Can you explain how credits work? Why are some classes worth 4 credits and why do students take around 12-16 a semester? Coming from high school, this is a little confusing.

Credit hours are related to the number of hours spent in a class each week.
– Kevin Pitts

The general rule of thumb is that you need to spend two hours outside of class for every hour you spend in class. So if you are taking 15 hours, then you would spend 15 hours in class each week and 30 hours out of class each week. That’s a total of 45 hours, which is very similar to the time spent working full time.

However, credit hours don’t exactly match the number of hours you spend in class each week. For example, a 4 hour physics course might consist of 100 minutes of lecture, 110 minutes of discussion and 110 minutes of lab each week, for a total of 5.3 classroom hours. Courses also have different difficulty levels, so for some courses you’ll spend more than 2 hours out of class for each hour in class, and for other courses you’ll spend less.

Credit hours are representations for time working on a course.
– J.W. Morrisette

Credit hours certainly can be confusing because they are really representations of ACTUAL hours spent working in a course. A rough formula to follow is that every 1 credit hour is equal to approximately 40 ACTUAL hours of work a semester. A class that offers 3 credit hours would equate to roughly 120 actual hours of work a semester. This is a rough estimate so it certainly varies. No two students are exactly alike so actual work hours depend on the individual.

Those actual hours of work are spread out over the course of a 16 week semester. SO- taking a 3 credit hour course would mean that over the semester you might average about 8 hours per week of actual work time invested in work related to the course. This, again, is only an average-some weeks might require more and some weeks might be less-it all depends on the course.

Credits equate to time spent for a course.
– Katie Abrams

For each credit hour, students are in class for instruction. For each hour you are in class, it is suggested you prepare, study, or work for that class an hour or so. So, for that 3-credit hour class, you’d spend about 3 hours in the classroom and at least 3 hours a week outside of class working or studying on your own. I can’t recall where that rule of thumb came from, but it’s something that makes sense. Many students in our major (Agricultural Communications) hold part-time jobs or local internships and get involved in student organizations.

You’ll have to find the best balance for you, but I always advise students to get started in extracurricular activities and jobs that contribute to their career explorations and goals. Those experiences will not only make your learning more colorful, but will also lead you to creating the right networks to position yourself for a career. The sooner you start on that path, the better off you’ll be. Ask any senior, you’ll be surprised how fast time goes!


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