norm – especially when you look at the costs associated with that fifth year.

Of course, some students have legitimate situations that delay graduation. Some work their way through college and need an extra semester or two to finance the deal. Others get shut out of entry-level courses needed to progress in a major. And some students declare a double major and need time to take all the required classes.

But most students can finish in four. Here’s how:

Demand excellent academic advising. Rely on your advisor to help you develop and carry out a four-year plan. Ask if your college offers a “four-year guarantee,” and what you need to do to qualify.

Take 15-16 hours each semester and pass! If you focus more on activities and fun you may end up dropping classes, taking less than a full-time load, or carrying incomplete grades from one semester to the next.

Declare your major by the middle of your sophomore year. Keep in mind that you may have to declare some majors, such as education, upon entering college to finish in four. Talk to your advisor to make sure you’re on the right track.

Look at the dollar signs. An extra year of college means additional tuition, books, living expenses, and student loans.  It also means losing a year of income you can never make up.