How Many Credits Are Required for Full-Time Enrollment?

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By Mark Kantrowitz

September 23, 2020

A college student is considered to be enrolled on a full-time basis for student financial aid purposes if they are enrolled for at least 12 credits a semester. 

Since a class typically requires at least three credits, 12 credits will require four classes per semester.

Half-time enrollment requires at least six credits. 

Impact of Enrollment Status on Financial Aid

Some forms of financial aid are based on the student’s enrollment status. 

  • A student must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for federal student loans. 
  • If a student received a Federal Pell Grant, the grant amount will be prorated based on enrollment status, yielding award amounts that are 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of the student’s eligibility. 
  • Some state financial aid programs, such as free tuition programs, require students to be enrolled on a full-time basis.

Can You Graduate On-Time on 12 Credits a Semester?

Even though 12 credits a semester is considered to be full-time for financial aid purposes, a student cannot graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in four years on just 12 credits a semester, even if they pass every class and never change majors. 

Taking and passing only 12 credits a semester, without any academic credit from previous enrollment, AP or IB tests or dual enrollment programs, will require at least five years to satisfy graduation requirements. 

College students must take 15 credits a semester if they want to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in four years or an Associate’s degree in two years.

Students who take 12 credits a semester not only will require an additional year to graduate, but are also less likely to graduate as compared with students who take 15 credits a semester. Students who take 15 credits a semester are about a third more likely to graduate within six years. 

Only about half of full-time students are taking 15 or more credits a semester. 

A good place to start:

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