College 101

College 101

The move from high school to college is huge…but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Knowing the basics will help you get ready for that next step.

Choosing a Major

At Michigan Tech, you apply directly to the major you’re most interested in. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind—in fact, most students change their major multiple times during their college career.

  • All engineering students take a common first-year course sequence. It’s generally quite easy to change from one engineering major to another, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time.
  • Select our General Engineering option if you know you’re interested in engineering but undecided about a specific major. You’ll take the same classes as someone who’s known since the second grade that she wants to be a chemical engineer.
  • If you are totally undecided on a major, select our General Sciences and Arts option. You will take general education courses required for all majors and will have access to an academic advisor who can help point you in the right direction.
  • Need some guidance? Check out MyPlan, a free career planning service offered by Michigan Tech’s Career Services.

What the Heck is a Credit Hour?

College credits are a lot different than those in your high school schedule. It sounds complicated, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

  • Each course has a credit value assigned to it. Generally, the number of credits is the amount of time (in hours) you will spend in class during the week for the 14-week semester. So a four-credit calculus course will meet for one hour, four days per week (or possibly two hours, two days per week).
  • Exceptions to this rule are labs which are usually one credit but scheduled for several hours one day a week, and co-curricular courses (aka physical education) which are a half-credit but meet for one hour, two days per week for half of the semester.
  • To be considered a full-time student, you need to enroll in a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. You must be a full-time student to receive scholarships and financial aid.
  • We recommend you take 12-15 credits per semester for your first year. Remember, you will have homework, group projects, and other responsibilities outside of class—you will be busy for more than the time you spend in the classroom.
  • The tuition you pay is a standard rate for anywhere between 12 and 18 credits. Learn more about our tuition structure.
  • Most of our degree programs require 128 credit hours of specific course work.

A minor typically averages 16 credits of additional course work.

Typical Class Schedule

You’ve heard it before—college is different than high school. Nowhere is this more true than in your class schedule.

  • Your classes are not held every day of the week. But each class will meet on the same days and times each week.
  • For example, some classes will meet Monday through Thursday (a four-credit class); Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (a three-credit class); Tuesday and Thursday (a three- or four-credit class), or just one day per week (a lab, co-curricular course, or one-credit class).
  • Taking a typical schedule of 12-15 credits per semester will give you time between classes to study, head to a learning center, work on group assignments, nap, eat, check your email, visit with friends…you get the idea.
  • Manage your time! Plan to spend two hours studying outside of class for every hour you spend in class. College is serious business (and you’re paying for it), but make time for fun stuff too—everyone needs a break!

Scheduling Classes

How your class schedule is created is different depending on your major at Michigan Tech. We make it easy and you will have the classes you need for your first semester here.

  • All incoming students are required to take the online ALEKS Math Placement Assessment. Your initial math course is critical to your course sequence and degree completion. Starting in a math course that is too low for your academic ability may increase your time to graduate to a minimum of 10 semesters (5 years) and result in additional tuition fees down the road. Details about the placement assessment will be emailed to you.
  • Online course registration for the fall semester is available to first-year students majoring in non-engineering programs. The registration period will be open for two weeks in June. Detailed instructions will be mailed to you in May. Your schedule may change at a later date if you receive transfer or AP/IB/CLEP credit.
  • If you are a first-year student in the College of Engineering, your fall-semester schedule will be prepared for you by the Registrar’s Office in mid-July. Engineering students are scheduled into cohorts (groups of students who take the same courses together) based on major, ALEKS Math Placement Test results, and AP/IB or transfer credit received.
  • All students will register for classes using the online registration system following their first semester at Michigan Tech.

Your registration time will be determined by the number of credits you have earned (successfully completed)—students who have earned more credits will register earlier than those who have earned fewer credits.

Terms to Know

  • Undergraduate student: a student enrolled in college to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree following high school graduation or completion of the GED.
  • Graduate student: a college student who already has earned a bachelor’s degree and is working toward earning a master’s degree (ie. MS, MA, MBA) or doctor of philosophy (PhD) program.
  • First-year student: a student enrolling in college for the first time following high school graduation (or completion of the GED). Even if you took dual-enrollment or PSEO courses at college during high school, or have loads of AP or IB credit, you are considered a first-year student if this is your first college enrollment following your high school graduation.
  • Transfer student: a student who has been enrolled in college following high school graduation (or completion of the GED) and is considering changing colleges to complete his or her degree.
  • Associate’s Degree: a degree which can typically be completed in two years. Michigan Tech offers an Associate’s degree in humanities.
  • Bachelor’s Degree (BS, BA): also called a baccalaureate degree, this is a degree that can traditionally be completed in eight semesters (approximately four years) of study. Most Michigan Tech students take four to six years to complete their degree.
  • Master’s Degree (MA, MS, MBA): generally the next step following completion of a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree typically requires a minimum of 30 credits beyond a bachelor’s degree. Completion of a thesis or research may also be required.
  • Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD): Earning a PhD typically requires a minimum of 30 credits beyond a master’s degree.

General Education

General Education is an important and required component of every Michigan Tech degree. Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission requires that general education “imparts broad knowledge and intellectual concepts to students and develop skills and attitudes that the institution believes every college-educated person should possess.” At Michigan Tech, the General Education program enables all students, regardless of major, to develop an understanding of science and the social and cultural contexts of our contemporary world.

The General Education curriculum consists of the following requirements:

  • Four core courses (12 credits)
  • Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS)/Distribution requirement (12 credits)
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) requirement (16 credits)
  • Cocurricular activities (3 semester units, typically 6 half-credit classes)

Electives

Electives are courses you can choose to fulfill degree requirements for your major. You will choose some electives from lists to meet general education requirements or technical requirements for your degree. Free electives are typically any course of interest to you. Some majors have limited free electives, while others leave you with greater flexibility. Electives may be used to meet degree requirements and/or be applied toward credits required for a minor or certificate.