Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Through the eyes of professionals: Considerations and misconceptions of choosing credit hours and majors

Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Graphic by Benjamin Schicker

For first-year college students, choosing a major and the right amount of credits can be a daunting task.

Students should think about quality versus quantity when deciding how many credit hours to take.

Assistant director of academic advising Jessica Brethold suggests that incoming students find a healthy balance between what’s best for the student and their situation.

“A lot of times we’ll ask how many credit hours the students are expecting to take,” Brethold said. “This usually helps us find the balance they are looking for in terms of quality and quantity credits for their specific situation.”

Director of academic advising Amanda Eller said the appropriate number of credit hours depends on the major when it comes to quality versus quantity credits.

“There are some majors where you have to be very specific about taking the right classes at the right time,” Eller said. “Making sure to get those entry-level courses completed for their major, while also making sure the student is taking the hours that are best for them.”

Factors outside of academics should also be considered.

Family commitments, jobs, clubs and other situations can play just as important of a role when deciding how many credits to sign up for.

Eller suggested that students should consider plans outside of class when selecting courses.

“ They should factor in plans outside of class, like jobs,” Eller said. “ Are they going to be in a fraternity or a sorority because they could take up a lot of time.”

While there are plenty of factors to consider, there are also some simple misconceptions that come with credit hour completion.

According to Eller, one misconception can come from the order in which students think they should take their classes.

“A misconception that we try to point out has to do with the order in which major classes are taken versus general education,” Eller said. “You don’t need all of your general education credits at the beginning, but a healthy mixture of both major and general education credits will make it less likely to fall behind in one or the other.”

For students who are worried about getting ahead in their major right away, it can be tough to focus on what is needed for general education. Academic Advisor Mikaila Blaylock suggests that general education courses will eventually help students build toward their major classes.

“The goal is to pick the right courses for them (students), even if they are general education,” Blaylock said. “I think it scares students because they are not going to get into their major-specific courses, but a lot of those courses (Gen ED) actually help you with that major.”

While each student must complete 120 hours to graduate, every student's journey to get there looks different.Brethold noted that it is important for students to be realistic and honest.

“The timeline isn’t as important,” Brethold said. “What’s important is being successful with what you have now and being able to manage what classes you’re in and how many you’re taking.”