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How do you refer to a person continuing along an outlined path through time? Specifically, what do you call the actual action of progressing from the earlier stages to the later/older stages?

I'm trying refer to the path a person takes through college (year 1, then 2, then 3, etc.), and what you would call the act of going through those steps/ progressing to the later ones.

The sentence I'm trying to complete is "it is common for students to do this as they _____." It needs to mean something like "progress through their years at school" or "get older", but "older/aging" only in reference to them rising through the grades. I just don't know how to say that in a shorter, more concise manner instead of literally stating "progress through their time at school". I know there has to be some better phrase that means "the act of someone moving through this specifically outlined set of time".

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    Why not simply progress? – Kevin Aug 31 '16 at 21:10
  • "progress" would work but only in a more lengthy description, like to literally say "they progress through the years of being at school", but I'm looking more for like a shorter idiom or phrase that implies that same meaning. – Mackensie Markes Aug 31 '16 at 21:39
  • Since you have established some context with the word students, the phrase as they progress is sufficient to imply through their education. – Lawrence Feb 24 '17 at 12:18
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The word "advance" is currently used in this way.

Oxford Dictionaries offers this definition, marked 1.1:

advance : Make or cause to make progress

An example sentence: "Michael advanced from third to fourth grade."

When progression is marked by a series of steps, this is the most common word used to describe progression through the steps in my experience.

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They go/progress through their rites of passage (the broader sense given by Collins ):

rite of passage noun

1.a ceremony performed in some cultures at times when an individual changes his status, as at puberty and marriage

2.a significant event in a transitional period of someone's life

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Although the wording is no shorter than that of "progress through their years at school," "continue [or progress or advance] along their academic path" offers a fairly relaxed, figurative way of describing what you refer to in your question title "progressing through an outlined set of steps/time."

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The formal set of experiences necessary to fulfill the requirements of a degree or certification is often known as a curriculum. Sounds like you want some variation of an broader idiom which connotes either adherence, accordance, or lack thereof, to the requirements stipulated.

  • on track
    “That person is on track to complete their degree — in ten years!”
  • on the way
    “I'm well on my way to an early graduation.”
    Note: do not confuse this with similar idioms such as ‘along the way’ or ‘by the way’.

Well, I suppose I shall leave it at that for this answer.

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