6 Classes in One Semester: Too Much?

Here’s everything about 6 classes in one semester being too much:

If all of the classes are an average of 3 credit hours each, 6 classes is an 18-hour semester.

That is considered a heavy school load and is too much for some people.

In most cases, taking seven classes is not allowed without a waiver or unless the classes are less intensive.

Taking five classes is more manageable for most.

So if you want to learn all about taking 6 classes in one semester, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

6 Classes in One Semester: Too Much? (Everything to Know)

What Constitutes Too Many Classes in One Semester?

Beautiful girl paying attention to lecture in class

If we’re going to talk about how many credit hours you can reasonably take in a semester, then we have to talk about the obvious.

Everyone is different.

Some people are at their best when their whole day is scheduled and they don’t have much downtime.

Other people really struggle when there are too many demands on them at once.

Even aside from that, the courses you take, what you’re studying, how well you do with different topics, and even who is teaching each class can impact how much coursework constitutes too much for you.

There’s a lot to consider, and I’m going to try to be thorough here.

If you’re looking for a short answer, I would say that more than five courses in one semester is too much for most people.

That’s because the average class is three credit hours, but when you take that many classes, there’s a good chance that one or two of them will be more than three credit hours.

That means you’ll be taking more than 18 credit hours, and for the average person, it really is too much.

You might be an exception, but unless you have very good reasons to think that you are, I would recommend sticking with five or fewer classes in a semester.

What Is a Credit Hour in Classes?

Smiling african teen girl college student study holding notebook making notes.

Then again, if you’re not familiar with scheduling college classes, the explanation above might seem a bit Greek.

So, let’s take a step back and talk about credit hours.

In most accredited college programs, classes are measured in course hours.

Typically, this is based on how many hours each week are literally spent in class.

So, if you have a three-credit-hour class, then you expect to spend three hours a week in lectures, labs, or other instructional settings each week.

I mentioned earlier that three-credit classes are average.

At most schools, you will have classes where you meet for one hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Or, you will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and a half each day.

These are common breakdowns, but you’ll find tons of exceptions along the way.

For instance, one of my schools actually credited 50 minutes of lecture time as an hour.

There was a lot of rounding involved.

There’s also a common exception known as a lab.

The vast majority of degrees require you to take at least one lab science.

Chemistry is probably the very most common.

Again, each school has its own take on this, but here’s how it typically works.

For your chemistry class, you will have three hours of lecture each week.

That makes it a three-credit class.

You will also have a lab each week.

That lab counts as another credit hour (even though it typically takes longer than an hour each week).

Other classes might include remedial lectures or other additional time that makes them four (or even five) credit-hour classes.

All of this is to say that there’s a lot of variation, and the number of classes usually matters less than the number of credit hours.

Taking six two-credit classes is way easier than taking six three-credit classes.

How Much Time Does a Class Take?

University Library: Gifted Beautiful Caucasian Girl Sitting On F

The thing is, even talking about credit hours doesn’t really paint a picture for the uninitiated.

Each class is different.

Each student is different.

You might find that quantum mechanics is really easy, and you can do it in the midst of a really busy schedule.

Meanwhile, you might struggle with Econ 101, a class that is traditionally on the easier side of things at a lot of schools.

It all varies.

But, there is a rule of thumb that can help you gauge a course load, and I’m going to refer to it as the rule of three.

It goes like this.

For every hour you spend in a lecture in a week, you will need to spend three hours studying and/or doing homework in order to pass the class (especially if you’re shooting for high grades).

This number does include the time spent at the lectures.

This rule is not universal.

You will barely spend any time at all on some classes, and you might study 20 hours a week for your hardest classes.

The point is that it averages out this way, and when we compare a college schedule to a work schedule, this all starts to make more sense

Let’s say that you take four classes, each for three credit hours.

That’s 12 hours in total.

Using the rule of 3, you’re going to expect to spend 36 hours a week on school.

If we remember that 40 hours a week is typically considered full-time at a job, you can see why most colleges call their students full-time when they take 12 or more credits in a semester.

Let’s look at the original question.

If you’re taking 18 credits in a semester, then you’re expecting to spend 54 hours a week on school.

That’s a lot of overtime.

Some people are fine with it.

Many (like me) burn out at such a rate.

Other Factors That Impact Courses or Classes

I glossed over this earlier, but there are things to consider in addition to how many credit hours you’re planning to take in a semester.

Specifically, which courses are you trying to take, and who is teaching them?

As you can guess, some classes are easier, and some are harder.

You can gauge this a little bit by looking at course reviews and student feedback.

You can talk to students who have already taken the classes you are considering.

All of that can help.

You might end up being an outlier and having an easy time in a hard class or a hard time in an easy class, but a little bit of research at least helps with your decision-making.

As for professors, that’s what course reviews are for.

If you see a professor with great reviews and people saying how approachable the class is, it will probably consume less time than average.

If there are a lot of complaints, expect extra homework and studying.

There are other things to consider too, but we’re going to hit on those in additional sections.

How Many Classes or Credit Hours Should You Take? (4 Things)

Beautiful girl in a library

We’ve covered the basics, so how many credit hours should you take in a semester?

You might already have some idea as to what kind of a student you are and what your expectations might be.

That’s great, but there are a few more things to really consider carefully before you jump into six or more classes in a semester.

#1 Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Young latin math school teacher wearing glasses writing on whiteboard

There are two ways to look at this.

First, you need to know your general strengths and weaknesses in terms of organization, study habits, and scholastic ability.

Generally speaking, heavy course loads are going to get a lot harder if you have poor organizational skills and inconsistent study habits.

You’re looking at being a full-time student, so you want to think of it as a full-time job.

If you’re clocking in regularly, you’ll do better.

The other thing to consider is your set of strengths and weaknesses in terms of school subjects.

Are you good or bad at math?

Are you taking math classes this semester?

What about English, sciences, or public speaking?

In the course of a degree program, you’ll take a lot of different classes.

You can pack more classes into a semester when you play to your strengths.

When you have to take classes that will be harder for you, lighten the load.

Not every semester needs to be the same.

You can apply a little strategy.

#2 Consider the Schedule

Student couple going to class, checking lessons schedule outdoors and laughing

This is so easy to overlook, but it’s of paramount importance.

When are the classes?

As in, when do you need to physically be in class?

The obvious point here is that you don’t want to overbook yourself.

If you have to get all the way across campus in five minutes, you’re going to be miserable, and you’ll probably be late a lot.

On the other hand, if your day starts at 6 a.m. and your last lab gets out at 9 p.m., you’re really stretching your day.

When you’re thinking about how many classes to take and which ones to fit into the coming semester, look carefully at the schedule.

Try to schedule classes in a way that is conducive to your nature.

If you’re a morning person, take the hard classes in the morning.

If you have trouble switching gears, try to put an hour break in between each lecture.

You have some freedom here, so use it to your own advantage.

#3 Think About What Else Eats Up Your Time

Concentrated student using laptop at home in the night

There’s something else entirely that you need to consider.

What obligations do you have outside of class?

Are you a student-athlete?

If so, your athletic commitments are going to make it tough to get through six classes in a semester.

Do you need to work full-time while you’re at school?

Just part-time?

Do you volunteer, have major family commitments, or care for a bunch of pets?

There are too many possibilities for me to list them all, but when you’re crafting a college schedule, your time commitments matter.

Write down all of your non-negotiable commitments and how much time they take up (also what time slots they require).

Thinking about 40-hour work weeks, consider your school schedule after that.

It might help.

#4 Learn How Hard the Classes Are


I saved this for last because it really does matter the most.

How hard are the classes?

This can be difficult to answer, especially since you haven’t taken any of the classes yet.

I mentioned course reviews and the general sentiment on the campus.

Those are worth a lot.

Let me give you a hint.

The vast majority of people are going to tell you that organic chemistry is hard because—wait for it—organic chemistry is hard for most people.

You can put some stock in that.

Similarly, you’re going to have at least a hunch in terms of which topics are hardest for you.

People tend to know whether or not they have an affinity for math by the time they get to college.

As you progress in your degree, you’ll gain a lot of experience, and you’ll have an even better time discerning which classes will be hardest for you.

As I already stated, the general strategy is to take a lighter semester when you have to get through your toughest classes.

It gives you more time to focus on the hard stuff.

There’s another general rule that’s worth remembering. 

Courses are numbered, and the first digit in the number (at most colleges) tells you what “grade” the class is for.

A 101 class is an introductory class for incoming freshmen.

A 455 class is an advanced class for a specific major, intended for people in their last year of the degree.

Note: some colleges use longer number systems, but the course numbers still usually start with 1-6, with 5 and 6 denoting graduate-level classes.

Why does this matter?

Higher-numbered classes are usually more challenging and more time-consuming.

It’s not an absolute rule, but on average, it works out this way.

This means that you can usually get away with taking more classes during your first two years in a degree program.

As you progress, the classes get harder, and you’ll want to reduce the credit hours per semester.