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Seniors Beware: Why You Should Probably Take That Fifth Course

Do you have enough credits to graduate? This question, which sounds deceptively simple, has come to the attention of many seniors this winter. In fact, those hoping to take only four classes in their last term at Boston College may find themselves without a cap and gown on graduation day.

“Underloading,” or taking less than five three-credit classes a semester, used to be a common occurrence for seniors in their last two semesters. Beginning with the Class of 2014, however, there is more to take into consideration.

Screenshot via UIS.

Screenshot via UIS.

While some seniors hoping to stick with a lighter schedule may have been in for a rude awakening, the change was all but inevitable when BC switched from a course system to a credit system three years ago.

Under the course system, which applied to graduating classes before 2014, 38 courses were needed to graduate in the College of Arts & Sciences. Beginning with the Class of 2014, the requirement was changed to 120 credits. The new graduation requirement corresponds to 40 three-credit classes, adding an additional two courses to the previous graduation requirement.

Despite common perception, the era of underloading is not necessarily over. Rory Browne, Associate Director of the Academic Advising Center, laid out the reasoning behind the switch.

“The advantage of the credit system is that people get recognition for the coursework they do, including institutional experiences that are not full three credit courses,” he said. Science students who take extra labs, students who have completed Freshman Topic Seminars and those with internships for credit all benefit from the more inclusive accreditation.

Image via Geena De Rose/Gavel Media.

Image via Geena De Rose/Gavel Media.

“The credits system also gives greater flexibility,” Browne pointed out. Previously, only three-credit courses counted towards graduation requirements. “The fractions count now. There is greater flexibility in terms of the package one puts together for each term.”

With this flexibility comes what many in the humanities may see as a tradeoff. “The quid-pro-quo is that the graduation requirements have actually gone up by the equivalent of two courses. If more counts, more must be required,” Browne said.

According to Donald Hafner, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, “The change was urged by representatives of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and other student organizations,” who felt that the course system was unfair in rewarding some work and ignoring the rest.

Generally, students want to graduate. Image via Meghan Smith/Gavel Media.

Generally, students want to graduate.
Image via Meghan Smith/Gavel Media.

The requirement of these two “extra” courses does not mark a huge departure from the precedent set by former classes. Before the switch, “in A&S, roughly half of seniors had 120 credits or more, and those who did not were generally only one or two credits short of 120,” explained Hafner.

“Even though formally the change to the higher credit levels appeared to be raising the degree requirements, as a practical matter, most seniors were already at the new levels.”

Although one, two and four-credit courses are not as common in the humanities as they are in the sciences, the opportunity for a greater diversity of coursework is clear. “The greatest potential benefit is the latitude this allows for innovation in course offerings,” said Hafner.

Whether you object to the change or not, rules are rules, and graduating is the goal. Who knows? Maybe you have some extra credits stacked up from freshman year when you were still pre-med. That calculus class that tripped up your GPA might bring in an extra credit or two as well.

Image via Getty Images.

Image via Getty Images.

Dean Browne urges students, especially seniors, to check the credit count on their degree audit. If you are concerned with your credit count or realize that you will not reach the 120 necessary to graduate, Browne urges you to contact the advising center to work out the dilemma. Although senior registration period ended Monday, there is still plenty of time for students to adjust their schedules for next semester if they find themselves lacking in credits.

The new changes aren’t here to make students miserable. What will bring misery, however, is failing to get a diploma on time. “Having 119 credits does you no good due graduation day,” hints Browne.

Whether seniors are working on those 120 credits or are coasting through pass/fails courses, they have other considerations to weigh. While jobs and GPAs are important, the Class of 2014 knows that their last 5 months as undergrads cannot be measured solely in credit hours.

Featured image via Alex Krowiak/Gavel Media.

School, major and year: A&S ‘14, Political Science
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