Graduating in 2.5 Years

Colorado Law allows students to graduate a half-year early (in December rather than in May) so long as all graduation requirements have been met. Graduating in 2.5 years allows you to enter (or re-enter) the workforce more quickly and possibly save some tuition money. All it takes is some planning to make sure you are on track to meet all the credit (and degree) requirements. In a nutshell, graduation requires the completion of 89 credits consistent with any applicable caps, including all required first-year courses, evidence, legal ethics, and a seminar course numbered 8000 or higher.

How Graduating in 2.5 Years Works
Typically, students take 30 credits during their first year (16 in the fall and 14 in the spring) and about 15 credits per semester during their second and third years. To graduate in 2.5 years, students must earn these credits more quickly. Here are some options for earning credits at an accelerated rate:

  • Take up to 18 credits per semester. Taking heavier loads during your second and third years leaves the summers free for work, externships, and other enriching activities. 
  • Take intersession courses. Intersession courses are a great way to earn additional credits without paying more tuition. 
  • Take summer courses here at Colorado Law or by studying abroad or in another law school’s summer courses. We encourage students to think carefully, however, before pursuing these options. Summer programs not only require additional tuition but some (especially those involving study abroad) involve additional expenses. Moreover, summer courses may require you to forego critical work experience, when the available evidence suggests that students with more work experience during law school secure post-graduate employment more quickly than those without such experience.

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Pros and Cons of Graduating in 2.5 Years

Pros Cons Variables
  • Possible tuition savings, depending on how you time your courses
  • Enter/re-enter the workforce more quickly
  • Less time to explore possible career options, attend events, take electives, build your network, and develop skills through externships, competitions, clinics, and other on-campus opportunities before entering the job market 
  • Heavier course loads per semester could leave you more stressed or overwhelmed
  • Consult with people in your field of interest to understand how graduating in December will fit with hiring practices and timing 
  • Certain schedule options (e.g., taking summer courses both years) may limit the opportunity to gain critical work experience
  • Certain specializations or certificates (e.g., Tax Emphasis Program) may be more challenging to complete because they require at least 95 credit hours
  • Some courses have prerequisites that are offered on a limited basis and may not fit in an accelerated schedule

Sample Schedules

Below are a few examples of schedules that enable you to graduate in 2.5 years. Remember, these are samples only; they are intended to give you a better sense of what your law school schedule may look like. Other variations are also possible. The most important thing is that you complete the required 89 credit hours.

Sample Schedule A: Without Summer Classes Sample Schedule B: Without Summer Classes & With Intersession Classes All Three Years Sample Schedule C: With Summer & Intersession Classes
1st Semester (1L Fall): 16 credits
2nd Semester (1L Spring): 15 credits (includes a 1-credit elective)
Externship during first summer: 2 credits
3rd Semester (2L Fall): 18* credits
Wintersession: 1 credit
4th Semester (2L Spring): 18 credits
Second summer off for work experience
Fallsession: 1 credit
5th Semester (3L Fall): 18 credits
_______________________________
By December graduation (2.5 years): 89 credits

1st Semester (1L Fall): 16 credits
Wintersession: 1 credit
2nd Semester (1L Spring): 15 credits (includes a 1-credit elective)
First summer off for work experience
Fallsession: 1 credit
3rd Semester (2L Fall): 18 credits
Wintersession: 2 credits
4th Semester (2L Spring): 18 credits
Second summer off for work experience
Fallsession: 1 credit
5th Semester (3L Fall): 17 credits
_______________________________
By December graduation (2.5 years): 89 credits

1st Semester (1L Fall): 16 credits
2nd Semester (1L Spring): 14 credits
Summer Term: 7-8 credits**
3rd Semester (2L Fall): 16 credits
Wintersession: 1-2 credits
4th Semester (2L Spring): 18 credits
Second summer off for work experience
5th Semester (3L Fall): 16 credits
_______________________________
By December graduation (2.5 years): 89 credits

*Please note that students may not take more than 18 credits per semester per ABA rules.
**Note that summer tuition tends to be higher per credit hour. Get more information about tuition and fees.

Intersession Courses and Electives

Intersession courses are courses offered in the week immediately prior to the start of the traditional fall (“fallsession”) and spring (“wintersession”) semesters. The number of courses during each intersession may vary, depending on the availability of professors. Each intersession lasts for a week, and the courses typically meet for approximately three hours a day during that week.

Both fallsession and wintersession courses and electives are included as part of your tuition. You will not be charged extra.

Taking Intersession Courses and Electives During 1L Year
First-year students can take up to one elective during wintersession and/or up to one elective during the spring semester. There are a number of wintersession courses that are pre-approved for 1Ls (see above), and there are a number of spring semester electives that are pre-approved and open to 1Ls only. (1Ls are permitted to enroll in upper level electives (any second or third-year course except for seminars) only upon approval by the instructor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.)

If you have any questions about intersession courses or electives, email the registrar’s office at lawreg@colorado.edu.

What to Do If You Want to Graduate in 2.5 Years

If you are interested in graduating in 2.5 years, it is best to start planning during registration for spring electives, which happens in November of each year. If you have not already done so, we ask that you email lawreg@colorado.edu to let the registrar’s office know that you are planning to graduate in 2.5 years. It is your responsibility to ensure that you meet all graduation requirements.

Questions? Read the frequently asked questions about the 2.5 year program.