If you’re thinking of only taking 12 credits per semester in college then you might be wondering whether or not it is ok.

This post will show you a number of reasons that you might want to take 12 credits per semester as well as a number of reasons that you might not want to.

Only taking 12 credits per semester can be problematic since your financial aid might require 15, it might take longer to graduate and it might end up costing you more. However, it will likely help your GPA, you’ll have more time for extra-curriculars and you’ll have a less stressful experience.

There are actually a number of advantages and disadvantages of taking 12 credits per semester. Whether or not you should do it will also depend largely on a number of factors.

It will likely help your GPA

One reason that it might be a good idea to only take 12 credits per semester would be that it will likely help you to do better in your classes.

By only taking 12 credits you will have fewer exams to prepare for and homework to do. This should mean that you will have more time to focus on the classes that you are taking which should help your GPA.

Having fewer exams to prepare for is especially helpful when final exams come around. During final exams week, you will need to be preparing for all of the final exams in each of your classes. Sometimes, you will find that it will be necessary to revise a particular subject less than you would like so that you have the time to prepare for a different final exam. By taking 12 credits you will be able to avoid this since you will have more time to prepare for each final.

However, some people need the extra deadlines that come with a 15 credit semester in order to avoid procrastinating. If you have a habit of procrastinating on things then it might not be the case that the extra time will be beneficial.

You will likely have a less stressful experience

Having to prepare for multiple exams at the same time and to keep up with 15 credits worth of classes can be stressful at times. By only taking 12 credits per semester you will not have as much that you need to keep up with which will help you to stay on top of things more easily. This should help you to have a more enjoyable college experience.

You’ll have more time to participate in research with professors

If you are thinking of going to grad school then taking 12 credits per semester could help you to have more time to get research experience.

Something that grad schools will usually be looking for when considering applicants is whether or not they have research experience. By having more time to do research, when taking 12 credits, it should help you to improve your application.

With that being said, something to consider is that they will also look at the number of classes that you took each semester. Only taking 12 classes each semester could negatively impact your application. Instead, of taking 12 credits each semester you could take 15 easier credits then only take 12 in the harder semesters.

You’ll have more time to work

Another benefit of only taking 12 credits per semester is that you will have some more time where you will be able to work.

This could help you to graduate college without as much debt. However, that is only assuming that it won’t cause you to have to take extra semesters. If you do then it is likely that the cost of the extra semesters will outweigh the extra money that you might make.

It might mean that you will take longer to graduate

An issue with only taking 12 credits per semester is that it might mean that you will take longer to graduate.

Generally, you will need to get 120 credits over the course of four years to get a college degree. If you only take 12 credits per semester then you will only have 96 credits after 4 years leaving you 24 credits short. This means that, in order to graduate in 4 years, it would either be necessary for you to get a lot of credits for AP classes that you took or for you to take summer classes as well.

If you need to take summer classes as well then you will likely find that it will end up costing you more overall than taking 15 credits each semester. This is because, even if your college charges based on credit hour, you will still need to pay mandatory costs such as the computer costs, gym fees and resources fees that universities also charge. You would also have less time to work over the summer or to do internships which is something to consider.

It would be better to spread the difficult classes out more evenly.

If you are thinking of only taking 12 credits each semester because you want to make your time in college easier then something to consider is that the difficulty of the classes matters more.

A 15 credit semester where one of your classes are difficult will likely require less effort than taking a 12 credit semester with two or more difficult classes.

Instead of taking 12 credits per semester to make things easier for yourself it would likely be better to plan your class sequence so that you only have to take one difficult class per semester. This will be easier to do if you speak with an academic advisor and you are sure of your major. If are not sure of the major that you want you should still plan the class sequence as soon as you are sure or even before.

Consider how much AP/CLEP credit you can get

The ability that you will have in graduating, on time, by only taking 12 credits per semester will depend largely on the number of credits that you can get from AP or CLEP exams.

If you can get 15 AP credits then you could take 12 credits per semester with three 15 credit semesters or a summer semester with 9 credits and graduate on time. Alternatively, you could take 15 credits each semester and graduate early or take interesting classes in your final year with your spare time.

Make sure that 12 credits are enough to qualify for financial aid

At most universities, 12 credits will count as full-time. However, many scholarships require that you take 15 credits per semester in order to qualify for them. Before taking 12 credits in a semester check the requirements of your scholarships to make sure that you will still qualify for them.

Consider whether or not your college charges by credit hour

Another thing to consider is whether or not your college charges by credit hour. If it does then taking an extra semester or a summer class wouldn’t cost you a lot more than taking 15 credits per semester and graduating on time.

However, you will still need to pay more overall since you will need to pay for mandatory costs that incur regardless of the number of credit hours that you are taking. You will also be unable to work as much or to do internships in that semester which would also be an opportunity cost to consider.

Other things that you can do to make college easier for yourself

There are other things that you can do other than taking 12 credits per semester that will actually make things even easier for yourself.

Things that you can do would include:

  • Using ratemyprofessors.com to get the most highly rated professors.
  • Ensuring that you study throughout the semester so that you don’t need to cram the information in at the last minute.
  • Planning out the semester so that you can plan your work schedule more easily.
  • Scheduling classes early so that you get the professors that you want, the times that you want and so that you are able to take all the classes that you want to.
  • Planning out your whole degree so that you are able to avoid taking multiple difficult classes at the same time.
Author

I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.