Advanced Standing in the United States (Finishing your degree faster!)

How does Advanced Standing work?

Advanced Standing allows students to graduate in three years (instead of four years) or obtain a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in four years (rather than five).

In order to achieve these, candidates typically need strong IB results (3 7s +), 4 A/A* at A Level or 4 AP 5s or more approximately. Requirement vary by school.

Speaking from my experience, at Harvard, I used 4 of my A Level A*s to activate my Advanced Standing. I had to go through a reasonable amount of administrative headache to get my A Levels activated for credit as US universities are usually most familiar with IB or APs, however, they do have processes in place to accept A Levels. My credit gave me the equivalent of 8 full courses of credit, shaving off 1 year of my degree.

At most universities, substantially more students qualify for advanced standing than those who end up actually using it.


  1. Get degree finished faster to enable you to accelerate career opportunities
  2. Save tuition money (typically shaving off 1 year full year of expenses)
  3. Accelerate your learning to pursue graduate study at a faster rate
  4. Differentiate yourself from your peers graduating in 4 years


  1. The US experience is viewed by many Americans as a quintessentially 4 year long experience
  2. One year of socializing and networking with your peers is given up
  3. Can undermine the strength of relationships you establish with your faculty (who may be important referees) down the line
  4. Can reduce eligibility for certain latin honors as you end up taking a relatively harder course load

I tend to be of the opinion that in nearly every case, one should strive to be the best they possibly can be. For some people at college, that means embrace self-reflection and self-discovery where perhaps the full four years is better. For other people at college, that means accelerating academics to take full advantage of the environment and pushing yourself to the limit in the classroom.

Through a combination of advanced standing using my A Levels and taking 6 classes most semesters (instead of 4), I actually ended up graduating in 3 years with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree which was a very fun filled challenge. Consider Advanced Standing!

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