OT: How do some student-athletes finish a bachelors so quickly (to transfer)?

Submitted by chuck bass on April 20th, 2018 at 3:02 PM

Not specific to UM, maybe not even applicable to UM, it's just I've read so many cases of student-athletes transferring into graduate programs and sometimes they're only third years. How does this work? It's become somewhat uncommon for non-athetes to complete a bachelors on time in four years. Is their respective university allowing them to take an absurd amount of credit hours (inc. custom independent courses?) and/or are they applying outside online courses to their bach requirements? Is there a specific accredited online college these student-athletes are using? I vaguely recall reading a student-athlete claim he was wrapping up like 30 online credit hours in a term to transfer into a grad program by June.


father fisch

April 20th, 2018 at 3:05 PM ^

Good Q.

My final semester I had to take 20 credits to complete my grad requirements.  I had to get special permission, as did anyone who was taking more than 18 credit hours.

It was not easy and I didn't have to worry about sports or practices or meetings.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

But (there's always a but) the one year I spent the summer in Ann Arbor the number of available classes was really limited. I suppose that doesn't matter as much to a general studies major. Trying to find something that met my course requirements was tough. I would also guess they want the athletes on campus during spring/summer so there are more Kinesiology classes offered, or other majors that have a larger proportion of athletes.
It has been 25 years since I took a spring semester class. So take what I say with a giant grain of salt. I took an American Values class. Lots of reading, but what I remember most about the class was watching Roger & Me (/no politics please.) The scene with the lady in Flint selling rabbits for meat particularly stands out.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:41 PM ^

this kids are pretty much on campus year round. So they can take a couple of classes each summer, Sometimes schools offer classes over the winter/Christmas break and they take one then. After a few years of this, it's almost equivalent to squeezing in another year of school.


April 20th, 2018 at 5:13 PM ^

If you go both spring and summer, you can 12-16 credits in between the end of winter classes and the start of fall semester. That's like a whole extra semester. Do that between first and second year and again between second and third years on campus and that's an extra year of classes. 3+1 = 4.

Of course it gets even easier if you redshirt.


April 20th, 2018 at 6:41 PM ^

it is essentially the same as a full term.  I did one spring semester during my four years and there were a TON of football players in my Roman Sports and Daily Life class (hey, I needed humanities credits!).

Add that to the fact that a lot of them enroll early now, which gives them a full semester or even two semesters if they do spring/summer (which would already make them sophomores) before their fellow freshmen even set foot on campus, and it's not too difficult to graduate in three years.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:06 PM ^

Year round and start in the summer before most other students. Each summer can serve as another semester (15 or so credits) so it’s pretty doable to finish up in 3 years. Some come in with AP credits which mean they already enter as sophomores academically.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:07 PM ^

At Michigan, some athletes chose to take classes all summer because they are there training anyway (spring and summer half terms) and they often take classes at least the summer term before their freshman year.

This makes getting to 120 credits not super difficult. Around ~14 a semester 


April 20th, 2018 at 3:09 PM ^

Mostly taking classes in Spring and Summer terms or AP credits. Taking a handful of classes over the summer basically adds in an extra regular length semester (or more) a year. And I'm sure at least a couple have AP credits built up, a lot of kids can get out of a semester or two of classes just from AP tests. 


April 20th, 2018 at 3:10 PM ^

It is probably a combination of several factors but I assume a lot of college athletes apply the same work ethic that allowed them to be such accomplished athletes to many of their endeavors.  I also think sports can work to keep certain guys on the "straight and narrow" and pretty goal oriented.  Even with playing a sport, if you take away most of the general jack-assery that most college students engage in to pass the time and apply it "doing college" I think it would be much easier to graduate ahead of schedule.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:12 PM ^

While they take lighter loads during the season, they tend to be on campus all year round taking classes.  So for 120 credits to a degree, most students do 15 a semester and graduate after 8 semesters.  If football players do 12 credits in the fall semester, 16 in the winter and then 8 each half of the summer term, they have 44 credits and are on track for graduating in 3 years.

Additionally, more football players are enrolling early, so they get an extra winter and summer of classes under their belts.  Coupled with advisors who can help them optimize their schedules so they are always making progress towards their degree, it's not hard to fit in a full degree in 3 years.

MI Expat NY

April 20th, 2018 at 3:12 PM ^

A good chunk would come from summer courses, I expect.  I think athletes these days (especially those looking ot possibly graduate in 3/3.5 years) spend most of the summer at school.  I'm not sure exactly how many credits one can reasonably get in during the summer, but over three summers, not hard to imagine that you can make up a lot of ground.  Especially if you are in a major that may not be too heavily dependant on specific order in which classes are taken.

On the football side, of course, there's the early enrollment factor.  Which gives an athlete a "free semester" towards graduation.  


April 20th, 2018 at 4:11 PM ^

Yeah, it always seemed like it depended a lot on the major - some people seem to be able to make more headway during the spring and summer semesters than others. As for me, I was always able to complete credits here and there in the spring and summer, but sometimes the offerings pertinent to my majors were limited in those semesters. 


April 20th, 2018 at 3:39 PM ^

As others have noted, a combination of summer courses and good time management/AP credits.  And I'm sure specific majors are more amenable to graduating early.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:39 PM ^

Much of it has to do with the degrees most of these players pursue. Yes, many are on campus year round and some are early enrollees (and there are AP classes, etc.), but very few of these people are in highly specialized programs that only offer required courses once per year (sometimes even once every other year). Some programs are nearly impossible to finish in 3 years simply because of how/when the classes are offered (and the prereq requirements too).

Clarence Beeks

April 20th, 2018 at 3:44 PM ^

Part summer classes and part high school "dual enrollment" credits that they can transfer in.  It is not uncommon, at all, for kids to finish high school with an associate level degree and then finish their bachelors in just two years.


April 20th, 2018 at 3:51 PM ^

Year round classes.

The athletes are on campus year round in order to get their room and board stipend which is about 2 grand a month. They go to class too.


April 20th, 2018 at 4:14 PM ^

I entered U of M at sophomore standing, and I was neither particularly bright nor motivated in high school. Athletes who are at major college level have counselors working to get as many reciprocal credits as possible.

Also, if you work hard, it's possible to load up on seminar classes. U of M had these 1-2 credit courses that lasted like 2 weeks, so you could take 3 of them per semester.

If you're in a hurry, college credit requirements can be achieved quickly. Plus, there are experienced advisers who know how to work the system.

Perkis-Size Me

April 20th, 2018 at 4:15 PM ^

Two words, my friend. Summer school. A lot of the student athletes (in particular the football players) are still in town during the summer working out, holding unofficial practices, etc. They might as well go to class too while they're there. 

I also imagine that summer school helps ease their fall and winter semester class loads. You can get away with taking a couple less credits during the actual school year and have more time for practice if you're taking some classes during the summer. 


April 20th, 2018 at 5:03 PM ^

Right.  A typical student who doesn't go to Summer school, goes Fall and Winter semester or eight semesters in four years.  15 credits a semester on average x eight quarters = the 120 credits needed to graduate.

The athlete taking classes in both the Spring and Summer short sessions can have that equal a normal semester.  Thus, in three years, including Spring and Summer sessions, they are covering the equivalent of nine full semesters, allowing them to take a slightly lighter Fall load during football or just cover twelve credits over the Spring/Summer. 

This, along with taking an easier major, makes it likely to graduate in three years if you apply yourself. 

chuck bass

April 20th, 2018 at 4:16 PM ^

So it's not transferring in online courses from some web-based institution? I thought I've for sure read that various times - not at UM, I think most recently it was in reference to a basketball player.


April 20th, 2018 at 4:16 PM ^

I don't know about student athletes, but if you want enough credits to graduate early:

1) AP Credits

2) Summer classes (even at your local state school or community college, just check with UM beforehand)

3) Maxing out on credits during the semester with easy classes (e.g. instead of work study money, I was able to get credits for the research I did, which was an easy A)

4) Independent studies/ projects that are interesting, but not terribly difficult (easy A)

5) Pick a major that doesn't require a ton of 400 level courses or create your own major

Gucci Mane

April 20th, 2018 at 5:06 PM ^

Let’s also not forget student athletes (especially football and basketball) get many advantages normal students don’t get. Yes even at Michigan.


April 20th, 2018 at 6:34 PM ^

Registering for classes early was another athlete-specific “perk” that you’d get. Idk if they do that at UM, but when I was in school 8 years ago we were allowed to register for classes a full week before anyone else to accommodate for practice/games/etc. plus the aforementioned student academic services/advisors - it’s accessible to all, but you’d be surprised how many kids know about it and would just never go, assuming they’d graduate on time. Athletes are forced to have those conversations weekly, or sometimes more frequently as we saw in the Amazon series


April 20th, 2018 at 5:34 PM ^

It's actually pretty easy and you can plan it out day 1 when you arrive. I advise all student-athletes when that they should plan on finishing school in 3 years. Sounds hard but not as hard as you'd thinking. 

Every school is different but when I was in school we had three summer sessions. Session 1 max credits were 9, Session 2 was 12, Sessions 3 was 9 again. Add that to the average student doing 15 credits in the Fall and Spring each you can get to 126 credits (most degrees) in 3 years. 

Sadly this also points to the lack of "real world" experience that most SA get. Students don't go to year around, they work and tend to get internships in the summer or a fall/spring semester. 

Point is every SA should have an advance graduation date. Devin Gardner is a great example of that. He got his masters in 5 years. That's HUGE.  

Hugh Jass

April 20th, 2018 at 5:56 PM ^

we have AP classes kids can take to earn college credit.  Many will enter college as a sophomore academically.  I would imagine if a student is smart enough to attend Michigan fer God sakes that they could and would have take AP classes prior to enrolling.

Hugh Jass

April 20th, 2018 at 5:56 PM ^

we have AP classes kids can take to earn college credit.  Many will enter college as a sophomore academically.  I would imagine if a student is smart enough to attend Michigan fer God sakes that they could and would have take AP classes prior to enrolling.


April 20th, 2018 at 5:56 PM ^

Early enrollment helps. A lot of incoming freshmen that don’t enroll early arrive in June and start classes. Then throughout their college careers many load up on classes during the spring and summer. If regular students took classes year round, they’d graduate sooner too.


April 20th, 2018 at 7:23 PM ^

I think this is a great trend and hope it grows. It's good for the student half of the equation, guys taking advantage of the opportunity. It's good for the athlete portion, too. More time on campus training and bonding with teammates. For guys who stay four or five years, their prime athletic years have less academic pressure. And guys whose careers aren't going as well as hope have an option to transfer.

Which also opens roster space for the team.

Everyone wins here, as long as the classes are legit. The grad transfer rule is terrific.