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How does college work? Like what are hours, credits, and semesters?

sweet48sweet48 Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
edited March 2010 in Science Majors
Your Open QuestionShow me another »
Best college major for Pre-med?
I want to become a doctor and i know i can either major in biology, chemistry, or biochemistry or do a double major in bussiness/bio chemistry. I heard chemistry is the hardest major and that biochemistry is harder than biology so i think i will major in bioloy because i don't want my GPA to suffer. How ever i am confused about the whole credit/hours thing in college. The AP classes I have taken/ going to take are: AP human geography, AP world history, AP art history, AP stat, AP chemistry, AP us history, AP english 3, AP english 4, AP bio, AP physics B, AP Calculus AB, AP 3D sculpture, AP Gov, AP economics, and AP physchology. And lets say i got a 4 in all of them. How will these classes help me? Is it worth taking AP physics and stuff? What classes do I have to take in 4 years of undergraduate to major in biology and minor in bussines? And I heard that to be a biology major I need like 16 hours of biology classes or something. What does that mean? Is one semester one year and does one semester equal 2 credits and 6 hours? With my AP classes what classes can I skip in college and how long will it take me to finish undergraduate school considering that I won't fail anything? And do the professors teach well or do I have to get tutoring separately? Thanks I am so confused. I gues I want to know how the college system works?
Post edited by sweet48 on

Replies to: How does college work? Like what are hours, credits, and semesters?

  • sweet48sweet48 Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Somebody please help me :(
  • TomServoTomServo Registered User Posts: 2,047 Senior Member
    I strongly suggest you visit a local university for a tour.

    Colleges are either on the semester system or the quarter system. There are two main semesters in a year, with an extra term in the summer. You may or may not use this extra term to take classes (depends on how much of a hurry you are in). The quarter system is where the year is divided up into four quarters, though some people only take three quarters a year and use the fourth quarter as a break.

    In each semester or quarter you will take classes of your choosing, from your major and as part of your general education requirements (AP credits and CLEP exams can get rid of a lot of these general education courses with a lot less time and money). Each class has a certain number of hours, or credit hours. A five-hour calculus class isn't for five hours each day of the week, but for five hours total in one week. It may be one hour for five days, two and a half hours for two days, etc. A full-time student takes about twelve to twenty credit hours each semester or quarter. Quarter credit hours count for less than semester credit hours. A semester is longer than a quarter, many classes that would be a single semester class are a two-quarter class. Three quarter hours equals two semester hours. This is important should you transfer from one college to another.

    To complete the degree, you need a certain amount of credit hours total, over a hundred for a bachelor's degree. When I transfer to my main university, I'll need 238 credit hours total to get the two degrees I'm going for. I've just completed nine last quarter, one physics class and one calculus class. I'll CLEP out of about thirty or forty.

    As for what you should major in, I suggest asking some doctors what a good major is. There are all sorts. Some people even major in engineering and then get into medical school. Probably depends on what type of doctor you want to be.
  • sweet48sweet48 Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    thank you so much TomServo. I will go visit a community college soon. But if a semester is 4 months so 16 weeks and a class is 5 hours then if you complete the class in a week then would you take 16 classes?
  • TomServoTomServo Registered User Posts: 2,047 Senior Member
    No! You take the class for five hours each week of the term (semester or quarter). How many "credit hours" you get from a class depends on how long you spend in that class *per week*. It does not mean you only send that many hours on the class total. I am about to take calc. II and gen. physics I, each are five hours. So for the entire quarter, I will spend five hours each week on my calc. class, and five hours each week on my physics class. But I'll attend every week for the whole quarter. So if a quarter is twelve weeks, I'll have spent 12*5 hours in a class room for calculus. Dig?
  • sweet48sweet48 Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Ha I got it...i think:) So you spend 60 hours taking calc but only get 5 hours toward your 238 hours that you need. Wow thats seems tough, but I guess taking only 2 classes per week will keep you focused. How many hours do you need for a minor and major? Is there a difference between hours and credit hours? Thanks for your patience.
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,608 Senior Member
    Generally a class is 3 credits. This means you'll have three hours of formal lecture a week (either one hour a day MWF or 90 minutes Tuesdays and Thursdays). A one credit course will have one hour of lecture a week (often seminars are 1 credit). Four or five credit classes can either meet every day of the week or have two hour lecture twice a week.

    The general rule of thumb is for every hour you spend in class you should be spending two outside doing homework/studying/readings. So if you're taking 15 credits in a semester you should expect at least 45 hours of work. You'll find some classes take considerably less than two hours outside for every one hour in, and others will take a lot more.

    Credit requirements vary between majors and minors depending on the university and the department within the university. Also, not every school goes by the same credit system. My undergrad went by "units" which, roughly translated, was 3 units = 1 credit.
  • variolavariola Registered User Posts: 152 Junior Member
    Every university treats AP classes differently: some give credit only and some give you credit and a grade. For those taht give credit, they'll usually give you credit for a 3 and up. They will also sometimes accept those AP scores as fulfilling some of your GEs (general education requirements), but not always. Schools that give you grades for APs usually give a 3 a 2.0, a 4 a 3.0 and a 5 a 4.0 (like C, B, and A GPA). You will need to check the AP policies of the universities you apply for.

    In the general school year there are two main semesters Autumn and Spring, running from mid August to December and February to mid-May. There is also a summer semester but not all the classes are offered then and people suually take summer classes to gain credits or make up classes.
    A quarter system has 3 main quarters Fall, Winter and Spring, running from the end of September to mid-December, January to mid-March and April to mid-June. They are 10-11 weeks long. The summer quarter, again, is not necessarily required.

    Whatever school you go to will have a list of classes required per major. For instance, a general biology major will require a year (2 semesters) of general chemistry, a year of general biology, a year of organic chemistry, a year of physics, a semester to a year of biochemistry, and 7-9 upper division biology classes (cell bio, genetics, microbio, etc) that usally only last 1 semester. These requirements will differ by school.

    A minor in a subject means that you take most, but not all, of the classes required for a major. The department will have guidelines on what classes are required for a minor.

    A full course load per semester is usually 5-6 classes, depending on how many credits each class is worth. A full load for quarter is usually 3-4 classes.

    Each class is worth credits or units, and those will be counted towards your graduation requirement. For med school you'll have to calculate your credit hours based on the weekly hours of lecture per class, an algorithm TomServo has already described. 16 credit hours of biology is probably around 4-5 classes.

    When I went to UG I was on the quarter system and all lecture based courses were 5 units/credits. Graduation required 180 units (as well as completing your major requirements). A full load was 15 units, which was 3 classes a quarter. 15 units per quarter * 3 quarters per year (fall, winter, spring) = 45 units a year * 4 years = 180 units.
  • sweet48sweet48 Registered User Posts: 54 Junior Member
    Thank you Racin Reaver and variola. I understand completly. :)
This discussion has been closed.