Determining course load

How many courses should you take each term?

Course planning for the Fall/Winter term:

The fall/winter (FW) session is made up of two four-month terms. You may be registering in some half-credit courses from September to December, which is the Fall (FA) term, and you may have some half-credit courses from January to April, which is the Winter (WI) term. New students are allowed to take a maximum of 5.0 credits from September to April (the FW session): 2.5 credits in the fall term (FA) and 2.5 credits in the winter term (WI). Some courses are worth a full credit ("Y"= 1.0 credit), while others are worth a half credit ("H" = 0.5 credit). For example, HIST 1500Y is worth 1.0 credit and spans the entire fall/winter (FW) session, while PHIL 1000H is worth 0.5 credit and is offered in the fall term (FA) and spans one term only.

In summary, new students can take up to 5 courses in the fall term and 5 courses in the winter term. See the image below for an example of what your term could look like.

image of 5.0 credits fitting into the two FW terms. In the fall term the student has planned HIST 1500Y, PSYC 1020H, ENGL 1001H, PHIL 1000H, and FRSC 1010H.  In the winter term the student has planned HIST 1500Y, PSYC 1030H, ENGL 1003H, PHIL 1200H, and BIOL 1030H.

Here is a worksheet to help you plan.

You may want to consider various factors when determining your course load.

Once you know how many courses you want to take you can start choosing your courses.


Course planning for the Summer term:

The summer (SU) session is a separate academic session containing two six-week terms from May to the end of July. 
New students starting in the summer may take a maximum of 2.0 credits from May to the end of July (the SU session) with a maximum of 1.0 credit in the first summer term (S61) and 1.0 in the second summer term (S62).

More information on summer term dates and course offerings can be found on the summer website.


Academic status is determined at the end of both the fall/winter term and the summer term.

For more information about academic status please refer to the academic policies section of the Academic Calendar.


Determining your course load:

Information to think about when determining how many courses to take or when dropping courses:

  • Timing within the term: When is the change in course load being considered? Is it before the drop deadline? When is the course add deadline for this term? Deadlines can be found in the Academic Calendar under “Important Dates”– and can also be found on the important dates website. If you want to reduce your course load after the drop deadline then speak to an academic advisor.

  • Timing of your degree plan: An honours degree is often referred to as the 4-year degree because students generally take 5.0 credits (5 courses in the fall and 5 in the winter term) each academic year, for four years to make up the required 20.0 credits.  If you are reducing your course load you will have to make decisions about how this will impact your overall academic plan – when will you make up that credit (or half credit etc.)? There are options for taking additional courses over the summer, on overload, or to add extra terms.  Some students plan their entire degree to be completed on a part-time basis. The important piece here is to make a plan for the course load that would work for you. Academic planning tools can be used to make a plan for your degree.

  • Funding agreements: Scholarships, OSAP, band funding and other sources of funding often have course load requirements which should be reviewed with the source of the funding before making decisions on required course load. You should review these limits with the funding source that you are using. 

  • Upper year pre-requisites: It is important to review your remaining course requirements in the Academic Calendar. Do any upper year mandatory courses that you were planning to take next year need the course that you are dropping? Can you make a plan for how you are going to complete the remainder of your degree requirements and electives?

  • Study permit: Before dropping a course international students need to consider the rules governing their study permit. Appointments can be made with the Trent International Advisor to learn more about the rules and restrictions of study permits.

  • Accommodations: Some students have accommodations for course load and so have different limits that apply to their personal situation.  It is always best to review how your accommodations would best fit with your academic plan with your student accessibility coach.

  • Other obligations that require your time: Whether you have just signed up for more hours at work or are managing new family responsibilities, each student needs to make decisions about their course load to balance all aspects of their lifestyle. It is important to review all the considerations above when determining the course load that will be best for you.