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 are what is considered a full-time student.
If you’re able to pay for your own college then how many credits you take per semester really only matters to determine your graduation date. You can save money in a 529 plan and your child will be able to take college at their own pace. Find out the best 529 plans for your state.
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. Here are some of the facts that you’ll need to be aware of if you’re thinking about taking less than 12 hours, even for only a single semester:
- Student Loans: A student must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for federal student loans and other student aid and financial assistance.
- Pell Grants: 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.
- Other Financial Aid: 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 and if you fall below that amount then you may enter the repayment period on any student loans you’ve taken to that point.
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.
The Bottom Line
A student is considered to be full-time for financial aid, scholarships, and for administrative housekeeping if they complete 12 hours per semester. However, in order to graduate in four years a student needs to take more hours than that, typically 15 or more, to be full-time. Falling below full-time will likely impact your financial aid.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is considered a full-time student for FAFSA?
A full-time student for FAFSA is someone who is taking 12 more credit hours per semester. You must take at least 6 hours per semester to qualify for federal financial aid.
What does the IRS consider to be a half-time student?
A half-time student is someone who is taking 6-8 hours per semester, which is the lowest possible course load in order to qualify for federal financial aid.
Do full-time students get a tax break?
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) provides up to $2,500 of credit for college expenses during the first four years of college. To get the maximum amount, you may need to be attending college full-time.