How Many Courses Do Most College Students Take in a Semester?

How many classes is full time for college students? Ask a number of college students how many courses they take during a semester, and you'll probably get a wide variety of answers, depending on their goals and their school's course load policy.

How Many Classes Is a Full Time College Student Supposed to Take?

When pursuing a university education, there are many things to consider and decide, including college entrance requirements, the subject you want to study, and how many courses to take each semester once you are enrolled. The number of courses you may take in a semester is dependent on many factors, such as your time availability, the type of degree you are pursuing, and your school's course load policies. Generally, to be considered full-time as an undergraduate, most schools will require you to take at least 12 credits, which is equal to four three-credit courses. Students who take between six and 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.

Important Facts About Common Course Loads

Common Courses Humanities, life sciences, psychology and the social sciences, writing, foreign language, mathematics
Prerequisites High school diploma, or equivalent
Online Availability Fully available
Possible Careers Financial analyst, cost estimator, sales engineer, budget analyst, teacher, event planner, credit counselors,

How Many Classes Should I Take a Semester?

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 three-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 two to three 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 any job or family obligations when deciding how much available time you have for class and studying.

Summer Semester

Because summer semesters are usually shorter and more condensed than fall or spring semesters, most schools lower the maximum amount of courses that students are allowed to take. In summer, two or three courses is usually considered full-time, with three to four courses being the maximum. As with fall or spring semesters, though, there is a chance you might be able to take more courses with approval from the relevant department.

Financial Aid

Both schools and the federal government usually offer financial aid to students, but it is possible that your course load could affect your eligibility. If you are enrolled for less than half-time, it may affect your eligibility for this financial assistance. 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.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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