Penn State Graduate School Penn State Penn State Graduate School

Registration and Graduation Policies

GCAC-501 Credit Load

Purpose: to define the minimum and maximum credit load per semester for full-time academic work in a graduate program.

Academic Goal: to inform students and advisers of appropriate course loads within the context of “normal progress” towards a degree.

Scope: all graduate students.



Full-time participation in graduate study can involve a wide range of activities not limited to classroom activities in formal courses. The nature of these activities varies because of the diversity of programs throughout the University. Thus, full time participation in graduate study is associated with a range of credit loads.



Maximum Credit Load: the maximum number of credits a student can register for each semester without being required to request an exception.

Policy Statement

  1. The graduate student is responsible for ascertaining, through the adviser and/or program office, the range of total activity of his or her individual program that constitutes normal progress toward the degree.
  2. A graduate student who is registered for at least 9 credits in a semester is considered to be engaged in full-time academic work for that semester.
  3. If a graduate student wishes to register for more than 15 credits in a semester, an exception to the normal maximum load must be granted through petition (with adviser’s approval) to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services.
  4. No student is permitted to count audited credits toward the minimum credit load for full-time or part-time status.
  5. Undergraduate courses taken to meet foreign language or English requirements do count in the total credit load.


Requests to register for more than 15 credits in a semester must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Student Services for consideration.

Revision History

Last known revision, March 2017
Adapted from Graduate Bulletin, June 2018

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