1. Considering a Reduced Course Load
  2. Things to consider when deciding on your course load…

5.0 credits over the fall and winter terms (or 6.0 with an “Overload”) is the maximum course load for degree students. However, it is by no means the “norm.” Many students, for a variety of reasons, choose to take a reduced course load in first year and sometimes throughout their undergraduate degree. As a result, it can take some students an extra year or so to graduate. And that’s okay! Completing your degree is by no means a race. What’s important is that you enjoy your university years, succeed academically, and leave Carleton with excellent transferrable skills and a credential.

When deciding whether to take a reduced course load in first year or in subsequent years (for example, enrolling in 4.0 credits instead of a full 5.0 over the fall and winter terms), students are strongly encouraged to discuss their academic goals and commitments outside of class with an Advisor at the Academic Advising Centre. At Carleton, we recognize that every student’s situation is unique. Your Advisor will review relevant and important information that will help you decide what kind of course load is right for you, and will provide a referral to your Departmental Advisor so that you can discuss your course sequencing and program requirements in more detail.

Considering a Reduced Course Load

Here are some common reasons for considering a reduced course load, all of which have to do with finding the right balance between your studies and your life outside of the classroom.

You’re concerned that making the transition from high school to university will be challenging.

Rest assured, you’re not alone. Although you may have fewer hours of classes per week, you’ll have to devote a lot more time to studying and completing quality assignments. And the truth is that some first-year students simply find a full, 5.0-credit course load – and all the work that comes with it – overwhelming. A lighter course load, at least initially, can allow students to ease themselves into university, adapt to the stresses and demands, and develop solid study and time management skills. If you’re in a BA program, a First-Year Seminar (FYSM) will help make your transition to university a smooth one. Because FYSMs are capped at 30 students, you’ll get to know your classmates and professor well during the year, and will develop a range of skills that will help you succeed in your other courses.

You plan on working part-time.

The reality these days is that many students must work while they’re in university in order to afford it. While working throughout the school year is an excellent way to strengthen your resume and to make money for tuition and living expenses, a part-time job can take up a serious amount of time. And full-time students don’t have a lot of time to spare. Consider, for a moment, the 2:1 Ratio. Study experts say that for every one hour you’re in class, you should be devoting two hours outside of class to studying/school work. For a full-time BA student enrolled in 5.0 credits, that’s a grand total of 45 hours a week. Throw in a part-time job and you may find yourself spread too thin to keep up. If you’re going to work more than 15 hours a week, consider taking fewer than 5.0 credits per year.

You are a varsity athlete or plan on becoming heavily involved with campus clubs, societies, student government, or volunteer groups.

Good for you! Students who give back to their school and community and make these kinds of connections get so much more out of their university experience than those who don’t. Involvement in certain activities may also allow you to add the experience to your Co-Curricular Record, which is part of your official academic transcript. Much like having a part-time job, however, campus involvement and community work can cut in to study time. If you’re devoting more than 15 hours a week to extra-curricular activities, consider taking fewer than 5.0 credits per year.

You have concerns about your health or well-being.

Carleton University believes that students’ physical and mental health is of vital importance. If you have a medical condition that you feel may affect your studies, you’re strongly encouraged to speak with a health care professional, such as a doctor or counsellor, ahead of registering for courses. With his or her advice and support, you can decide on what kind of course load will work best for you.

Things to consider when deciding on your course load…

“Full-time” vs. “Part-time” student status

Although degree students may take up to 2.5 credits per term (or 3.0 with an “Overload”), Carleton University considers any student enrolled in 1.5 credits or more per term a “Full-time” student. Conversely, the University considers any student enrolled in fewer than 1.5 credits per term a “Part-time” student.

Tuition costs

Students enrolled in 2.0 or more credits per term pay a flat tuition rate. Students enrolled in fewer than 2.0 credits per term, on the other hand, pay by the credit (i.e., a reduced amount). For more information on Carleton’s tuition fees for undergraduate students, please contact Student Accounts Receivable.


In order to be eligible to live on campus, students must be enrolled in at least 1.5 credits per term. If you are a Residence student considering taking fewer than 1.5 credits in the fall or winter terms, you must contact Housing and Residence Life Services to discuss your situation in more detail.


The Awards Office will automatically assess for the renewal of entrance scholarships and assess for general in-course scholarships once we have received your grades at the end of the Fall/Winter session.  Generally, this assessment will take place at the end of May/early June and the status of your scholarship will be displayed on Carleton Central. It’s important you know the rules and regulations concerning scholarships.

Government loans

If you receive student aid from Ontario (an OSAP loan) or another Canadian province or territory, there are certain conditions you must meet in order to maintain funding eligibility. One of those conditions has to do with course load. To find out the minimum number of credits you must complete this school year, please contact the Awards and Financial Aid Office.

Visas and study permits

If you are an international student considering a reduced course load, please contact the International Student Services Office (ISSO) to see whether your visa or study permit may be affected.


Undergraduate programs have unique admission and continuation requirements for each Co-op option. For more information contact the Co-Op Office