Accelerated college programs dupe unassuming students

Melina Khan, Editor-in-Chief

For far too long, it’s been acceptable to expect 18-year-olds to know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives. At Quinnipiac University, that expectation includes pressuring young students into pursuing graduate programs, too. It needs to stop.

In America, high school seniors must decide the next steps to take after graduation, whether that means to pursue higher education, enter the workforce or enlist in the armed forces. Most of these new graduates opt for college; in 2021, 61.8% of high school graduates ages 16-24 enrolled in college, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Despite more than half of recent high school graduates in this country choosing higher education — and in turn, selecting an academic program that will presumably set up the trajectory of the rest of their life — none of them have fully developed decision-making skills.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the brain doesn’t finish developing until at least age 25. The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for skills like planning and decision-making, is one of the last parts of the brain to develop. This means that when 18-year-old high school graduates are setting out to decide what career path to pursue, they’re doing it without having fully developed decision-making skills.

In general, this is OK; there’s plenty of time to change your mind about decisions you made at 18, especially when it comes to decisions about college and your career. Plenty of students — up to 30%, according to the Department of Education — switch majors within a few years of enrollment. The same goes for students who transfer schools altogether.

At Quinnipiac, though, the normalization of accelerated dual-degree programs hinders the flexibility students have if they change their mind about what they want after a year or two.

Most often, these dual-degree paths consist of “three plus” programs, or academic programs that are completed on an accelerated track so that students earn their bachelor’s degree in three years. After completing their undergraduate studies, these students go on to complete their graduate-level degree at Quinnipiac, typically in one additional year. According to, there are currently 16 “three plus” accelerated dual-degree programs at Quinnipiac.

The appeal of the “three plus” program is often a selling point for prospective students. From participating in many admissions events, my own enrollment in the 3+1 communications program and the students I know on campus, I have found that accelerated programs are a leading factor for many people in their decision to come to Quinnipiac. 

As someone who chose to enroll in a 3+1 program when I entered Quinnipiac, I understand the appeal of the program. The program has many benefits, including priority enrollment for classes and the undoubtable value of completing two degrees in four years. However, there’s another side of pursuing such a program that I find is seldom talked about — once you’re in deep enough, you can’t turn back.

I am currently in my third year at Quinnipiac, but I’m graduating in a month. I don’t feel ready for everything that comes with that. Academically, I have definitely gotten the most out of my degree and feel prepared for the workforce. But mentally, I’m not ready.

When I began my first year, I thought I had plenty of time to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and lots of options to do so. At the same time, I had no idea what a graduate program consisted of or even the specifics of the programs at Quinnipiac. I thought I understood what the 3+1 program meant for me, and the options of graduate programs to pursue. However, I only knew a small fraction of what goes into choosing a graduate program.

Being a graduate student brings about some changes: you don’t have the same opportunities to participate in extracurriculars, most of your classes are at night and you have enough extra time to work full-time if you want to. Other factors are dependent on the specific program you choose to pursue — like class size and course offerings. I didn’t know any of these things at 18, and why would I?

Now that I’m graduating, I’m realizing how much I wish I had another year to dive into student organizations, different course offerings and internships in different fields. More than that, I wish I had more time to experience being in college before I had to figure out what the next year of my life looks like. Also, many of my friends who aren’t in the “three plus” programs are in a completely different stage of life than I am, because they have one more year to figure out what they want.

Of course, this is just my perspective. I have friends in 3+1 programs who entered college certain about their future, and the accelerated track offers them the opportunity to reach their goals sooner. But that’s just the success story, and before I went through it myself, I didn’t consider the other side of the coin.