Course Load and Credit Hours

Credit Load Definition

For undergraduate courses as well as most graduate courses, a semester hour of credit typically represents at least three hours of work each week (60-minute hours), on average, for a 14-15 week semester, or the equivalent amount of instruction during a 5-week Wintersession. In lecture/discussion courses requiring outside preparation, one hour of credit represents one hour of work each week of the term in class, and two hours of work outside class. In studio/laboratory courses, one hour of credit represents three hours of time in the studio/laboratory and home space each week of the term. Three credit studio classes generally meet in-class for five hours per week, and Foundation studio classes meet 7.5 hours per week.

Courses and credits are approved by Department Heads and Divisional Deans, then by the College Curriculum Committee or Wintersession Curriculum Committee as needed and called for by the rules of the Committee. The Deans, Department Heads, and applicable Curriculum Committee are responsible for ensuring accurate and reliable application of credit hour policies.


Academic Year and Course/Credit Load

For most students, the academic year consists of two semesters (Fall and Spring), and a mandatory Wintersession term. The normal credit load is 12 to 15 credits per semester, and 3 credits during Wintersession.Twelve (12) credits per semester is the minimum requirement for full-time enrollment.

Registering for less than 12 credits in a semester (and less than 3 credits in Wintersession) is not permitted. Students who do not attempt at least 12 credits in a semester (or 3 credits during Wintersession) will be placed on academic probation and run the risk of jeopardizing their financial aid.

International students on an F-1 Visa must enroll in at least 12 credits (and 3 credits in Wintersession) to maintain their visa status. Any internships done in the United States must be credit bearing and require Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization. Please see the Office of International Student Services for more information.

Requests to enroll for less than 12 credits (referred to as “reduced load”) are considered according to the policy described in the section entitled “Full-time Enrollment Requirement” in the Registration Policies. Requests for reduced load must be made in writing to the Academic Standing Committee using the ‘Request for Exception to Academic Policy’ form and submitted to the Registrar’s Office no later than one month prior to the start of classes. Refer to the next section “Maximum Semester and Wintersession Term Credits” for the policy on maximum semester credits.

Undergraduate students may take credit bearing courses at RISD in the Summer under limited circumstances. These circumstances include internships (for which registration is completed prior to beginning the internship), Summer Travel courses through RISD Global, and enrollment in the Summer Experimental & Foundation Studies Program, which offers up to nine credits to incoming students, as well as continuing students, seeking to make up coursework in Foundation Studies. RISD Continuing Education offers credit bearing courses. Refer to the “Other Programs” section for more information.

Graduate students may take credit bearing courses at RISD in the Summer under limited circumstances. These circumstances include internships (for which registration is completed prior to beginning the internship), Summer Travel courses through RISD Global, and enrollment in the Summer Experimental & Foundation Studies Program which offers up to nine credits to incoming graduate students seeking to make up coursework in Foundation Studies to meet a condition of admission. In addition, select graduate programs have Summer credit requirements, such as the MLA in Landscape Architecture, the MAT program in Art Education, the MDes program in Interior Studies (Adaptive Reuse), and the MA in Interior Architecture.

Maximum Semester/Wintersession Term Credits

The normal credit load is 12-15 credits per semester, and 3 credits in the Wintersession term. The maximum credit load for Fall and Spring semesters is 16 credits and 6 credits during Wintersession. The semester credit limit includes any courses taken simultaneously at another institution, including Brown University.

During Fall and Spring, students wishing to exceed this maximum should use the ‘Request for Exception to Academic Policy’ form, available from the Registrar’s Office to seek approval from their Department Head and Academic Advisor. During Fall and Spring Semester, students may not exceed 18 credits. Exceptions must be received by the Registrar’s Office by the Add/Drop deadline.

During Wintersession, no exceptions to the 6 credit maximum rule are allowed. For information on Summer, refer to “Academic Year and Course Credit Load” in the Academic Policies section which follows.