How to Determine the Right Number of Credit Hours for You

As the spring 2016 semester comes to a close, the only thing on many students’ minds is summer break.

Other students may already be looking ahead to the fall semester, though, and some may have already scheduled their classes.

Many veteran college students have learned how many credit hours they are able to manage in a given semester, based on past experiences. However, newer college students and even some upperclassmen struggle to find the right balance.

If you are feeling uneasy about the number of credit hours you should take next semester, there are a few tips that can help you make your decision.

1. Talk with peers and professors.

The first step in deciding how many credit hours to take is to ask for advice. Oftentimes, professors and other students can provide suggestions that are based on many semesters’ worth of experience.

With that being said, students who are nearing graduation are the best ones to ask for advice about credit hours. Because they are graduating, they have clearly achieved success in their coursework and should be able to provide valuable recommendations.

If you have a few classes in mind that you know you want to take next semester, set up a meeting with the instructors for those courses to get an idea of how time-consuming each class will be. This will help you form a tentative day-to-day schedule before you even begin the semester.

2. Listen to university recommendations.

Many colleges and universities will provide a recommended number of credit hours to serve as a guide for students. This number generally ranges from 12 to 15 credit hours per semester.

Some schools also set limits on the maximum number of credit hours students can take without receiving a permit. These limits are put in place to prevent students from taking so many credit hours that they overwhelm themselves and lose track of assignments.

Conversely, schools also set limits on the minimum number of credit hours students must take to be considered full-time. For many schools, students must take 12 credit hours or more to receive full-time status.

3. Assess other responsibilities.

Though you may want to challenge yourself by taking more credit hours than what you’ve taken in the past, it is also important to consider all of your other responsibilities before making a final decision.

If you have a job, whether it’s part-time or full-time, it can reduce the number of credit hours you will be able to manage. There are only so many hours in one day, and taking too many credit hours while working will leave you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

4. Plan ahead.

If you are looking to graduate at a certain time, map out what your remaining semesters will need to look like in order for you to make that happen.

If you need to pick up more than 15 credit hours a semester in order to reach your graduation goal, ask yourself if it would be better to stick around for another semester instead of pushing yourself too hard.

On the other hand, if your graduation seems too far off, consider taking a few more credit hours to move graduation within reach.

5. Experiment.

Though you can gather plenty of advice and make plans, the only way to truly discover the right number of credit hours for you is to experiment.

If you are used to taking 12 credit hours but believe you could handle more, try taking 15 next semester. If you are struggling to manage 18 credit hours this semester, try dropping down to 15 to lighten your workload.

In the end, the number of credit hours you take each semester is a personal decision, and what’s right for you may not be right for someone else. The important thing is to take your past experiences and learn from them until you find the number that best suits you.

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