Graduate School

Impact of 10-Year Bachelor's on Grad School Chances

Question: Hello, I finished my undergraduate degree in 2014 and I want to apply to graduate school. My question is: it took me more than 10 years to earn my undergraduate degree due to family responsibilities, and I was unable to attend full-time. Will this hurt my chances to get into graduate school because I didn't graduate in the traditional four years? Thanks so much for any feedback!

Your protracted trek through undergraduate school might actually be a plus in the grad-school application process if you can show yourself to be focused and determined (and a great multi-tasker) while keeping many balls in the air at once. College officials often believe that “older" adults can contribute a lot to their campus.

BUT ... when you apply to grad school, you will need to make it clear to admission committees that you now have the freedom and flexibility to focus on your studies. However, you may actually have the option of taking a slow route here as well. I don't know what sort of graduate school you hope to attend. While some require that all students enroll full-time (and thus expect their students to be undistracted by family, jobs or other outside responsibilities), a growing number of graduate programs are designed specifically “for the working adult," often offering classes at night, on weekends, and online that are available to both full-time and part-time students.

Another (tiny) wrinkle to look out for: Some institutions will not accept credits that are more than 10 years old. So if your grad program has a prerequisite (say, calculus) which you took more than a decade ago, it's possible that you might have to re-take it. That's a long shot but I just want to sound the alarm, in case this is something you need to ask about.

Bottom line: Your path to your bachelor's shouldn't hurt you as you take your next steps. Just be sure that your determination to make school a priority comes through on your application ... and good luck.