The freedom and independence of college life might be enticing enough to pursue a college degree, but it’s the degree that opens the door to greater career opportunities, higher pay, and increased job satisfaction. The classes required to earn a degree are much different than high school classes in many ways, including the demand for self-discipline, motivation, and perseverance. Here are the basics to prepare you for first semester college classes.

Class Size

At a larger university, lecture classes can accommodate over 100 students and an assigned graduate assistant is often responsible for grading assignments and answering student questions. With so many students in the class, your professor may never learn your name. This is a very different experience from a high school class of 25 students, where your teacher and all of your classmates know who you are. Smaller colleges can cap class sizes at 25-35 students, and this might be more appealing if you enjoy conversing with your teacher and classmates during class or need more accountability to attend class.


One of the biggest differences between high school and college is your class schedule. Instead of sitting in a classroom between the hours of 8:30 am and 3:30 pm Monday through Friday, you can choose which days and times you want to learn in a structured class setting. When scheduling classes, take advantage of when you learn best. If you’re not a morning person, schedule classes after noon. If you concentrate better at night, try an evening class that starts at 7 pm. The length of a class varies depending on how often the class meets- three day a week classes last 50 minutes each, two day a week classes last an hour and 15 minutes each, and one day a week classes last just under three hours.


An academic year in college is divided into three semesters- fall (August to December), spring (January to May), and summer (May to August). Fall and spring semesters are typically 15 weeks long and summer semester is about 10 weeks. Most fall and spring classes span the entire 15 weeks, although some are 12, 8 or even 6 weeks long. These shorter classes cover the same material as a 15-week class, but at a faster pace. During the summer semester, classes can be as short as five weeks. Traditional full-time students often enroll in classes during the fall and spring semesters then break for the summer. Part-time students take fewer classes during the fall and spring semesters and might continue through the summer semester.


You are awarded a specified number of credits, usually three, after successfully completing a class. A credit indicates how many hours of lecture and lab are required to earn that credit. One credit equates to about 50 minutes a week of lecture or a total of 15-16 hours per semester. A college degree requires the completion of at least 120 credits.

To be considered a full-time student, you must enroll in at least 12 credits a semester, or four classes. However, advisors typically recommend a full-time course load of five classes, or 15 credits. As a rule of thumb, you can determine the number of hours needed to study outside of the classroom by doubling the number of class credits. For instance, if you take a three-credit course you should study an extra six hours a week outside of class.


Unlike high school classes, college classes cost money- and a lot of it. The cost of college classes, referred to as tuition, is calculated by credit hour. If one credit costs $300 and you register for a three-credit class, that one class costs a total of $900. Tuition rates vary by college. Public, two-year colleges are most affordable whereas private and out-of-state universities are more expensive. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid can assist with the cost of tuition.


In college, grades are documented on an academic transcript. A transcript includes the name of each class you are enrolled in and have completed, the number of credits per class, final grades (if applicable), and GPA. Your transcript is constantly updated throughout your four (or more) years of college.

Your assigned college advisor will help you schedule your first semester of classes. If you start feeling overwhelmed as the semester progresses and could benefit from online tutoring, give us a call. We can connect you to your favorite Tri-Ed tutor and provide the resources and support you need to succeed.