Is 20 Credit Hours Too Much For Freshman Semester?

I’m a senior in high school planning out a rough draft of college schedule right now. I’m planning to double major in chemical engineering and physics, so naturally I’ll have to take a lot more classes than ordinary. Right now I have 8 classes lined up for the first semester at 20 credit hours. They are as follows.

Fundamental Engineering and Technology (First Year Engineering Projects) - 2
Principles of Chemistry I - 3
Experimental Chemistry I - 2
Mechanics - 4
Honors Mechanics Seminar - 1
Windows on Science - 1
Analytic Geometry and Calculus II -4
Multidimensional Mathematics - 3

Besides Calc II, Multidimensional Math, and Engineering I’ve already taken and done well in these classes, and I could’ve skipped mechanics and chemistry with its lab if I wanted to.

The usual course load is 15-16 credits per term. The assumed workload (including in-class and out-of-class time) is 3 hours per week per credit, so a 15 credit schedule will have you spending 45 hours per week on school work, while a 20 credit schedule will have you spending 60 hours per week on school work.

What is “multidimensional mathematics”?

If you have already taken chemistry and physics, why would you repeat them?

Others can help you better if you named your college and what AP or other credit you are entering with.

My son had Calc 3 in high school. My only hint is college math is not high school. Many are weed out classes like Calc 2 and physics 1/2. He took 18 credits his freshman first 2 semesters. He’s a senior now so he survived… He did well but it was tough. But he worked and started a club also.

I would go lighter for at least your first semester. But… You can also drop a class or two by the deadline and see how you do up till that point, I guess.

This plan is all for IUPUI in Indianapolis, and I plan to transfer to Purdue after one year. I took a poli sci dual credit course last semester which I never should’ve taken and got a D in, so I’m taking physics and chemistry again to pad my college gpa. I’ve never heard of an equivalent course in any other institution but IUPUI requires this course called multidimensional mathematics which is described as -

“An introduction to mathematics in more than two dimensions. Graphing of curves, surfaces and functions in three dimensions. Two and three dimension vector spaces with vector operations. Solving systems of linear equations using matrices. Basic matrix operations and determinants.”

I’ve taken in high school-
AP Physics I
AP Physics C - Mechanics and E&M
AP Chemistry
AP Calculus AB
Organic Chemistry

Are you able to double major in chem e and physics at Purdue?

My D is a junior chem E at Purdue, came in with a ton of AP credits, and still only has room for one elective/semester. Minor might be possible but a second major would add semesters to graduation.

I would also encourage to go lighter first semester. You will need a high GPA to transfer into chem E at Purdue. I believe the threshold for transfers is a 3.5. No easy task in college.

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Yeah I was planning on going to school for five years, but I know it’s still gonna be much harder than getting one bachelor’s. One reason I’m thinking about IUPUI so much before Purdue decisions are even out is so I can finish multivariable calculus by the end of the year which would hopefully make this plan a little easier. Like I said earlier, my only college grade is a D right now. I’m taking IU’s Speech course this semester but I still feel the need to put a lot on my plate to get that 3.5. Thank you for the input.

As a first time freshman, planning 20 hours of coursework in engineering and physics is not a good idea for your first semester.
Are you going away to school? This is going to affect how you study because you will be adjusting your skills in time management to fit your schedule.

You will be spending time doing what I call “household chores” and it’s not just the cleaning and eating. It’s things that will come up such as:
Having time to read and research information.
Rescheduling your engineering and physics team meetings because you aren’t able to meet for your groups.
Adjusting your schedule because it doesn’t allow for you to make required office hours with your professors.
My husband, daughter and son did not double major but all took engineering and physics courses and maintained good GPA’s but it took a lot of compromise, group study teams, time management and daily schedules (at Stanford and at Caltech). Daughter didn’t know that some engineering classes were “sabotaged” by upper level classmen who planned schedules that were advantageous to their GPA’s, “dabbling” in lower division engineering courses where they knew that they would “blow the curve”.
Yes, 20 credit hours will be harsh for a first time freshman.

I would definitely not recommend you take 20 hours in the fall of your freshman year. College is different than high school. There are more distractions. It will take some adjusting to college caliber courses. You will want to have fun. By taking 20 hours, you will not have fun and will feel over-burdended. I would recommend you only take 12-14 hours to ease into college. You can make up 3 hours if needed over the summer.

Dude, that’s too much.

That’s too many for first semester. And why plan on 5 years just to double major? Why do you need the second major?

Since you mention Purdue, take a look at the detailed course template with your estimates. https://engineering.purdue.edu/ME/Undergraduate/Files/PlanOfStudy2020.xlsx

2nd tab - A typical 16 credit semester is about 64 hours of work per week. My D (a Senior) tells me it’s accurate, if not underestimated. They recommend (1st tab) that even top students don’t plan more than 70. They won’t let anyone schedule 18 (or maybe it was 19) credits or more.

Freshman year is typically 15. I wouldn’t recommend 20 at Purdue - can’t speak to IUPUI. Purdue wouldn’t let you. College is much more difficult and time consuming than high school.

First of all…do you really need to double major? What will the benefit be?

Secondly, it is your first semester of college. DO NOT OVERLOAD. Look at what the typical freshman engineering classes are and take that.
Doing well in 16 credits is much more important than fitting in a double major.

Also, aren’t the following really Calc 2 and Calc 3 and should not be taken in the same semester?

Analytic Geometry and Calculus II -4
Multidimensional Mathematics - 3

It looks like IUPUI MATH 17100 Multidimensional mathematics is a course that combines some precalculus material with an introduction to linear algebra, and it is listed as a prerequisite for MATH 26100 Multivariable calculus, MATH 26600 Elementary differential equations, and MATH 35100 Elementary linear algebra.

Catalog descriptions:


Final exam preparation sample questions:

AP scores?

Was Organic Chemistry a college course with college credit? If so, is it accepted for subject credit at both IUPUI and Purdue West Lafayette?

AP calculus AB: score of 4 = MATH 16500
AP physics C mechanics: score of 5 = PHYS 15200 at IUPUI, PHYS 17200 at Purdue
AP physics C E&M: score of 5 = PHYS 25100 at IUPUI, PHYS 27200 at Purdue
AP chemistry: score of 4 = CHEM-C 105 at IUPUI, CHM 11500 & 11600 at Purdue; score of 5 = CHEM-C 105 & 106 at IUPUI, CHM 11500 & 11600 at Purdue


My son just finished his first semester of ChemE. He took 17 credits which is all he was allowed to take. He did well and probably had time for one more class but why push it, and again he couldn’t.

Would you be able to retake the class you received a D in and get a better grade? Not sure if this would be possible but it might solve a lot of your issues if it is.

Set yourself up for success. Don’t overload Freshman year.

20 is too many for your first semester. You’ll want to allocate some time to getting used to life in college. Also, you don’t want to take the chance with your GPA (as a transfer student), it’s better to be more caution your first semester.

A lot of Engineering departments (especially at public universities) have a policy against double majoring with Engineering. They want you to graduate and move on, freeing up another spot in the college for the next engineering student. They see little to no value in the 2nd (bachelor’s) degree. Finally, at public schools, your education is being subsidized by the state; they don’t want you to continue to pull resources/funding, if it doesn’t have some sort of payoff.

Instead look into taking a minor, if you’re really interested in physics.

Purdue also offers “Concentrations”. Another option to look into, once you have a better feel for Chem Engineering.

Once at Purdue, you’ll also find several other options you can spend your time on, including undergraduate research, study abroad, joining a design time, other clubs, etc. It’s not all about taking classes, Purdue can offer so much more…

Good Luck!