Course loads: how students take advantage of time on Hill
At most NESCAC schools, the average student takes four classes each semester, totaling about 16 credit hours. But here on the Hill, some strive to take advantage of their time in college by taking additional classes, independent studies and music lessons.
"I'm taking three classes that count toward my English major and an Italian class that counts toward my minor. But then I'm also taking an Italian conversation class so I can improve my speaking skills before going abroad to Italy next spring, and I'm taking the English tutor writing class as well," Courtney Yeager '12 says.
While 19 credit hours may seem like a handful, "everyone at Colby seems to be an overachiever, and I feel pressured to measure up," Yeager says. "I'm not trying to graduate early, but it would be nice to only have to take three classes during the spring of my senior year," she admits.
The Registrar's Office notes that special permission is needed for more than 20 credits. Lauren McCrary '12 is currently taking 21 credits. "Since I have a pretty solid picture of what I want to do with my life, I know what majors and classes I need to take to get there," she says. "While I often feel very stressed, I am here for my education first, and I like having a full schedule. But would I recommend taking over 20 [credit hours] to the average student? No."
At the College, students want to help each other succeed rather than compete with each other. Professors are always more than happy to work with students one-on-one, and the atmosphere is one of positive encouragement.
Yet some seniors are finding that they need to take additional classes during their last semester in order to have enough credits to graduate. Danielle Carlson '10 says, "Because of swimming, I have always been here over JanPlan, which has helped me earn more than enough credits to graduate. But I know a couple of seniors who were one or two credits short of graduating, because they would go home or do internships for JanPlan and now have to take a fourth class in the spring."
It is also natural for students, especially those in their first year at the College, to drop a course during the semester, which leaves them with only 12 credit hours.
Nick Zeller '13 says, "I was taking my second semester of Russian and [it began to] take away from my other classes that I really wanted to do well in and demanded a lot of my time. I decided it was wiser to drop a class so that my work in other classes wouldn't suffer."
Zeller does note, however, "I am worried about what it's going to do to my schedule down the road. I don't think I'll ever have to take five classes a semester, but I don't think I can ever take a JanPlan off."
According to the Registrar, for the last 10 years, students have averaged 15.3 credit hours per semester and as a trend, seniors tend to take fewer classes, whereas sophomores tend to have a heavier course load. About 95 percent of students at the College graduate on time, and the Registrar does a meticulous job of keeping students on track and letting them know when they are behind in accumulating credits.
This year, the College has changed their Advanced Placement (AP) policy, no longer allowing students to use their high school scores to count as credit hours needed for graduation. Beth Schiller, Registrar, says, "The faculty felt that it was not consistent to give college credit for a high school level class." In the past, about 60 percent of students have come in with some AP credits, which now can only place them out of intro-level classes. This change could influence course loads for incoming students, according to Schiller.