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18 Credits a semester, or 1 more year+grad school courses

  1. Jul 15, 2015 #1
    A question I've had and never gotten answered recently is what looks better on a transcript: 18-20 credits in one semester and quickly finish my undergrad, or take a lengthy stay at around 12-14 credits per semester with the extra year being used for grad school courses? If I take the extra year, it would be 5 years as an undergrad due to having to transfer from a 2 year school and not having many courses relevant to my major here. 3.5 of those years will be at the 4-year institution.

    I need at least 2.5 years to finish my major, 3.5 gives me a chance to take some grad school courses and do more research, and it would be less stressful for me. But I'm worried if I take too long in undergrad it won't look good on a transcript (there's money too but I don't have to pay for school myself). I also don't mind waiting another year for a degree.

    If I reduce it to 3 years or 2.5, I'll have to take 18 credits a semester, at least 9 of which would be upper division work in Physics and Computer Science. I'd have to start taking on that kind of workload now, so that's why I'm asking so early.

    So what would you do in my situation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2015 #2
    would you be able to master the material with 18 units? Ie. you understand the whys and hows? If you are going to take 18 units but not understand the material correctly or superficial understanding, then i would say no. take 14.
  4. Jul 15, 2015 #3
    I also had this issue. I could have graduated in 2.5-3 years taking 18 credit hours, but instead I chose to do 4 years taking 12 hours. That way, I was able to do more research, study harder, and be a teaching assistant.

    I strongly recommend taking fewer credit hours and taking an extra year or so. That way you can take time to do research (which I strongly, STRONGLY recommend) and learn things more in depth. I also firmly stand behind my belief that getting enough sleep is crucial to academic performance, so this will help as well.
  5. Jul 15, 2015 #4
    The important thing is to learn the material - not to graduate "on-time." Once you get into your first job, no one is going to care how long you took to graduate college. And when you interview for your first job out of school, your potential employer is going to care more about what you know and what you are able to do than in how long you took to get through school.

    On the other hand, many (if not most) employers want people who can take on a large volume of work and do well with it. All other things being equal, a person who takes 18 credits per semester and gets straight A's would be in higher demand than a person who took 12 credits per semester. But it is more important that you learn the material of each course - and also maintain your sanity, get exercise, have time for a social life, etc. If you are taking math, physics, and/or engineering courses, I advise taking no more than 12-15 credits per semester. Personally, that was all I was able to handle. But I also have very limited natural ability. I just learn slower than gifted people.
  6. Jul 15, 2015 #5
    I'm confident I could. I'm taking 14 credits now and get A's consistently without stressing. I think an additional class would be manageable. But throw in research and a job and you're probably right. So good points.

    My philosophy has been, from the beginning, to do research, and this post has been how I typically view things. My only concern is that grad schools would look down on taking only 12 credits a semester.
  7. Jul 15, 2015 #6
    We aren't worried about you getting A's, you are clearly an exceptional student. But getting an A is not the same as really grasping the material.

    Also... can someone else confirm that? If that's the case, I'm toast, I've only taken 12 hours all through my undergrad :frown:
  8. Jul 15, 2015 #7
    you can get an A, however, that A would be considered a C with a different professor or even a different institution for that matter.
  9. Jul 17, 2015 #8
    I've been doing both - 17 credit hours a semester, part time job, part time research, and still trying to have a social life, as well as being SPS President at my school. It's really hard, and I regret not having more time to do research in particular. But I'm trying to get this all done and done well because money is a concern (I support myself) and would love to get a particular fellowship for grad school. If you have the choice to stay longer, take grad courses, and do more research, I definitely recommend it. Research has been the pivotal thing in my academic career so far, it's made me love physics much more than anything else. Having more research experience and better letters of rec would also contribute to being more likely to getting into preferred grad schools or a first job.

    The only problem I could see is the transition to grad school; when you're doing classes + research full time, it may be a hard transition. Find a way to stay busy and productive, it just doesn't need to be classes necessarily and lower your GPA.
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