How old are you when you graduate college?
You might be wondering what the average age of college graduates is, and how long it takes for the average college student to complete their college degree.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 91.1% of Americans have completed high school, but only 37.9% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
College graduates are still in the minority in the United States, and there’s no set timeline for how long it takes to complete a degree or at what age you can do so. Graduating college at any age is an achievement to be proud of.
But below you can find a breakdown of the average age of college graduates.
How Old Are You When You Start College?
If you graduate high school on time and immediately go to college, you will most likely be 18 years old when you start college.
During your first year of college, also called freshman year, you will likely turn 19. If you have an early birthday in August or September, you will immediately turn 19 at the start of your freshman year of college.
But if you have a late birthday in June or July, you will turn 19 in the summer after completing your freshman year of college.
So many students are 18 when starting college, and will turn 19 within the first year.
However, this only applies to students who immediately start college after graduating from high school.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, between 37% and 46% of graduating high school students immediately go to college.
This means that more than half do not. Some students take a gap year, enter the workforce, or enter a non-degree program after graduating from high school, before eventually entering college for their bachelor’s degree.
So some students may enter college at 20, 30, or 40 years old. You’re never too old to start college, and there is no fixed age at which students must enter college.
How Long Does a College Degree Take?
For the purpose of this article and answering the question “How old are you when you graduate college?”, we are discussing bachelor’s degrees.
A bachelor’s degree is the most common college degree in the United States and is also called a four-year degree.
As the name implies, the typical amount of time to complete a bachelor’s degree is four years.
There are other types of degrees you can earn such as:
- Associate’s degree: 2 years
- Bachelor’s degree: 4 years
- Master’s degree: 2 years
- Doctorate degree: 4 to 6 years
- Professional degree: 2 to 6 years
In order to obtain a master’s degree, doctorate degree, or professional degree, you will first need to complete a bachelor’s degree.
These are known as “advanced degrees” and only 14.4% of the U.S. population holds one. For examples, a JD (juris doctor) law degree and an MD (medical doctor) medical degree are examples of advanced degrees.
However, we are just focusing on bachelor’s degrees for the purpose of this article since they are the most common college degree.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, this is how long it takes for students to graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree:
- 44.1% of students graduate in 48 months (4 years) or less
- 20% of students graduate in 49 to 60 months (5 years)
- 9.9% of students graduate in 61 to 72 months (6 years)
- 26% of students graduate in more than 72 months (6 years)
So as you can see, many students graduate college in four years, but more than half take longer to graduate, with a quarter of students taking over 6 years to complete a bachelor’s degree.
It’s more likely for younger students to complete a bachelor’s degree faster, while older students may take longer since they are balancing their course load with working or raising a family.
How Old Are You When You Graduate College?
How old are you at the end of college?
As you can probably guess based on the factors above, there is no one set age when students graduate from college and no fixed answer to the question “How old is a college graduate?”
If you entered college at the age of 18, you will most likely graduate at 22 if you complete your degree in exactly four years.
If you have an early birthday in August or September, you will turn 22 at the start of your fourth and final year of college, known as senior year.
But if you have a late birthday in June or July, you will turn 22 in the summer after graduating from college, if you graduate in four years.
So many college graduates are 21 or 22 years old at the time of graduating from college.
Of course, this age only applies to students who enter college immediately after high school and finish their bachelor’s degree in exactly four years.
Many students who start college at 18 will graduate college at 23 if they take one extra semester or year to finish their degree.
And many students will be even older, depending on the age they entered college and how long it takes them to finish their degree.
How Old Are College Graduates?
In conclusion, there is no definite answer to the question “How old are you when you graduate college?”
The simplest answer is that you’re 21 or 22 years old when you graduate college, assuming you entered college at 18 years old and completed your bachelor’s degree in exactly four years.
But this does not apply to the majority of students in the United States, most of whom start college later than 18 and take longer than four years to finish their degree.
So the real answer is that college graduates are of any and all ages!
In fact, the oldest college graduate in the U.S. was Nola Ochs, a woman from Kansas who completed her bachelor’s degree at the age of 95.
It’s never too late to start or finish college, and you can be a graduate at any age!