How I Graduated From Berkeley in Two Years

Last Updated Aug 11, 2009 7:17 PM EDT

Hardly anyone graduates from college in four years anymore. Just 28% of students manage to earn a college degree from state universities in the traditional time.

So it was a stunning feat when Angelica Kalika earned a bachelor degree in just two years. She wrote about how she pulled this off in her new book, How I Graduated from Berkeley in Two Years.

Most students aren't going to be in such a rush, but Kalika's experience at UC Berkeley could help mere mortals who want to earn a bachelor's degree in the normal eight semesters.

Why sprint through school? Kalika and her mother, who is a hairdresser in Los Angeles, couldn't afford Berkeley's $80,000+ price tag. Kalika, who is contemplating getting an MBA, slashed the price in half. FYI, 61% of students at Berkeley graduate in four years.

Here are some of Kalika's tips:

Read the catalogue. Students don't spend much time looking at catalogues, but they are an invaluable source of information. At UC Berkeley, for instance, students must take a class that meets an American culture requirement, but those classes fill up fast. By closely reading the catalogue, Kalika found an English and history class that met the requirement, which most students overlooked.

Get everything in writing. Requirements for a major tend to change and Kalika couldn't afford to take a class that wouldn't get her closer to her degree. Consequently, before she signed up for classes, she had someone in her department send her an email confirming that the course would fulfill a requirement in her major, which was psychology. "If you don't get things in writing," she says, "you don't have anything."

Take summer classes. This will sound insane, but Kalika took seven classes in her last summer at Berkeley. A couple of advisors refused to sign off on her schedule, but she found a compassionate counselor, who fed squirrels nuts on her ledge (True story!), who believed Kalika when she insisted that she could handle the work load. Summer classes, Kalika observes, are far less stressful than during the regular school year and aren't as tough to get into.

Take extension classes. Kalika took some extension classes at UC Berkeley, which she said were easier and more laid back. In advance, she made sure the credits would transfer.

Skip studying aboard. Kalika told me that she considers these programs the "biggest waste of time." It's great to see the world, but she says it's rare that these overseas classes will help you fulfill the requirements for your major. Instead she suggests graduating early and spending some of the money you saved on a great vacation.

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