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How Many Courses Should I Take?

The answer to this question depends on your individual situation and how much time you have to devote to your studies. 

To help you assess this, consider these time estimates:

For each course you take, you will attend 3 hours of lecture per week, plus additional time in the lab IF the course has a lab component (such as language courses and science courses). 

AND, to meet the demands of a university level course, you need to commit an additional 6-9 hours per week per class for studying.  

This additional time studying could include reading texts, reviewing lecture notes, conducting research for assignments, preparing for tests, and writing papers.

Taking five classes in one term is considered a “full load.”  This is quite challenging, especially if you also have labs, but it certainly can be done if you plan for it.  Be prepared for about 15 hours of class time and from 30 to 45 hours of studying each week.

At the other end of the scale, taking one or two classes in one term is considered a “light load.”  It will take you quite a bit longer to complete a degree, but it may be a more realistic option if you are working a lot or have many other responsibilities.  

Many students choose something in between, similar to the example below.  The average is three or four classes per week.  


This student is registered for 2 full courses, plus 1 half course in fall term and 2 half courses in the winter term.  (Total credit hours for the year = 21)

Fall Term

Winter Term

Half course (3 credit hrs)

Half course (3 credit hrs)

Full course (6 credit hrs)

--> Full course continues

Full course (6 credit hrs)

--> Full course continues

Half course (3 credit hrs)

Total class time:

9 hours/week 

Total class time:

12 hours/week

Total study time:

18-27 hours/week

Total study time:

24-36 hours/week

If you need a refresher on “credit hours” look under Key Definitions

Part-time or Full-time?

Nine is the magic number!

A part-time student is registered for fewer than 9 credit hours per term.

A full-time student is registered for 9 to 15 credit hours per term.

You must take a certain number of courses to maintain your eligibility for student loans and some bursaries and scholarships.  For example, for full-time Manitoba Student Aid, you must take at least 9 credit hours per term.  Know what’s required.  

See section Money

How many courses you take is also an important decision for achieving academic success and keeping good health and balance in your life.

For more information, please see: