Excess Credit Overload: To Take or Not to Take?

Diana Kosianka is in her junior year at Hunter College in New York studying for her BA in Journalism and History. She likes to watch classic movies and theatrical shows and not only reads comic books, but also writes and illustrates them in her spare time. Diana also likes to visit art museums and do sketches of the paintings and sculptures that interest her.



Once we start our freshman year in college, we discover that different universities, state city, and community colleges have different standards for credits. In some colleges, like in my college for instance, the amount of credits a student can take to be a full-time student is twelve, even though advisors and teachers alike recommend that they take fifteen credits to graduate on time. In other colleges, students take fewer credits per semester. In this case, we will focus on the twelve-fifteen credit colleges in regards to excess credit overload.

Students take extra classes to either boost their GPA, fulfill their general education requirements, or simply take them for fun. Credit overload can be beneficial on the one hand, but on the other hand, credit overload means more work for the student as well as more stress and less time for other activities. I know because when I started my sophomore year, I found myself in this position.

Initially, I applied for an astronomy course, but when I saw that it didn’t fulfill my science requirement, I switched the course to a course on human anthropology the last day before classes were supposed to start. During this time, Hunter and the rest of the CUNY schools changed not only their grading system, but also their registration system as well in an attempt to make adding and dropping classes “easier.” CUNY started phasing out the GER in exchange for Pathways and the Common Core, which supposedly allowed students to graduate faster yet cut out some of the more important courses in the process. Common Core, the new system, is considered less rounded than the GER, the system I was under.

Under the Common Core, the Human Anthropology course was acceptable in the science section. Under the GER, however, it was considered an “elective”, the last thing I needed for my double-major degree. I went from advisor to advisor, and even to the teacher of the Human Anthropology course asking if the class would fulfill my education requirements or not. For every person I went to, I got a different answer. Ultimately, I’ve been told, “No, the course does not fulfill your general education requirements.”

I went back to the CUNYfirst website, desperately searching for a science course that was still open and fit the schedule for the rest of my classes. Eventually, I came upon a Monday and Thursday morning course for Introduction to Geology, with the labs in the afternoon. The course amounted to six credits, and since it didn’t interrupt my schedule, I attempted to switch the anthropology course for this one.

The answer from the website? “You are not allowed excess credits.”

As a Freshman, a couple of my friends warned me about course overload, saying that it was a lot of work and that it would be harder for me to balance my schoolwork and my personal life, along with other minutia in college life. There are times in life, however, where the stakes are so great only desperate actions can be taken. IF there was any time to learn that lesson, it was now.

I visited the Student Services office and filled out the form for Excess Credit Overload. Over the next two days, my mind was smothered with suspense. My head was in so much pain that I developed a migraine throughout my Journalism as Literature and Polish language courses, and I broke down crying at one point. I nearly gave up hope as I traversed home, until right before I boarded an x-bus, I got an email from the student services office, saying that I could apply for up to twenty-one credits. As soon as I was back in my house, I wasted no time applying for the Introduction to Geology course. The next two weeks afterwards required some adjustment.

In my freshman year, my earliest class was at 10:10 in the morning. In my sophomore year, however, my class began at 9:45 in the morning. Since it takes me roughly two hours to travel to Manhattan from my house, I had to wake up earlier than usual and get myself ready faster. Yes, I was tired, yes, I developed a cold, but in the end, I thought it was worth it. With six classes’ worth of credits, I got the highest GPA in my college career.

Now, excess credit overload is not a situation to take lightly. When a student takes on credit overload, he or she must be prepared for extra writing assignments, extra readings, and longer class hours. He or she must also be aware of how much of a courseload they can take, as well as their plans for the semester. Credit overload is not for everyone, but for those that do take it, know that it will not only boost your GPA, but also show future employers and graduate schools that you are a hard worker willing to take on extra assignments.

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