What is the College Graduation Age?

A couple of college graduates celebrate their victory by the school grounds.

College sure takes years from us, some more than others. As overwhelming and busy as getting a college degree can be, we sometimes cruise through the years without really noticing it. And if you’re getting into college and wondering when you’ll be done with it, maybe knowing the average college graduation age will give you an idea. 

College Freshman 

Not everyone who graduates high school immediately decides to pursue higher education. Some take a gap year or two to rest from the academic pressure or just give themselves time to figure things out. And others either don’t pursue university at all or head-on straight to uni without a gap year. 

It’s a given that not everyone starts college at the same age. Essentially, a college freshman who went straight from high school to uni is around 17–18 years of age. However, considering that some students are geniuses, they skip grades and graduate early. Others graduate as regular students but decide to take a gap year. So, students can be of different ages in college. 

College Graduation Age

As mentioned, not everyone starts and ends college at the same age. However, there are typical ages that people usually graduate depending on their level of higher education, degree, ethnic race, etc., based on the U.S. structure of education

By Level of Higher Education

A couple of graduates celebrate with their hard-earned University diploma.

All Programs in Non- University

In different countries, non-university programs are technical or vocational studies that lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate. Students in the U.S. taking these programs usually finish or graduate at 20, supposing they started at 18. 

First Stage University-Level Education

In the first stage of university-level education, you can take short or long programs, garnering you the title of an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, an advanced certificate, or a first professional degree. Short programs usually take four years to complete, meaning you graduate at the age of 22 had you started at 18.

Some may take longer than others, especially if you are pursuing the degree on a part-time basis. More extended programs such as a bachelor’s degree or a first professional degree (e.g., Dentistry, Medicine, Optometry, Pediatrics, etc.) take four or more years as you have to get a bachelor’s degree as an undergraduate before pursuing a first professional degree.  

Master’s Degree, Second Stage University- Level Education

A U.S. master’s represents the second stage of higher education, whether with or without a thesis. The typical graduation age for someone taking a master’s degree is 24 years old. 

Research Doctorate, Second Stage University- Level Education

Known as the third and highest level of higher education, a research doctorate takes roughly nine years of school—most students who started university at the age of 18 graduate by the age of 27.

The research doctorate requires a demonstrated mastery of your chosen subject, the ability to conduct independent, original research and not by examination and coursework alone. 

By Ethnic Race

College graduation rates are often affected by many factors, including ethnic and racial lines. A report led by Shapiro et al., 2017, focused on data representing nationwide students who went to two-year and four-year universities, those who studied part-time and full-time, and others who graduated after transferring to other institutions. 

Around 45.9 percent of black students, especially men, had the lowest six-year completion rate in a four-year public institution. The Hispanic students rate 10 percent higher than the black students, while white students graduate at the same period with a 67.2 percent rate.

And the highest rate belongs to the Asian students, specifically women, with 71.7 percent.

Factors That Affect Graduation Age

A group of friends celebrating their graduation.

High School GPA

When asked whether high school GPA is significant in a student’s likelihood of graduating, the College of Business Administration of the University of Northern Iowa answered that it is still the single best predictor if the student will graduate or not.

High school GPA, along with your confidence to organize and manage time and ability to pay, will impact your graduation. In addition, they believe that with a 1 unit increase in your GPA, your chances of graduating rise up to 5. 


In the United States, income strongly correlates with your educational attainment. But large income gaps linked to gender and race still remain at each educational level even when income correlates with higher educational attainment.


The relationship between students and the campus remains to affect education. For example, a tense campus affects your development and influences your retention.

And having a substantial amount of support, like meeting a Hispanic community on a predominantly white campus, will positively impact your retention as you can cope with the university environment. 


Your campus involvement, acclimation to the institution’s academic culture, and social connection to the university community are strong predictors of your retention. And with your challenges, experiences, and motivation, there are several factors influencing whether you graduate at a certain age or even graduate at all. 


If you are starting university, you may feel the pressure to perform perfectly so you could graduate “on time.” But there really is no “proper time” when everybody graduates. You have your own pace. And whether you graduate at 22, 24, 27, or even 40, the length of time you spend on school wouldn’t matter. What matters is that you pushed through and graduated.

Written by The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a lifestyle blog about the journey of college to adulting. Here you can find the tips for college, self-improvement, adulting, and more.

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