The Difference Between Clock Hours and Credit Hours
All F-1 and M-1 students are required to enroll in a full course of study. A full course of study is defined by a total number of clock hours or credit hours a student must enroll in during a week or an academic session.
Clock hours are the total number of actual hours per week a student spends attending class or other instructional activities that count toward completing a program of study.
Most M-1 programs and F-1 English-as-a-Second-Language programs use clock hours per week. To fulfill the full course of study requirement, students in these programs must meet for at least 18 clock hours per week if the majority of their time is spent in the classroom, or 22 clock hours per week for programs where the majority of instruction is more like laboratory work. Attendance is particularly important in programs that use clock hours, as you cannot fulfill the clock hour requirements for a full course of study unless you participate in instruction.
The phrase “credit hours” refers to the number of credits a student receives for enrolling in (and successfully completing) a given course. Usually, students need to complete a certain number of credits to successfully complete a program of study. Credit hours do not directly reflect the total number of hours per week a student spends in class and instead reflect each course’s workload.
Most F-1 students who attend a U.S. college or university rely on credit hours to fulfill the full course of study requirement. The school’s registrar’s office typically allots the total number of credit hours for given courses based on how often classes are held and the amount of outside work needed for a student to successfully complete the course. For example, a three-credit course may only meet two or three times a week and have a few large assignments due throughout the academic term, while a four credit course may meet more often and have assignments due regularly.
Remaining enrolled in a certain number of credit hours each term is particularly important in programs that use credit hours, as students need to successfully complete a certain number of credit hours in order to meet the full course of study requirement.
Have more questions about what constitutes a full course of study?
Contact your designated school official (DSO). Your DSO will be able to help you determine if your program uses clock or credit hours and can ensure that you properly maintain your student status.
For more information about the full course of study requirement, please visit the full course of study resource page on Study in the States.