The Path to Graduating in 4 Years

Many students start college with a goal to complete their degree in four years. At UNLV, we talk a lot about “15 to finish,” to help students understand how their degree can be broken down by semester. The term “15 to finish” refers to taking 15 credits per semester (each Fall & Spring) in order to achieve graduation in 4 years. Another way to look at it, would be 30 credits per year, if a student decides to utilize summer to reduce their fall and spring credit amounts!

How many total credits are needed?

To complete their degree of study, students must achieve 120 credits, which are divided between General Education requirements, their chosen Major of study, and electives.  Often students group their elective classes into one area of interest, which can be a Minor area of study.

How many credits per semester are needed?

15 credits per semester breaks down to 5 classes (on average) each semester. Some students choose to take fewer than 15 credits in Fall or Spring, which lengthens the amount of time needed to achieve the total credits for graduation, unless they utilize summer to reach 30 credits per year. Taking longer than 4 years in college is not a failure, but it does require careful financial planning to budget for the overall cost of additional semesters. If a student takes 12 credits per semester, for example, they will finish in 10 semesters, which is 5 years on a traditional Fall/Spring schedule.

How do students figure out which classes to take?

Each Major has specific requirements within the 120 credits. For this reason, we strongly recommend that students meet with their academic advisor at least once per semester to be sure they are taking classes that keep them on track to graduate.

Have a discussion with your student about the course load they can handle. For some students, 5 classes is too much for one semester, and they find 4 classes to be more manageable. Before making any decisions about how many credits to take, encourage your student to make an academic advising appointment and check with their Financial Aid counselor regarding the requirements for any aid they are receiving.  

Summer Term – a great option to stay on track

If your student is taking less than 15 credits in fall or spring, a summer class is an excellent opportunity to make-up the missed credits. Or if your student did take 15 credits and would like to get ahead, a summer class is a great opportunity to achieve additional credits.

Summer Term is divided into 3 sessions. That means, a semester-long class is consolidated into a shorter time period (generally 5 weeks, depending on the session).  The classes move at a fast pace and typically meet five times per week.

Encourage your student to make an appointment with their academic advisor and a financial aid counselor to talk about Summer class options and fees. The class options and more information are available online:

2020 UNLV Summer Term Registration starts: March 16, 2020 ; classes fill-up quickly

Summer Housing in the Residence Halls is available. Please contact Residential Life via email:

Talk with your student about the feasibility, as well as their motivation for completing a class over the summer. It’s a great way to achieve the credits, but they need to be prepared for the extra time commitment it takes to complete the assignments at a fast pace.

Special thanks to the Provost’s team and Summer Term for their collaboration on this the article.

Students studying on Pida Plaza at UNLV

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