What are College Credit Hours?

Students are given college credit hours for completing activities, classes, or special tests that are not part of the regular curriculum. These hours can be used to meet course completion requirements, allowing a student to move closer to graduation. Honors classes or life or work experience that is equivalent to course training are frequently awarded college credit hours.

If a typical semester of school lasts 16 weeks and a student takes a two-hour class each week, he or she will need 32 college credit hours in the same subject to fulfill the requirement for that class. The amount of college credit awarded is entirely dependent on the school, so prospective students should thoroughly review the school’s policy before applying. It’s also a good idea to meet with an admissions counselor to figure out exactly how much credit you’ll get.

Obtaining college credit hours can be accomplished in a number of ways, but one of the most common is enrolling in academically advanced courses. These classes, which are commonly referred to as “honors” classes, may satisfy the requirements of general education classes taken during the first two years of college. A global program known as the International Baccalaureate, or IB, allows students in many countries to take extra classes or complete additional projects and tests in order to earn college credit. If a freshman-level student has successfully completed enough qualifying courses as a high school student, they may be able to enter as a sophomore or junior at certain universities.

Work experience may also qualify you for college credit at some colleges. While the student may not receive credit hours, they may be allowed to skip pre-requisite courses and enroll in advanced classes if they demonstrate mastery of the subject’s fundamentals. Some schools also allow students to “test out” of a prerequisite or entry-level course, allowing them to finish their work faster and move on to advanced classes.

College credit hours can not only shorten the time between admission and graduation, but they can also significantly reduce a student’s financial burden. A high school student can save two years of tuition, housing, and expenses completing a university program in two years rather than four. This allows students to enter post-college life at a younger age and with half the debt of a typical four-year education for students who rely heavily on student loan programs.

However, parents and students should avoid overloading a student with college credit classes. These classes are usually taught at a college level of difficulty, with challenging projects, essays, and tests. Some students may struggle with the challenging coursework or fail to pass the tests given at the end of the course. Failure to pass tests frequently results in no credit, regardless of how hard a student has worked all year to do well. Before taking on more classes, students may want to start with one or two to ensure that they can keep up with the workload.

Before enrolling in a slew of IB or honors classes, a student should carefully consider the colleges to which they wish to apply and check their policies on accepting course credit hours. Also keep in mind that some schools’ policies may change while a student is still in high school, rendering some of his hard work ineffective. Contact colleges early to inquire about the program’s stability and admissions counselors’ recommendations for a course of study.