How Long Are College Credits Good For? (2023)

At a glance

  • College credits earned and listed on a transcript do not expire; however, application of credits toward degree requirements based on the age of the credits will vary based on the institution and its policies.
  • Credits may transfer between institutions, but this also depends on the receiving institution’s requirements.
  • If you’re looking to return to college, it’s important to request your transcripts and send them to your new institution so they can determine which credits are transferable and how the credits apply toward your new degree program.
  • Learn more about transferring credits at University of Phoenix!

For many college students, the thought of hard-earned academic credits expiring is demoralizing. But if you’ve taken a few years off since graduating, or are considering returning to school after being away for a long time, the question looms: Will your college credits still be valid?

You may want to complete a degree, gain more professional skills to enhance your career or simply receive gratification because of a love of learning. Whatever the reason, returning to college can prepare you for new opportunities — but it can also feel challenging.

College credit that you earned at an institution will not expire and be removed from your transcript, so from a qualitative perspective a student will always have credits they earned. However, where and how your credit may apply toward a degree program may differ depending on how long you have been out of school.

For example, the requirements for your degree program may have changed so that the content from your older courses doesn’t match up with the content to earn the new degree. In these instances, your credit still has an earned value but may not apply to your selected degree program because the needs for your discipline may have evolved while you were away. Therefore, it’s not always guaranteed your credits will apply the same way when you reenroll at your institution after a hiatus.

Do college credits have an expiration date?

The short answer is no — college credits do not expire. That said, the time they remain applicable toward a degree program or be accepted in transfer can vary from one program or institution to another. Credits you earn from an institution will always remain on your transcript as earned units; however, certain factors can impact the application or acceptance of college credits.

For example, suppose you earned a degree in an area with rapidly evolving technology or science-based content. In that case, your credits might not apply after a relatively short absence away from your program if new information has rendered the content of your previously completed courses obsolete. Additionally, schools sometimes change their policies over time; something that was acceptable and applied when you enrolled may cease to be valid because of changing conditions.

Other factors may include:

  • An institution’s accreditation status: If the college or university loses accreditation, the credits you earned after the accreditation status is lost may no longer be accepted in transfer.
  • The relevance of the course content: If class material is outdated, it may not be accepted for transfer credit toward degree requirements. Standards and time frames for assessing recency and relevancy of content vary between institutions — and in some cases between degree programs and disciplines within the same institution.
  • The level of the credits you completed: If you earned credits at the lower division level (first and second years of study) these may not apply toward upper division level (third and fourth years of study) course content
  • How long ago the course was completed: As an example, credits earned more than 10 years ago may not be accepted in transfer toward certain degree requirements. As mentioned, standards and time frames for assessing recency of content vary between institutions and sometimes between degree programs and disciplines within the same institution.
  • An institution’s specific transfer policies: Institutions have the latitude to set their own transfer policies and can do so at a very granular level. For example, some schools do not accept credits from other universities or only do so on a limited basis.

It’s essential to research the specifics of your situation carefully and contact a college representative if you have questions regarding how your courses may apply toward that specific institution’s degree requirements.

Do college credits transfer?

Institutions have the right to set their own policies, and so each student’s transfer situation and outcome can be unique. Sometimes the application of credits in transfer can be impacted because credits must fully match up with a new school’s degree requirements, which can be difficult to make work. This is especially true if you’retransferring between educational institutions with different accreditation types or program goals.

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If you’ve been out of class for a while, it’s also important to consider that course content may have changed since you took classes or that some classes don’t count toward current degree requirements.

Additionally, an academic program’s types of degree requirements may affect transfer credit application. For example, many undergraduate degree programs have three components: major course of study, general education credits and elective credits. So, a degree’s structure can also impact transfer credit acceptance.

For example, elective credit areas are generally very open and accept many types of transfer credit regardless of content and age of the credits. General education courses — typically math, science, literature and language arts, and liberal arts-related subjects — may have more transfer restrictions than electives. However, such credits transfer more easily than major course of study classes given that general education needs are consistent across many institutions in the United States. Research your specific institution’s policies in advance, so you know which classes do and do not transfer.

When transferring college credits, contact a college representative if you have questions or concerns. Knowing the receiving institution’s requirements, and the age of your course material, will help you and the receiving institution determine if your credits are applicable.

How to transfer college credits

To transfer your college credits, the process typically involves obtaining official transcripts from the institution where you earned them and sending them to the school where you want to enroll. Be sure to do this well before your desired course start date, as transcripts take time to process.

The receiving institution will evaluate each course on your transcript for applicability toward its degree requirements. If there are differences between the credits you completed as compared to the degree program and discipline you are entering, then it’s likely that not all of your credits will be applied in transfer.

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It’s also possible that some courses may not fit into the new school’s transfer policies and acceptance criteria because of minimum grade requirements, course complete date or institutional accreditation type. If you encounter roadblocks during this process, contact a college representative at the receiving institution to understand your options.

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How to research credit transfer policies

The best way to learn more about a school’s specific credit transfer policies is to research in advance. Check the college or university’s website for relevant information. Specifically, look for the institution’s academic catalog as this will contain the institution’s transfer policies, course descriptions and degree requirements. If you still have questions, contact the institution’s admissions and registrar’s office directly.

It can be helpful to look at the descriptions of courses you took earlier, if such information is available, and compare them with those at the institution you plan on transferring to. This can give you an idea of the alignment between courses and how much of a gap may exist in order to have the credits apply in transfer. Additionally, it’s essential to pay attention to the type of degree each institution offers and whether you’re pursuing a degree or certificate, as this can sometimes affect the application of transfer credits.

How long do colleges keep transcripts?

Depending on local laws and individual school policies, transcripts can be held for a variety of time periods. Unique circumstances may exist that make obtaining transcripts more difficult.

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In some cases, record retention for students who attended decades ago may not be as good as it is today. This could be due to limited storage space or other considerations. If you anticipate obstacles, it’s best to contact the college directly to give them lead time to gather your records.

If you need access to your transcripts and aren’t sure where to find them, you can request them directly from the registrar’s office at the school you attended. The process typically involves filling out paperwork and paying a fee; in some cases, you can order an official copy online. Again, be sure to check with the institution for specific instructions on how to make a transcript request.

Steps for returning to college

If you’re looking to return to college, there are a few key steps you should take:

  1. First, explore the types of courses and degrees you want to pursue.
  2. Next, contact your target school to inquire about their admissions and transfer credit process.
  3. Next, gather necessary documents, such as transcripts, test scores or references.
  4. Find out how your transfer credits will apply to the new institution.
  5. Then, submit your application and wait for a decision from the college or university.
  6. If you’re accepted, contact the relevant offices at the school (such as student services, the financial aid office, etc.) as soon as possible so they can help plan your program of study and other related matters.

Depending on the type of school and the courses you plan to take, you may encounter variations in this process. For example, if you plan to enroll in an online certificate program or take individual courses, additional steps might be needed before enrollment.

Regardless of your education path, you can always consult with an advisor to help you make the right choices and get the most out of your college experience.

Transfer credits at University of Phoenix

Transferring credits can save money on tuition and allow students to graduate sooner. At University of Phoenix (UOPX), students can apply for eligible transfer credits from an institutionally accredited university or college toward the degree of their choice. UOPX also accepts certain life and work experience for college credit.

(Video) Transfer Credits and Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Faster and for Less

UOPX will request transcripts on a student’s behalf. Enrollment representatives are available to address transfer questions and related inquiries about the application process. Visit the University of Phoenix website to learn more.


How long do my college credits stay good for? ›

As a general rule, college credits do not expire. Once you've taken a college course, completed the requirements, and were granted the credits, those are yours forever. Whether you can earn a degree with those credits, however, is a bit more complicated. Ultimately, it'll be up to your new institution to decide.

Is 30 credits a year good? ›

In the American university credit system, a standard full-time study load is usually 30 credit hours per year. Typically, in order to graduate with a degree, universities expect students to complete: 120-130 credit hours for a Bachelor's degree. 30-64 credit hours for a Master's degree.

Is 15 credits not enough? ›

While it might seem strange, for many students it's better to take about 15 credits in their first semester. This is recommended because 12 credits are usually the minimum to be considered a full-time student at the college. It can even affect tuition in some cases.

Is 21 credits a semester too much? ›

According to Carrie Thomas, a research associate professor in the College of Sciences and director of undergraduate programs, about 17–18 credit hours is typically the maximum amount students are willing to take. Most do not want to subject themselves to the added stress of 21 or more credit hours.

Does my degree expire? ›

The degree itself never “expires,” because it simply states that you fulfilled certain requirements to get that degree. It is up to others to decide whether those requirements are now relevant to do your job. In other words, a degree was never a guarantee to get a job.

How many college credits can you complete in a year? ›

A typical course load for many students is 15 credits per semester. Colleges and universities recommend this amount if students aim to graduate in four years with a bachelor's degree. In the cases where students want to or need to take on more, they can reach up to 18 credits, equaling six three-credit courses.

Is taking 18 credits a lot? ›

If you're thinking of taking an 18-credit semester — don't. A course load this heavy isn't bold, brave or logical in any circumstances. In fact, it's highly irrational and rarely worth it because it overbooks your schedule and workload.

Is 140 credits too much? ›

Most bachelor's degree programs require 120 college credits. At a four-year institution granting an average of three credits per class, that's five classes per semester. Many institutions require more than 120 credit hours to graduate, with some programs exceeding 140 total credit hours.

Is 60 college credits a lot? ›

You will typically need to earn 60 credits for an associate degree, 120 credits for a bachelor's degree and 30-60 credits for a master's degree. The number of credits needed to graduate from college depends on what degree you want to earn.

Is 4 classes a semester too much? ›

Since a class typically requires at least three credits, for most students four classes per semester are what is considered a full-time student.

How many credits is too many for a semester? ›

While some students can handle 18 credits (or even more) in a single semester, you might feel more comfortable taking 12 to 15. This is especially the case if you're an upperclassman and taking much more difficult courses.

What happens if you have too many credits in college? ›

A typical bachelor's degree takes 120 credits, which is about 40 courses. However, there is a maximum on credit hours, meaning that if you go over that amount, you will no longer have access to financial aid.

Should I take 15 or 18 credits? ›

To graduate on time, undergraduate students typically need to take an average of 15 credit hours per semester — and research shows that students who do take 15 credit hours per semester experience higher academic performance, are more likely to continue through college and are more likely to graduate, often earlier, ...

Is 20 credits manageable? ›

Taking 20 credits can be a lot, and it can be especially overwhelming if you also have a work study job on top of it. Though, with some organizational skills and setting limits for yourself, having a work study while taking 20 credits can be surprisingly manageable.

Is 128 credits a lot? ›

A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution requires at least 120 credits. Some colleges require more. For example, a national survey of credit requirements found that 10% of programs require 124 credits, while 15% require 128 credits.

Does college GPA expire? ›

There is basically a "statute of limitations" for "old" grades. In most colleges, it's something like 10-12 years. Your 15 year absence from undergraduate work is outside that period. That means that you can get a "fresh" start in a community college or four year undergraduate program.

Can a college keep you from graduating? ›

Schools can't deny a diploma to qualified graduates arbitrarily or under rules that aren't reasonable. So it's probably not fair for administrators to withhold a high school diploma for last-minute disciplinary problems, if the student successfully finished the academic requirements and sat for final exams.

Can a college revoke your degree years later? ›

Your degree isn't actually permanent.

There is actually no statute of limitations when it comes to academic misconduct. If you are found guilty of misconduct, even decades after graduating, academic institutions have the right to revoke your degree.

Are college credits good after 10 years? ›

Do My College Credits Have a Shelf-Life? Technically, the answer is no. Credits never expire.

How many years is 180 credit hours? ›


A two-year program equals approximately 90 credits; a four-year baccalaureate equals approximately 180 credits.

How many credits is a Masters? ›

Credits. To successfully complete a Masters course, for example, you'll need 180 credits.

Is 5 classes a semester too much? ›

Breaking it down further, most college courses at schools with semesters are worth three credit hours. So on average, you would expect to take five classes a semester. That's above the usual minimum, which is 12 hours, and below the maximum, which is normally 18.

How much is too much credits? ›

Don't use more than 30% of available credit: To maintain healthy credit scores, avoid using too much of your available credit.

How to survive 18 credits in college? ›

How to Take 18+ Credit Hours While Maintaining Your GPA (and Your Sanity)
  1. Pick classes that you like. ...
  2. Take advantage of time between classes. ...
  3. Find study spots close to your classes. ...
  4. Get a planner. ...
  5. Work ahead whenever possible. ...
  6. Take care of yourself.
Apr 12, 2018

What is credits in GPA? ›

A GPA credit indicates the weighting factor assigned to a grade for use in the grade point average computation. A grade of A, B, C, D, F or NC may be assigned a GPA credit of 0, 1/4, 1/2, or 1, depending on the course.

How many years is 150 credits? ›

150 credit hours is equivalent to 5 years of higher education. It can be accumulated in different ways: 4 years of bachelor + 1 year of master's degree, typically in accounting.

How many credits is a diploma? ›

The qualification is 120 credits, which takes three years of full-time study, unless prior learning can be counted towards the qualification. The qualification is based on working life occupations and the competencies required.

How can I finish college faster? ›

5 Ways to Earn a Degree Faster
  1. Take courses online. If you have a job or don't have much extra time during the day, taking college courses on campus might not be the best option for you. ...
  2. Stay enrolled full-time. ...
  3. Receive prior learning credit. ...
  4. Transfer accredited college credits. ...
  5. Apply and enroll right away.

How long does it take to get 90 credits in college? ›

If you attend college on a traditional campus, it will take three years to complete 90 college credits. That being said, you can use a combination of credit by exam, credit for prior learning, and accelerated online classes to complete 90 credit hours in two years or less.

How can I get extra credit in college? ›

How to Ask for Extra Credit in College: 4 Methods
  1. Reach Out Early. There's one wrong way to ask for extra credit in college, and that's after the final exam. ...
  2. Go to Office Hours. You can also visit office hours to discuss extra credit with your professor. ...
  3. Suggest a Specific Assignment. ...
  4. Take No for an Answer.
Apr 21, 2022

Is it normal to fail a class in college? ›

Many college students find themselves falling behind at some point. And failing a class in college is more common than you might think.

Is it OK to take 6 classes in one semester? ›

The standard course load for full-time students is 12 to 18 hours which usually comes out to about 4 to 6 courses per semester.

Can I take 10 classes a semester? ›

Most schools will allow you to take more than 12 credits per semester, and some even recommend that students take 15 credits per semester. In most cases, taking more than 18 credits will require departmental approval.

Is graduating on time important? ›

However, if you can work to graduate on time, the benefits are plentiful. Successfully completing college in four years looks good to potential employers, you will accrue less interest (assuming you do not defer your loans after graduation), and (hopefully) that feeling of quitting school never creeps into your mind.

What is the best amount of credits per semester? ›

If you can manage a full course load, it can be an important step toward graduating in a timely manner. If you're interested in finishing college in four years, one of the best ways to ensure a timely graduation is to take a full course load—meaning a minimum of 15 units per semester.

Is 17 credits in one semester a lot? ›

Nope, that's perfectly doable. I usually enrolled in about 16–17 credit hours each semester. One semester, I did 19, and it was a little stressful and not much fun, but still perfectly doable if you are focused. It might become too much if you are working a part-time job or full-time job outside of school, though.

What to do if you maxed out financial aid? ›

What to do if you run out of financial aid before the semester
  1. Step 1: Contact your financial aid office. ...
  2. Step 2: Make sure you filed FAFSA. ...
  3. Step 3: Apply for scholarships and grants. ...
  4. Step 4: Get a part-time job. ...
  5. Step 5: Apply for private student loans.
Apr 5, 2023

Does financial aid run out after 4 years? ›

There is a maximum amount of Federal Pell Grant funds you can receive over your lifetime. You can receive the Pell Grant for no more than 12 terms or the equivalent (roughly six years). This is called the Federal Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility Used (LEU). You'll receive a notice if you're getting close to your limit.

What happens if I run out of financial aid? ›

Request Additional Federal Student Loans

If you've exhausted other options and still need additional funds to help you pay for school, contact your school's financial aid office to find out if you're eligible for additional federal student loans.

How long do colleges keep grades? ›

How many years does a college hold transcripts of students that dropped out? If you attended a college/university in the U.S. , and earned grades or “W” (withdrawn grades), your record is kept forever. As a Registrar, I can affirm I have had complete records for as far back as the 1880's.

Do college credits expire New York? ›

A: Yes, college credits never expire although you may need to re- take some courses to refresh your knowledge.

Can I transfer back to my old college? ›

You could possibly transfer back to the original college you were attending. But you need to see if you will be accepted and if you will lose any credits by doing so.

What college accepts most transfer credits? ›

Saint Louis University has very few restrictions on their transfer students — they don't have any minimum credit requirements to transfer, accept an unlimited number of credits from 4-year colleges and universities, and only require you to earn 30 credits at SLU to earn a degree.

How long are transcripts good for? ›

College transcripts do not expire and schools are obligated to maintain transcripts for all students who have enrolled in and attended their institution — regardless of whether or not that student graduated.

Do bad college grades expire? ›

There is basically a "statute of limitations" for "old" grades. In most colleges, it's something like 10-12 years. Your 15 year absence from undergraduate work is outside that period. That means that you can get a "fresh" start in a community college or four year undergraduate program.

Does your GPA restart in college? ›

Your GPA will not transfer to your new college.

Unless you are transferring within a public college system, the GPA you graduate with will be calculated based on your grades at your new college.

How long is college English credits good for? ›

Generally speaking, college credits do not expire. However, several factors—including the age of those credits—will influence whether or not they are eligible for transfer into a particular program. It is important to remember that every institution has its own transfer credit policies.

What is the difference between college credits and points? ›

The grade point average indicates the student's general scholastic average and is a measure of the quality of his or her work, just as credit hours are the measure of its extent. A student's grade point average is obtained by dividing the total number of grade quality points by the total number of credit hours earned.

Does your GPA reset when you transfer? ›

Your GPA Doesn't Transfer With You

When you are accepted to a new school, your GPA is essentially wiped clean, and your new GPA will be determined by your level of success in your classes at the new institution.

Can I transfer with a 2.9 GPA? ›

Common application colleges tend to have higher transfer requirements, with some requiring a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA to transfer, with some program-specific requirements being even higher.

What if my GPA is too low to transfer? ›

Anyone can transfer college with low GPA scores if they know as much as possible about the admissions system. Trying to transfer to another college with a low GPA is nowhere near as difficult as you might think. It's even shown in the statistics that it's a much simpler process than most people realize.

What is the best GPA to transfer with? ›

A good transfer GPA is 3.8 (which is the average transfer GPA) and above. However, the minimum GPA is 2.5. The GPA requirement differs from college to college. Top tier colleges demand the average and above.

What GPA should a transfer student have? ›

The average GPA of admitted transfer students is above 3.5 and admitted students have completed most or all major preparatory courses. We give highest priority to applicants from California community colleges and other UC campuses.

Is a 3.7 GPA good in college for transfer? ›

Earning a 3.7 GPA indicates consistent academic achievement and means you can apply to just about any school with a good chance of being accepted (except for the Ivy League schools, but that's because there are no circumstances of guaranteed admission at Ivies).


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