I am currently a freshman and I'm thinking of taking 3 upper division math courses next semester: Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra 2, and Topology. However, I think that 3 math courses for credit would overwhelm me. I still would like to learn all 3 of them.

I was considering auditing Topology instead. I do plan to take the course again in my sophomore or Junior year for credit. Will this hurt my graduation school admissions?

  • I don't think it will make any difference when you get to grad school application time. A further thought: if you've already had abstract algebra 1 you probably won't find linear algebra very difficult. It's a place where students often first struggle with definitions and proofs and you've done that. Talk to your advisor. Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:45

5 Answers 5


I thought auditing was just sitting in on a class that you aren't taking? It's not on your transcript. So how the heck can anyone tell, that you audited before taking something?

Source: I audited classes and took classes for credit. Audits not on my records. Go check yours to be sure.

P.s. I personally don't see the point. If you are going to take a course (audit or paid), you should do best effort in it and take it once, unless you fail. If you know you're not doing it right, than don't audit. If you do it right, than no need to take it for credit--you mastered it, previously when auditing. So move on to the next battle.

  • 4
    Actually, auditing is often (usually?) an official designation that leaves a record. Universities aren't normally happy to have people just dropping in without knowing who they are. There are security and liability concerns. This isn't 1950 anymore. Official auditors show up on the professor's class roster.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 17:42
  • The class list =/= transcript. And the latter is what matters, here.
    – guest
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:18
  • 1
    Yes, but audits do show up on transcripts many places.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:20
  • 1
    Well, then cite those, specifically. That's relevant. See also what I already wrote. "I audited classes and took classes for credit. Audits not on my records. Go check yours to be sure." (Duh.)
    – guest
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 23:16

What is officially defined as "auditing" at your university? At mine, you could just sit in the classes and pay attention, and that was seen as auditing. If you actually wanted access to class resources, depending on the class and instructor, you could do so as well.

But auditing doesn't appear on your transcript, so I wouldn't worry about it.


It is impossible to say with certainty, but I doubt it. When I was a math student (half a century ago) there was a rumor going around that at some elite college(s), no student would dare to take an advanced course without first auditing it. It wasn't so much that the students were grade-happy, but that those courses were very challenging.

In fact, I think that auditing a course before taking it shows a certain amount of seriousness, provided that you do well overall.

Some universities will only show a course once on a transcript, so it is possible that the audit won't even appear.

There is actually a pedagogical effect that seeing something (a first look) before you delve deeply into it is a good thing for learning. If you are questioned about this you can bring up the "Spiral Pedagogical Pattern".


If there is a formal audit process for your university, then the course shows up on you transcript with AU where the grade should be. This is my personal opinion, but I feel like it shows initiative and planning ahead to audit a more complex course that you plan to take another year. I'm actually also trying to audit Topology my first semester of sophomore year! The course that made me look up this question was Intro to Real Analysis.


Sometimes an "audit" is just an informal agreement between the professor and a student to sit in the classroom during lectures and take notes and ask questions but not take quizzes or exams nor do any homework or projects or get any marks or feedback. I certainly audited several classes during my undergrad in the mid to late 90s this way. I also stopped showing up to those lectures as soon as it became too time consuming or the prep work was too much to keep up with.

Some universities may allow for a paid audit where less tuition is charged and everything is normal but no credit is given in the end. The upside for the student being that there's no pressure to pass and no ultimate grade assigned in the end on the transcript just an "audit" mark or nothing. I don't think I've ever seen one of these transcripts, but I don't review very many undergrad transcripts, ever.

I just found the official audit form for my undergrad university, and it didn't even allow for a transcript record and required full tuition for the course, so YMMV. So in the end, no, I agree with others, unless your university is weird or you go off the books and audit the course without telling your university registrar or paying (and don't get caught!!), your grad school application won't be affected. If you can, it's probably best to do the honest thing and pay for an official audit, but you have to choose your own ethics and settle that with the professor who is teaching. They will notice if there's an extra, unaccounted for student in the lectures!

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