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Credit Overview

An Overview of Credit, Course Loads, and PE

At Swarthmore, we use the “semester course credit” system of credit where the typical course earns you one credit toward our 32-credit requirement for the Bachelors degree. (As a comparison to schools on the semester hour system, one Swarthmore credit is equivalent to four semester hours elsewhere.)

The normal load of credits at Swarthmore is four to five per semester. Some courses earn more and some less than one credit, more on this below. Eights semesters of 4 credits will be 32 credits, your degree. Some variation in load is allowed, but fewer than 4 full-credit courses in one semester would require special permission, and is generally not appropriate for first semester students in any case.

Swarthmore also has a Physical Education (PE) graduation requirement. By the end of your sophomore year, you must complete the swim requirement and complete four PE units. PE units never appear on your academic transcript and they do not carry academic credit toward the 32-credit degree requirement.

You are required to complete the swim test and 4 PE units by the end of your sophomore year. The requirement is easy to fulfill. Complete on average one PE unit per semester, and you will be done by the end of sophomore year. 

More information about PE Requirements.

Academic Courses

“Four courses” means four courses of at least one credit each. You need four 1.0 or 1.5 courses, plus PE, and plus any optional half credit Music and Dance courses.

While most academic courses at Swarthmore are one credit, some are more and others are less. Introductory language courses are 1.5 credits each. For the purposes of “Four Courses plus PE or PE Dance” please think of a language course that earn 1.5 credits as “one” course, and normally expect to take four of them. However, if you are considering taking more than one course worth 1.5 credits, then you should be sure to discuss this plan with your academic advisor and a dean.

Performance Music and Dance, and Music 48 lessons, earn half a credit, and should be thought of as great additions to your schedule, but not as substitute combinational building blocks for full-credit courses when you build your semester of “Four Courses plus PE or PE Dance.” Any half credit Music and Dance courses should be over and above the normal four courses.

Dance Can Be Either But Not Both

Dance performance courses can be taken for either academic credit counting toward the 32-credit degree requirement, or for PE units and no academic credit (never for both academic and PE credit). PE Dance courses usually count for 2 PE units. Both kinds of Dance courses are in the Schedule and you register for either like any other course.