Max Credits Per Term

I’m starting college this fall. My goal is lo double major in Italian & Spanish and to get my masters in Education the 5th year so that I can become a foreign language teacher. Okay

I took 4 yrs of Italian in HS but never took Spanish. Right now I have 6 classes in my schedule for Sept. My advisor is telling me to stick to 5 classes max and to start Spanish the spring semester. If I do this I won’t be able to start classes for my Spanish major until fall of junior

Is 18 credits (6 classes) for a college freshman really too much? I’d be taking elementary Spanish, intermediate Italian, honors humanities (possibly 8 essays), honors social sciences, and a freshman cluster with 2 more classes.

Normal full time schedule is 15-16 credits at colleges using a credit hour system. It does look like each course is 3 credits, so they are nominally “smaller” than at some other colleges where each course is usually 4 credits or equivalent. Nominal workload is 3 hours per week per credit (including both in-class and out-of-class time), so 15-16 credits is nominally 45-48 hours of work per week, and 18 credits is nominally 54 hours of work per week. However, surveys suggest that college students’ actual workload tends to be less than that. But with an overload schedule, you need to be disciplined with time management and self-motivation to stay on track with your course work.

Spanish and Italian are closely related, so learning one with knowledge of the other may be less difficult. It may be faster if your college offers “Spanish for Italian speakers” and your skill in Italian is high enough for that course.

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I would not overload your schedule first semester freshman year. Give youself a chance to get used to the level and pace of college work, to acclimate socially, to find ECs you enjoy, to get used to campus life etc.


I agree you should stick with 5 classes for your first semester. I would ask your advisor if it was possible to drop a different class off of your schedule so that you can still start Spanish. Is there another class you can take in spring instead? There may be a reason why this suggestion does not work–your advisor will know, either way. You should definitely sit down with your advisor in your first semester and map out what a double major will look like and what sequencing you need to keep in mind as you schedule courses.

18 is very high, especially for a Freshman. My older daughter’s engineering program recommended 14-15 as a Freshman and she wasn’t allowed to take 19 when she wanted to as a Junior - the limit was 18. (She had an above average but not elite GPA - it may have been approved for some).

A brand new environment is probably not an smart time to be pushing the limits, IMO.

Stick with 5 courses.

Were you able to test into higher levels of Italian?

I think it depends on what your courses are. My kid went to a school on quarters and took between 18-21 credits every term…BUT THREE of them were orchestra and music lessons. But she was an engineering and biology double major and needed to do this to get it all done.

It wasn’t easy.

The OP mentions signing up for intermediate Italian, which is typically third semester, although it looks like their college’s language courses are only 3 credits each, so third semester would be the 7th-9th credits (i.e. probably less advanced than at schools where the language courses are 4 or 5 credits each, where the third semester would be the 9th-12th credits or 11th-15th credits). The OP does not mention how the placement was determined.

The other question is, are the four other courses required to be taken in first semester? It seems like starting the Spanish sequence is more important than some of the other courses, so if the OP backs down to five courses, keeping Spanish and dropping something else may be better than dropping Spanish.


When I was in college I trsted into 3rd semester foreign language and 11 credits for taking 1 course.

I would also suggest putting off Spanish until second semester.

That doesn’t mean you’ll have to stay on that same track. If you find Spanish easy, you may be able to take the second course the following summer, or even skip a level at some point. You may be able to do a semester abroad and fit in a couple of courses, or even make it a minor and not a major and then not have to put off taking the advanced classes until jr year (and there is nothing wrong with waiting until jr year).

I am ancient, and used to get so excited when the course catalog was released. I wanted to take ALL the courses, right then. Really, take your time. Enjoy the courses you are in and know there is plenty of time to get to the others.

If you can handle the workload, do it. You can always drop a class if it becomes too much. My DD dropped a school that was high on her list after they insisted they would not support her taking more than 14-15 credits first semester when she needed 18-19 to achieve her goals of a double bachelors and minor. She ended up at a school that supported her ambitions. She successfully managed an average of 20 credits per team with a full slate of ECs, graduating with a near perfect GPA, two bachelors, a minor, and a masters degree in 4 years.

So it all comes down to what you believe you can handle. Absolute rules make no sense on an individual level.

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This is assuming the college even allows. Mine limited to 16 credits your first term - no exceptions.

Students, especially the high performing ones that frequent this site, look at a college catalog like a kid in a candy shop. They think they can handle the work because they took 7-8 classes in HS and self studied 3 AP’s on top of it. College is not HS. Take the first semester to adapt, and then overload the second semester if desired.

Without knowing the college’s graduation requirements, I would suggest moving one of the other courses to second semester to fit in Spanish.


There are those who can’t and those who can, which is my point. Everyone is assuming the OP cannot without any basis. Only they know, and I would not discourage a high performing student from trying based on generalities. That was the difference between the uni my DD attended and the one she turned down. The one my DD attended has had far more successful students in their scholars programs than the former because they do not try to institute broad rules like don’t overload first semester.

Moreover, the overload course load the OP is contemplating doesn’t seem difficult.

My engineering son has taken 17 credits (6-7) classes each of his semesters so far his first two years. It’s probably doable for you, only you would know your true abilities.

As said above, you could always put off taking one of the other courses and start Spanish in the fall (this might make the most sense). You could also drop a course if you started with 6 and it was too much.