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TYPES OF COURSES

Depending on your placement test scores, you may need to take extra courses to prepare for regular college courses. At some schools, these extra courses are mandatory; at other schools they are recommended but not required.

Transition Courses (also known as developmental or remedial courses)

Transition courses help students brush up on basic skills like reading, writing, and math so they will be prepared for college-level work.
There are some very important things to know about transition courses:

  • Most institutions do not offer credit towards a degree for these classes. You may, however, receive “institutional credit.” This means that the credits count towards your status (part-time or full-time) for financial aid or other requirements.
  • Developmental classes are not free. They may not be as expensive as classes that give credits for a degree but they will still cost money.
  • You can use your Pell Grant to pay for these classes, but be careful. You can apply for a Pell Grant every year, but you may not receive the grant every year. And, eventually the grant money will run out. You should try to use most of your Pell Grant on classes that get you credit towards a degree.
  • If you placed into the highest-level transition course, you should take it. Most students who enroll in the developmental courses they're supposed to take usually do better in college than those who don't.
  • If you are placed in the lowest-level transition class, you should consider looking into local adult education programs instead. You might be able to take a similar class for free or for much less money. These programs are located in the community or right on the campus. It's a good way to save some money because adult education programs generally offer free or low-fee classes. To find a program near you, contact your state Department of Education, Department of Labor, or Department of Workforce Education.

Credit-Bearing Courses

For each degree or certificate, you will need to accumulate a certain number of credits. This varies from college to college. At some colleges, you might need 60 credits to get an associate’s degree, at others you might need 96 credits. The course catalog will tell you how many credits you need for each degree, which classes are necessary for the degree, and how many credits each class is worth.
Each course you take will have a certain number of credits attached to it. The number of credits usually represents the number of in-class hours each week.  Here are some examples:

  • Math 101 is 3 credits. This means that you will most likely spend three hours a week in this math class.
  • Biology 210 + Lab is 4 credits. This means that the biology class is three hours long. The additional hour is spent in a biology laboratory working on experiments.

Sometimes you'll see one or more of these words in the course catalog next to a course: 

  • Mandatory (requisite) class - A class that is necessary in order to get your degree.
    Example: In order to get an Associate of Arts degree in business, you must take business math.
  • Prerequisite (prereq) class - A class that you must take first in order to take another class.
    Example: You need to take biology before you take anatomy, so biology is a prerequisite for anatomy.
  • Elective class - A class you can choose. The subject is not necessary for degree completion but its credits are. Most colleges offer elective courses to students so that they have an opportunity to take classes outside of their field of interest.
    Examples: A nursing student could take an art class as an elective class. Or a computer science student could take an English literature class.