Senior Katie Sagal has completed 18 credit hours each semester since her freshman year. That’s three credits – or one traditional class – more than what is required to achieve full-time student status.
“I’ve always wanted to be a dorky over-achiever,” Sagal said.
With the payment of fulltime tuition, undergraduate students can take up to 17 credit hours each semester. Some students choose to take more than 17 hours and are charged about $1,000 for each additional credit on top of tuition.
According to data collected by the Office of Institutional Research, as of early September, 20 percent of GW’s main campus undergraduate population of about 9,700 students enrolls in 17 credit hours or more. The main campus includes undergraduate students on the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.
Sagal, who was enrolled in the Women’s Leadership Program her first year, said the program’s schedule requirements would not allow her to take a class she wanted that was outside of the Women’s leadership curriculum. Rather than deny herself that academic opportunity, Sagal signed up for that sixth class and has not stopped since.
With a double major in English and history, Sagal will have the credits to graduate this year – her third year at GW.
“I want to go to graduate school and law school so that’s another four years, so I’m just trying to minimize the amount of time I spend in school,” she said. “Doing what I want to do right now, that’s seven years, why make it eight?”
Although Sagal speaks casually about her heavy course load, she acknowledges that taking extra classes is not for everyone and keeping up with the workload is essential.
“There’s no reason you need to take 18 credits a semester; don’t stress yourself out intentionally,” she said. “I would definitely say don’t take six classes freshman year.”
Of the nearly 1,900 students who take the maximum number of credits or more, only 188 undergraduates are registered for 19 credits or more, about 2 percent of students. A student who wishes to register for more than 19 credits must have the approval of a dean, said University Registrar Elizabeth Amundson.
Shani Levin had to petition her dean at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in order to register for her desired schedule this semester. Levin, a senior majoring in speech and hearing and psychology needs to take 20 credits this semester in order to graduate with her double major on time.
Although Levin was not enthusiastic about paying more than $3,000 for her extra credits, she said she believes it is the best option for her.
“Financially it’s worth it when you put it against spending another semester here,” she said. “Also ,in terms of graduate school admissions, I think it makes sense to do the extra classes.”
While it may seem costly to enroll in just one credit hour over tuition at GW, many schools with similar tuition rates charge similar fees.
Undergraduate students at New York University and Boston University are also charged about $1,000 per credit, but they allow up to 18 credits included in the schools’ tuitions.
Amundson said one reason students may pile on the credits is the heavy course load requirement in the undergraduate school of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which often requires students to enroll in 18 to 19 credits.
Civil engineering professor Majid Manzari said students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science have to graduate with a larger number of credits than most departments, ranging from a 128-credit requirement to a 139-credit requirement depending on the student’s focus. SEAS students are allowed to take up to 19 credits without being charged additional fees. Comparatively, students in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences need only 120 credits to graduate.
“It prepares students to go and take a job,” said Manzari about the majors in the engineering school. “Because of that, it requires a little more training.”
Seth Fink, a junior in SEAS, is registered for 18 credits this semester. Fink is majoring in civil engineering with an environmental option and is also working toward a minor in mathematics.
“We have a course path to go through and I have to take 18 credits (this semester) to keep up,” said Fink. “I knew I would be taking a lot of courses. I mean, I guess I’m not surprised.”