The major reasons are to increase the chances you’ll graduate and to save money – sometimes lots of money!
Most degree programs are designed to be completed in four years. By earning 15-17 hours per semester, you can graduate in four years, prepared to tackle what’s next, whether that’s a career or further schooling. It just takes planning.
Does 15-17 hours per semester seem like too much to handle? Worried about your GPA if you “overload” on courses? Explore the relationship between GPA and hours below. You might be surprised!
Also, check out the important role summer can play, and why it sometimes makes sense to take more than four years to earn your degree. Be sure to talk to your advisor who can help you plan.
Research shows that students who take a full 15-17 hours are just more likely to graduate – not just in four years – but at all.
Over 30 million Americans over the age of 25 have taken some college coursework but haven’t earned a degree. Sometimes the issue is cost. Losing a grant or scholarship can make completing a degree difficult. Sometimes students just run out of funds and they cannot continue.
But in other cases, life just gets in the way. For instance, a family member might become ill, requiring a student to take time away from school to provide care. The longer a student takes to graduate, the greater the chance that a life event prevents a student from continuing. If something of this nature does happen to you, remember that there are resources on campus that may be able to help, including your academic advisor and the Counseling Center.
Think you protect your GPA by taking fewer hours? You’re not alone. Many students think if they take fewer hours, they’ll be able to focus on those hours and do better.
But the fact is that students who take 15+ hours do considerably better than those who take fewer hours. It’s not possible to prove that taking more hours directly influences grades, as there could be other factors at work. But the theory is this: when you are busier (to a point), you are often more focused and productive and manage your time more effectively. Check out this graph of average GPAs >
Plan & Get Advised
Sometimes it makes sense to take more than four years to graduate. Family and full-time work obligations are the most common reasons for this. But another big reason may be to take advantage of an internship, a co-op, or another experiential learning opportunity. In some fields, such as engineering, this is almost expected.
Talk with your academic advisor, faculty mentors and Career Services about what makes sense for you to ensure that you make timely progress toward your degree and goals. Specifically, Career Services offers two resources that may be of particular help in this regard:
Eagle Career Net is a great starting point in finding internships and co-ops. It features hundreds of opportunities at any moment from employers who want to consider Georgia Southern University students.
Career Services also offers Co-Op hours for students who want their internship, co-op, or practicum experiences reflected on their transcript. This is completely free (no tuition, fees, etc.) but allows students to maintain their full-time student status. Contact Career Services with questions.
You can save big bucks by taking 15-17 hours per semester.
How much? By one measure, nearly $10,000.
Taking only 12 hours per semester means you will need two additional semesters plus a short summer term to graduate. Based on 2015-16 tuition and fees and estimates for housing, meals, and books, that comes to $9,411 more than if you took 15-17 hours per semester. This figure doesn’t include other fees such as transportation or other living expenses.
Do you know about free credit hours?
Georgia Southern’s maximum tuition is based on 15 hours. There is no charge for the 16th, 17th or 18th credit hour a student takes. Students who only take 12 hours per semester never take advantage of these free hours.
Fees, housing, meals and more
The biggest additional expense comes from paying fees, housing, meals, not to mention other costs of living. Some of those are expenses you would pay if you weren’t in school, but it’s also the case that as a college graduate, you’d be able to work more in a job that pays more.
Summer is another way to stay on track to graduate on time and save money. This is particularly important if you withdraw from or fail a class. Summer can help you catch up. Or, if you’re someone who really needs to take fewer than 15 hours per semester because of work or family obligations, summer can be a way to still graduate in four years.
Summer can also be a way to pursue majors that require more hours. While most degree programs are 126 hours, some, including engineering and most education degrees, require as many as 135 credit hours. To graduate in four years in these fields takes planning and a willingness to take as many as 18 hours some semesters. Or, take advantage of summer courses and the opportunity to reduce your fall/spring course load to 15 hours.
If you plan to earn a dual degree, you’ll need a minimum of 156 hours. Taking six to nine hours each summer can keep you on track to graduate in four years.
If you take summer classes, you won’t be alone. Over 10,000 students take classes each summer. Many are in face-to-face classes, but an increasing number take online courses. Often, this is a better option than taking a course at an institution close to your permanent home, as the courses are taught by Georgia Southern faculty and the grades themselves count towards your institutional GPA.