The College Transition

College students meeting.

The move from high school to college can feel overwhelming. Knowing the basics will help you prepare for the transition.

Choosing a Major

At Michigan Tech, you apply directly to the major you're most interested in. This doesn't mean 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.
  • If you've narrowed down your search to an area of interest, but are undecided about which specific major to choose, select one of our interest-focused general programs. With any of these, you'll take the same classes as any other first-year students on campus.
  • If you are totally undecided on a major, select our Undeclared: Exploring Majors program. 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 direction that's right for you.

Understanding Credit Hours

College credits are a lot different than those in your high school schedule. 

  • 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 4-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 1 credit, but are 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. 
  • Most of our degree programs require 128 credit hours of specific coursework. A minor typically averages 18 credits of additional coursework.

Typical Class Schedule

College is different than high school—you've heard this before. Nowhere is this more true than in your class schedule.

  • While your classes are not held every day of the week, each class will meet on the same day(s) and time(s) each week.
    • For example, some classes will meet Monday through Thursday (a 4-credit class); Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (a 3-credit class); Tuesday and Thursday (a 3- or 4-credit class), or just one day per week (a lab, co-curricular course, or 1-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 at a job or on group assignments, nap, eat, check your email, visit with friends . . . you get the idea.
  • Manage your time! Plan to spend two or three hours studying outside of class for every hour you spend in class. College is serious business (and you're paying for it), but mental health and well-being is critical to your success. Be sure you connect well, recharge well, live well, and play well.

Scheduling Classes

We make it easy and guarantee will have the classes you need for your first semester here.

  • Your first fall semester schedule will be prepared for you by the Registrar's Office in mid-July, so there's no need to worry about creating your own schedule.
  • Engineering students are scheduled into cohorts (groups of students who take the same courses together) based on major, ACT/SAT math score, AP/IB or transfer credit received, or ALEKS math placement result.
  • Your initial math course is critical to your course sequence and degree completion. Starting in a math course too low for your academic ability may increase your time to graduate to a minimum of 10 semesters (five years), likely resulting in additional tuition and expenses.

    Once you've been accepted to Michigan Tech, we will place you in your first math course based on your highest ACT or SAT math score we have on file, or AP, IB, CLEP, or college credit for an equivalent math course. If you feel this placement is correct, you're all set. If you feel this placement is incorrect, you may challenge your placement by taking the online ALEKS math placement assessment.

    If you do not have ACT, SAT, AP, IB, or CLEP scores, or a grade of C or higher in an equivalent college-level math course, you will need to take the ALEKS math placement assessment.
  • 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 with more credits earned will register earlier than those with fewer credits earned.

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 (or equivalent).
  • Graduate student: A college student who already earned a bachelor's degree and is working toward earning a master's degree (i.e., MS, MA, MBA) or doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree.
  • First-year student: A student enrolling in college for the first time following high school graduation (or completion of the GED or equivalent exam). Even if you took dual enrollment or PSEO courses at college during high school, or have significant 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 enrolled in college following high school graduation (or completion of the GED or equivalent exam) and is considering changing colleges to complete his or her degree.
  • Associate's Degree: A degree typically completed in two years. Michigan Tech offers an Associate of Arts (AA) in Humanities.
  • Bachelor's Degree (BS, BA): Also called a baccalaureate degree, this is a degree traditionally completed in eight semesters (approximately four years) of study. Most Michigan Tech students take four to six years to complete their bachelor's 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 develops skills and attitudes 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 (15 credits)
  • Co-curricular activities (three semester units, typically 6 half-credit classes)


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 give you greater flexibility. Electives may be used to meet degree requirements and/or be applied toward credits required for a minor.