How many credit hours for a first time university student is too much or should be taking?

Good morning, users

I already applied to a University and need some advice while I wait to get an acceptance into that Uni, if I should just take one course per semester for Uni.

Now for a first-time university student. How many courses should they take? If the courses are going to be on campus?

I have spoken to a university advisor and they told me “depends on how much workload you can handle”.

When I was taking community college courses, I have taken 5 to 6 courses easily since all of them were online and were easy to manage.

Now that some Uni’s are open, it’s impossible to tackle 6 courses if it’s campus-based and not online.

I spoke to my CC advisor and they said I can take Biology 1, Micro Bio, and Human Structure and Function I & II at a university, but those courses will be converted differently but with the same materials.

“Human Structure and Function I” can be converted to “Human Physiological Anatomy I” same meaning just a different conversion.

The users on this forum, how many courses did you tackle when you were a uni student? Would love to hear you’re opinions :slight_smile:


You will have an advisor at your college who can guide you.

If you have need based financial aid…don’t let your course credits drop below 12.

The answer to your question about how many “courses” will depend on several factors. Frankly, I think number of credits matters more than number of courses.

  1. Is the school on semesters or quarters?

  2. Are any of your courses ones that also require a lab?

  3. How many credits are each of your courses? Both of my kids had courses that were 1 or 2 credits.

  4. What KIND of courses? Some courses are harder and/or just take more of your time.

All the biology has labs and uni’s go by semester.
I know taking two bios and two labs is not a good combo.

Plus I would need to pass Biology 1 in order to progress into the other micro and bio courses. Since uni’s have course pre-reqs as well :slight_smile:

The bios are around 4 CH and Kinesiology are 5 credit hours each.

@thumper1 How many courses did you tackle when you were a first time uni student?

I was a first time college student in the dark ages.

For freshman year, I was at a school on semesters. I took 4 courses that were 4 credits each, and two courses that were 1 credit each.

Then I transferred to a school on quarters. I took five courses but they were 3 credits each.

My kids…one was on semesters…took 18 semester credits at least each term.

One was on quarters and took at least 18 quarter credits.

Again…I say…you will have a college advisor who will guide you.

One thing to keep in mind…some colleges will charge you an extra coat if you go OVER a certain number of credits. So…check that. And if you have need based aid…don’t go below 12 credits.


First of all, congratulations on having finally seen the light, and applied to transfer to a 4 year college!

A normal workload for a full time student for first semester of college is four courses, and only one with lab. Depending upon the college, that could be anywhere from 12-18 credit hours. Some highly motivated students might take 5 classes, even 5 classes plus a lab, but that’s not a good idea for you. Let’s see how you do the first semester, registering for a normal full-time student’s load, which is four classes, plus one lab if you’re doing a science class.

Your idea that you should take only one course a semester at the 4 yr college is absurd, and says that you’re terrified about transferring to the 4 yr college. Don’t be. If you were able to do the work and do well in community college, you’ll be able to do it in the 4 yr college, too. You need to realize that you are about ten years behind on the normal track for people who go to college, so it’s most definitely time to kick it into high gear, and get done.

You no longer go the community college advisor. You’re done with community college.
You’re transferring to a 4 yr college. You meet with the college advisor, at the college that you will be transferring to. Call on Monday and make an appointment with admissions, and with advising. I’m assuming that you’ve done this in time to start in January, but some schools start this Monday, so I’m afraid that you may not be able to get the transfer arranged in time. If you go into the office in-person, or have an online appointment with the office of admissions if they’ve gone remote, you may be able to expedite the transfer, since you already have a 2 yr degree.

Take only ONE class that has an accompanying lab. Take only ONE science class, plus three others. Do NOT try to take intro Bio and a higher level biology class at the same time; in fact, I’d be very surprised if they even were to let you register for any higher level Bio classes if you haven’t yet completed a year of college level intro Biology.

Your gen eds should have been satisfied by the community college degree, but talk with your advisor AT THE FOUR YEAR COLLEGE, not at the community college, and plan out your courses. The community college advisor knows NOTHING about what is required at the 4 year college that you will transfer to, other than perhaps knowing something about what that college might accept for transfer credit from the community college.

Have you decided on what you want to major in, what career goal you have? The reason I ask this is that, from your community college career and grades, I don’t think that med school, dental school, or PA school is a realistic goal for you. 3.5 is nice, but it’s not going to help get you into any of these, plus after the things you’ve said, it doesn’t seem that nursing is a good match for your personality, at least not patient contact nursing. But you do seem interested in science and math. Have you thought about doing some kind of ancillary medical field, such as the many different types of lab work, or radiation technology or radiation therapy, or such? You liked physics, and you do need to understand physics in order to any of the radiation or imaging fields. You get to do a lot of work independently, the patient contact is minimal, and the pay and job security are good (although not the astronomical level to which you seem to feel entitled). Does the 4 yr college that you’re transferring to have any degrees like that? Those are possibly realistic goals for you, that you could complete in 2-3 more years at a college, for a 4 yr degree with a smooth transition into a good-paying field.


^You need to meet with the college advisor at the four-year college because they know what it takes for you to graduate from their four-year university.

You can’t just take whatever you want. There has to be a progression of courses to meet the requirements of the major in order to graduate.

You can ask how many classes we took, back in the dark ages, but it wont matter because our experiences don’t have anything to do with what you will take. The college advisor will help you to figure out your schedule.
Every college is different in their requirements for graduation for every major.

Every college has different unit counts for courses.
My son’s courses were each 5 units. Labs were 1 unit.
My undergrad courses were 3 units each and 1 unit for labs.
My daughter’s courses were 4 units each with 2 units for labs.

Full time status means full aid.
Part time status means part time aid. If you only take one class per semester you may not get any funding.
If you take one class per semester, and since most colleges require, at least, 60 units of coursework after transfer, that means that you will be in college for the next 30 years.

Meet with the college advisor at the college where you are transferring. Whatever the CC advisor tells you is based on prior admissions, because that advisor does not work for the entering university.
Please don’t base your transfer information on hearsay and other peoples experiences. That has not worked for you! Your graduation has to be based on the University catalog and what the advisors at the University will advise.


I’d fnd out what the normal course load is at your college (it was 5 three credit classes at my son’s college and 4 four credit classes at my daughter’s college) and stick to that for your first semester.

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This part of your post has me confused. Do you really think students only take one course at a time at most universities as full time matriculated students?

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I took 6 courses for 3 units during one semester, but I wouldn’t recommend it. (We didn’t have online coursework when I went to college. We barely had Apple IIe’s and used typewriters to write our Theses.) There were several of my classmates taking 18 units but it was hard.

Funding will definitely be an issue. Any Pell Grant monies would be denied.

Hence my statement. This person will be in a university until the age of 60.

Repeating for emphasis^^^^!

Go to the source>>>> the university advising team.

Basing everything on what others’ personal experiences have been, WILL NOT WORK FOR YOU.

You must go to the source.

Your new school should have a plan of study to follow so you are on track for graduation and to keep your financial aid. As noted, your advisor should be able to help you with that and they will be more accurate than CC.

My D, currently a college student, took 5 courses/17 credit hours her freshman year. She typically takes 5 courses, somewhere between 16-18 credit hours/semester. She has two labs/semester (she’s a chemical engineering major). She follows her school’s plan of study.


What major have you decided on at the university? There should be a recommended course of study. As everyone else has said, you should speak to your advisor. When do classes start at the university? It seems a bit late to be choosing classes now for spring semester.

This past fall as a freshman nursing major, I was signed up for 19 credits- 4 classes that were 4 credits each, and 2 seminars- 1 for 2 credits, and 1 for 1 credit. So 6 classes total, but 2 met 1x/week, 3 met 2x/week, and 1 met 3x/week with an additional lab once a week. But each plan is variable to your school and major. I also ended up having to take a medical leave unfortunately, but when I go back in the fall after surgery, I will probably take a similar amount of credits.

Short answer - 15 credits (typically 5 classes) per semester. That will typically graduate you in 4 years.

  • Below 12, you may not be considered a full time student.

  • Above 19, you may have to pay extra.

  • 18 is brutal.


I guess I’m going to have to do another heavy load, long as I shorten the courses just like I did with the gens and eds, I despised those courses, I asked my self everyday, am I ever to going finish these gens and eds and I did :), I am out of the CC realm and never been happy :slight_smile: and than I might get a job.

I know i;m behind on the normal track, in the past I use to let that setback bother me but now it’s not, even though it haunts me “I should have finished college years ago” But staying positive :slight_smile:

I never said I wanted to combine or base it off other’s experiences, I just wanted to read and know their opinions to get an idea not to actually base it off mine :slight_smile:

Full time is generally 12 credits or above. As stated above most students tend to take about 15 credits average per semester. My son has taken 17 credits each semester so far just so you can see a personal experience. You should be able to handle between 12-16 credits.

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I mean how hard could these courses be.

I’ve taken worse courses in calculus, physics, and chemistry together in my CC years. Uni shouldn’t be that hard.

I’m going to take 3 courses to get the “feeling” of uni. Once I gain experience then it will be a piece of cake.

“Hard” is very subjective. Depends on what courses and a students strengths.

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Depending on the courses, yes, they will be that hard. Also you might be surprised by a difference in expectations at the University.

I’m guessing, they have midterms, finals, quizzes, projects, essays, homework, the list goes on, depending on how the faculty wants the course to be built.

You’re guessing right.

You asked a question about what others do. I just gave you the answer for a typical student.