How Many Courses Do Most College Students Take in a Semester?
Ask a number of college students how many courses they take during a semester, and you'll probably get a wide variety of answers. As a college student, you could take anywhere from one to six courses each semester, depending on your goals and your school's course load policy.
Common Course Loads
The number of courses you may take in a semester is dependent on many factors, such as your time availability and your school's course load policies. To be considered full-time as an undergraduate, most schools will require you to take at least 12 credits, which is equal to four 3-hour courses. Students who take 6-12 credits are usually considered half-time, while students who take less than six credits are considered less than half-time. Graduate students are usually considered full-time at nine credits.
Because summer semesters are shorter and more condensed than fall or spring semesters, most schools lower the maximum amount of courses that students can take. In summer, 2-3 courses usually equals full-time, with 3-4 courses being the maximum. As with fall or spring semesters, though, you might be able to take more courses with departmental approval.
Course Load Limits
Most schools will allow you to take more than 12 credits per semester and some even recommend that students take 15 credits per semester. In most cases taking more than 18 credits will require departmental approval. This is because 18 credits usually equal six 3-credit classes, which can mean a very heavy workload.
When you're deciding how many courses to enroll in for a given semester, you might consider how much work each one will require outside of class. In general, each hour you spend in class will translate into 2-3 hours of homework and study time. So, if you take 12 credit hours, you will spend 12 hours in class and can expect to work 24-36 hours outside of class. Remember to include work or family obligations when deciding how much available time you have for class and studying.
Both schools and the federal government offer financial aid to students, but your course load can affect your eligibility. If you take less than six credit hours, it could affect your eligibility for this aid. When you receive your financial aid, you should also be given information explaining the criteria for maintaining the aid, which typically indicates a requirement for enrollment as a full or part-time student, depending on the type of aid.