How Many Credits Are Required for Full-Time Enrollment?

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By Mark Kantrowitz

August 2, 2021

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 credit hours per semester. So, how many classes is full-time? Since a class typically requires at least three credits, for most students four classes per semester is what is considered a full-time student.

Enrollment requirements to be considered a half-time student are typically at least six credits a semester.

Impact of Enrollment Status on Financial Aid

In some cases, a student must be considered a full-time student to be eligible for federal financial aid.

  • A student must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for federal student loans and other student aid and financial assistance.
  • 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.
  • Similar to federal student aid, some state financial aid programs, such as free tuition programs, require students to be enrolled on a full-time basis.

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. 

Can You Graduate On-Time if You’re Not Considered a Full-Time Student?

Even though 12 credits a semester is considered to be full-time for financial aid purposes, an undergraduate 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 meet degree requirements, 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 students who are considered full-time have a course load of 15 or more credits a semester.

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