So I get that most people take 100% course load which for my school is 5 courses a semester, I know some people take lower course load and only take 4 courses per semester but end up taking 5 years in total to get their degree as opposed to 4.

My question is does someone who take 5 years to complete undergrad studies(because of lower course load) at any disadvantages to someone who took 4 years to complete their undergrad? Graduate admission for example, does it look bad if you took more than 4 years to get your degree?

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    I think if there is a good reason, such as working to pay for school, it would not be an issue. This could be addressed in 1 or two lines in the SOP. That being said, if all other metrics are equal between two candidates (GPA, research), it will probably look worse.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 23:57
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    At many schools in the US, it is extremely rare for a student to finish in 4 years. For example, Cal State Fullerton graduates 16.5% of its students in 4 years, 51% in 6 years. In any case, why in the world would an admissions committee care how many years you took?? This probably depends a lot on local factors. For example, students at state schools in California often simply can't get a seat in the classes they need, so they take longer to graduate.
    – user1482
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 5:23

1 Answer 1


It's fine to spread things out a bit. You might consider taking a gen ed requirement over the winter term, and some summer classes, to avoid extending things too much.

Taking a reasonable credit load per semester shows maturity. It also helps prevent burnout.

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