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What Are Credits?

What Are Credits?

If you plan to attend an American college or university, you probably have heard the term “credits” (also called “credit hours”) to describe college courses. Essentially, a credit is a unit that measures the value or time requirement of a college course. The credit system is important to understand, because every student is required to take a certain number of credits in order to graduate with a degree. To graduate, typically colleges require 120 credit hours in a student’s major of study. 120 hours divided by four years, with two semesters per year, means students should take an average of 15 credit hours every semester to graduate within four years.

What does it mean to take an average of 15 credits every semester? The number of credit hours a class is worth depends on the number of hours of classroom instruction per week. Usually, one credit hour means one hour of class time instruction, and at least two hours of outside of class time used for studying and homework every week. Therefore, 15 credit hours means about 15 hours of class time and 30 hours of studying, which amounts to roughly 45 hours dedicated to your academics per week. The credit system breaks down the time expectations for each course while keeping up with the overall requirements to graduate college.

Credits are also an important concept for when you want to transfer to a different American college or university. Depending on the school, some or all of your completed credits will count towards receiving a degree and graduating from the school you transfer to. Because the process of transferring credits is different for each school, it is important to check with the school to see which credits transfer and which credits do not. To see if credits transfer easily or not, look at the percentage of transfer students at the schools you are considering. If a school has a high percentage of transfer students, then it is a very good possibility that school is flexible with accepting credit transfers from other schools.

Credits are also essential in determining your grade point average, or GPA. For example, let’s say you wanted to calculate your GPA for a given semester. Every letter grade you earn in a class is worth a value from 0 to 4 (an “A” grade is a 4.0, “B” grade is a 3.0, etc.). To calculate the grade points for each class you took in the semester, multiply the number of credits of the class by the value of the grade you earned (if you took a 3 credit hour Biology course and got an A [4.0], your grade points for that class would be 12). For our example, do this for each class you took that semester, then add all those grade point values together and divide by the total number of credits you took. That final value is your grade point average on a 4.0 scale. In other words, take the average of all of the grade point values of your classes in the semester.

It’s important to understand the credit hour system if you plan to attend an American college or university. From structuring your class schedule to calculating your grade point average, and even determining your eligibility to transfer from one university to another, the credit system is a key consideration. For more information, check out the credit systems at our BridgePathways partner schools: Philadelphia University, Husson College, Western New England University and Manhattanville College!


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