Extra credit: the challenges of taking five classes
The Colby student handbook requires that students take a minimum of twelve credit hours per semester, which is equivalent to three four-credit classes. If for any reason a student is taking less than twelve credit hours in one semester, that student will be put on academic probation, regardless of his or her grades.
The average Colby student takes four classes per semester, which averages to about sixteen credit hours. By taking four classes- each worth four credits- for eight semesters, students will successfully meet the 128-credit requirement for graduation.
Although the “sixteen credits per semester” track allows students to meet their credit requirements as they near the end of their time on the Hill, many students opt to take more than the average 16 credits during one or more semester. Conversely, there are many students who choose to take less than 16 credits per semester.
If a student consistently chooses to take five classes throughout his or her time at Colby, he or she has the option to graduate early from the College. Students who choose to graduate after their fall semester instead of at the end of the spring semester do so for a variety of reasons: some students accept jobs that start before the summer; others choose to graduate early to save money. Peter Thompson ’11 regularly took five classes while he was enrolled at Colby. Thompson graduated in January of this year instead of in May as he had originally planned. “I chose to graduate early because I had enough credits, I had a job and I was interested in saving a semester’s worth of tuition.”
A student doesn’t necessarily graduate early upon reaching the required credit total. In fact, many students surpass the 128-credit requirement far before graduation and stay on the Hill for a full eight semesters. According to Professor of Government Calvin Mackenzie, “Every student who takes five classes has his or her own reasons for doing so, but I have found that it is often attributed to an inability to choose just four classes.” According to Tara Chizinsky ’14, “There were so many classes that I was interested in taking [when I chose spring classes].This interest, combined with my plan to major in both geology and math, influenced my decision to take five classes.”
Lindsay Peterson ’13 is a history and government double major and an education minor, meaning that she has 32 required classes to complete before graduation. If Peterson opted to only take major-related classes for eight semesters, she could finish her college career on time. However, the liberal arts approach encourages students to dabble in a wide array of subject areas during their time on the Hill. “It has worked out that there are a ton of classes that have seemed interesting to me, and I couldn't make the decisions of which to drop. I also feel like I want to take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as I can. I think I will continue to take five classes a semester and there are still classes I am going to wish I had been able to take,” Peterson said.
Some students who opt to take a fifth class do so to avoid falling behind in earning credits. Alex Ojerholm ’14 took on an ambitious courseload her first semester on the hill and ended up having to drop organic chemistry, leaving her with three classes her first semester. “In the long run, I am glad I dropped organic chemistry. It gave me the opportunity to really invest myself in my other classes. I got really into economics and I now plan to major in it,” Ojerholm said. Due to her decision to drop a class during her first semester, Ojerholm has decided to take on five classes during her spring semester. “It has certainly been a balancing act with time, but I find that the workload is manageable. In many ways, the structure is conducive to better time management.”
“Although I initially made the decision to take five classes because I was behind [on credits], I have found that I can push myself to do more than I thought. I play rugby, do CCAK and find plenty of time to do work,” said Ojerholm. “It feels really good to know that I am capable of more than I thought.”
Peterson also finds that the five- class load lends structure to her life, which in turn helps her keep up with her many extracurricular pursuits. “I have taken five classes during three of my four semesters here,” she said. “Starting off my freshman fall with five classes...was crazy, but the structure helped me. I am someone who has always made my schedule busy, and this helps me.”
Whether you are trying to fulfill major requirements, catch up on credits, or you are just a person who needs some extra structure in your life, taking five classes is a lot more common and manageable than people would like to think. Sage words of wisdom from an expert in the five-class lifestyle Lindsay Peterson: “Don’t be afraid to take five classes in a semester. It may seem daunting, but it is definitely possible.”