How Many Credits Should I Take Per Semester?

How Many Credits Per Semester Should I Take

The work to be accepted to the school of your student’s choice has been done.  You and your student have checked off the list by…

  • visiting the school
  • submitting the application 
  • being accepted
  • paying the housing deposit
  • and buying everyone in the family awesome college gear

Now, it’s time to register for classes, but your new college student may be lost on where to begin. Like most students, they’re probably wondering “how many credits should I take a semester?”.

Here, I’ll provide further guidance in this area and explain exactly what you and your student need to know about signing up for classes.

What Classes To Take First Semester Of College

Simple, begin with the end in mind. 

When choosing what classes to take in the first semester of college, your student should begin with a graduation plan.  Like high school, find out which classes your student must take to graduate, and which classes will meet the requirements for graduation in their major. If your student enters undecided, then make sure the classes they choose can be used in multiple departments.  

As for the exact number of classes to take each semester, that can vary among schools.  The majority of colleges and universities require about 120 credit hours to graduate with a degree. If a student takes 15 credit hours per semester, or 30 credits per year, that translates to 4 years to get a degree. 

With a minimum amount of searching, individual college and university websites, such as University of Illinois are a great resource to gather the needed information.

When asked by my students “how many credits should I take a semester?”, I answer in the following way: 

  • If your child deals well with the transition, have them take 15 credit hours (5 classes)  
  • If your child is not great with transition or will be a student-athlete, they may benefit from only taking 12 credit hours (4 classes).

Also, if your child will be entering with Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, or CLEP credit, it may allow them to take one less class in the first semester.  Having one less class might help your student deal with the added academic rigor of college, and allow them to transition more easily. 

Full-Time Student Credits

You’ll definitely need to have an understanding of what your student’s intended college or university considers full-time student credits.  This is important for two main reasons:

  • If your child is not a full-time student, the college may not allow them further enrollment. 
  • Typically, if you are covering your child’s insurance through your employer, your child must be a full-time student to be insured.  

At some point during the fall semester of freshman year, your student will meet with an academic advisor.  The academic advisor will help with course selection for the following semester, and help track graduation progressAn additional tool that can be used to help monitor graduation progress is the degree audit. The degree audit can help students properly plan and plot which classes to take and in which semester. 

Lastly, if you are still confused.  Pick up the phone and speak with someone.  Colleges and universities will help provide you with the help you need and would like to see your child graduate in 4 years. 

College Funding Through MCPT

My College Planning Team is an award-winning organization that helps families develop customized, holistic plans to save money on college. Learn more about our college funding consulting services here. You can also read about our 10 strategies for reducing college costs.

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