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 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, social sciences, writing, foreign language
Prerequisites High school diploma, or equivalent
Online Availability Fully available
Possible Careers Financial analyst, cost estimator, sales engineer, budget analyst, teacher

Summer Semester

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, two or three courses usually equals full-time, with three to four 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 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.

Financial Aid

Both schools and the federal government offer financial aid to students, but your course load can affect your eligibility. If you are enrolled for less than half-time, 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.

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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