Should I try to graduate in one year?

This page is created specifically for our  students who ask for my advice regarding their time at UMBC.

Every semester, we get some students who want to take 4 courses in the Fall and Spring semesters and 2 in the summer and graduate in 12 months.

Is it doable? Yes, it is doable. Is it a good idea? It depends on your experience level!

  • If you have no prior experience in data science, if you have no prior experience in the industry, then you might experience difficulty landing your first job. This is true whether you finish our program in 12 months or in 24 months. However, if you don’t rush to graduate, then you will have more time to build your portfolio, network and make connections with locals, improve your language skills (both English and programming), prepare for your interviews, etc.
  • The other thing you should remember is that the graduate courses are not like undergraduate courses in terms of time and effort required to be successful.  We cover lots of subjects in a 2.5-hour-long lecture but becoming proficient in applying those learnings to various types of data science projects and problems would require tens of hours of work and practice every week! So when you take one extra graduate class, you need to understand that you add +15 hours of work to your schedule.
  • Last but not least, finding a job requires a lot of time. Job search, tweaking your cover letter and resume for different jobs, doing research for the companies that you apply for, preparing for interviews, going through several interview cycles, etc. When you do this 4+4+2 or 4+2+4 course load plan, you might not have enough time for a successful job search.
  • One thing our international students should remember is that the timing is crucial when it comes to dealing with visa-related issues. You can apply for an OPT 90 days before you graduate. If you have a job offer, then—congratulations—it is better for you to apply as early as possible. However, if you don’t have an offer yet, then you better spend more time on your job search. Do not forget that If you cannot find a job within 90 days of the start of your OPT, then you must make plans to depart the US immediately or change to some other status in the US. 90 days of unemployment is for the entire OPT period.

Hence rushing to graduate might put you in a disadvantageous position. Think twice!