Graduation: Graduating Early


Students may choose to complete their degree requirements and graduate one or two semesters early, e.g., after their sixth or seventh semester.

If you are contemplating this, you should discuss your plans with your academic dean to be sure that you fully understand and can complete all graduation requirements and to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of such a decision. Although you may have a keen desire now to finish early for personal or economic reasons, you may feel differently after another semester or two.  Also consider that your time at Duke is a rare and special opportunity where you can engage freely and intensely in courses, study away, participate in research, and enroll in graduate level courses as an undergraduate. If you intend to go on to a professional school, note that such schools generally prefer more mature and experienced applicants.

Acceleration Credits

All Trinity College students may apply two AP/IPC/PMC credits toward the 34 credits needed for graduation. If you graduate early, you may apply additional AP/IPC/PMC credits toward the 34 credits;  these are called acceleration credits.

  • If you are accelerating your degree by one semester and will graduate after seven continuous fall/spring semesters, you may activate up to two acceleration credits to be added to the two credits already allowed (for a total of 4 AP/IPC/PMC credits that will apply toward the 34 credits for graduation).
  • If you are accelerating graduation by two semesters and will graduate after six continuous fall/spring semesters, you may activate up to six acceleration credits to be added to the two credits already allowed (for a total of 8 AP/IPC/PMC credits that will apply toward the 34 credits for graduation).

There are some restrictions on the use of acceleration credits:

  • To be able to use the extra credits, you must be continuously enrolled at Duke for your six or seven fall/spring semesters. You may not use acceleration credits in order to compensate for time taken away from Duke due to a leave of absence or withdrawal/suspension.

Summers are unaffected and can be spent on service, research, study abroad, or in classes. You should also note that for students matriculating on or after August 2015, 24 of the 34 credits required for graduation must be Duke credits. This means that if a student intends to graduate after six semesters and will use eight AP/IPC/PMC credits, they will need to complete 26 credits to graduate and 24 of these must be Duke courses. This limits the number of transfer or inter-institutional credits that apply to graduation. Note that such students may enroll in additional study abroad, transfer, or inter-institutional courses, and these may count for major and curriculum requirements, but they would not count toward the 34 credits required for graduation. 

The following table shows the relationship of acceleration credits to graduation timing:

Graduating after Maximum AP/IPC/PMC credit toward graduation
8 semesters 2 AP/IPC/PMC credits
7 semesters 4 (2 AP/IPC/PMC credits + 2 acceleration credits)
6 semesters

8 (2 AP/IPC/PMC credits  + 6 acceleration credits)



  1. Declare your major. This allows you to identify all curriculum and major requirements that you will need to graduate and you can determine if your plan to graduate early is feasible.  If you are unsure about curriculum or major requirements, meet with your Academic Dean or the Director of Undergraduate Studies or other advisor in your prospective major.
  2. Complete a Change in Graduate Date Form (below) and submit it to your academic dean. If your dean approves, he/she will notify the appropriate offices of your anticipated graduation date change.  When the change is made, you will see your new graduation date on your Academic History on DukeHub. 

You are encouraged to declare your intention to graduate early before the end of the fifth semester of enrollment but you must do so no later than the last day of classes of the semester in which you wish to graduate.  If you wish to graduate at the end of the summer, the deadline is the last day of Summer Term II.

Once you have been approved to graduate early, if you later change your mind, your registration will be moved back to the last enrollment window.

If you are a senior and will graduate in September or in December, you may choose to walk in graduation exercises in May of that year as long as you will have completed 29.0 credits at the end of the spring semester.  Your diploma would then be sent to you after you finish your last classes.  Alternatively, you can wait and participate in graduation exercises the following May. 





See also: