Counting Credits

Learning to read your DAR goes a long way toward keeping you on track with your academic progress at Hofstra. However, for as helpful as a DAR can be, it’s also important to check in with a human being (your advisement dean, the assistant chair for advisement, or your faculty advisor) to double-check and make sure you understand your requirements.

One of the trickiest things to understand from your DAR is the number of credits you need and the kinds of courses to satisfy them. Of course, there are other great sources of info to guide you (our Advising Worksheet, the CUA site). Still, my big pet peeve about the DAR is that it’s hard to track all of the different kinds of credits you need. The better you guys understand it, the fewer problems you’ll encounter, and the easier this advising gig becomes. So, for both selfish and selfless reasons, here’s my best attempt at explaining the number of credits you need.

The Psychology BA requires 124 credits overall, broken down like this:

9 Credits of Humanities +
9 Credits of Natural Sciences +
9 Credits of Social sciences +
3 Credits of Cross Cultural +
3 Credits of Interdisciplinary +
6 Credits of English – Composition +
12 Credits of Foreign Language or the Special Language Option
 = Prescribed HCLAS Total = 51

Add to that…

45 (maximum) to 33 (minimum) Credits for the Psychology Major Courses (PSY 1, 40, 141, 19X = 15 credits + 9 credits of “Essentials” + 9 credits of “Specialty/Applied Electives” = 33 minimum to fulfill all psych major requirements)

Total HCLAS + Psych Requirements = 96 (max) to 84 (min) credits

Here’s the surprisingly tricky part: 

Fulfilling ALL of these specific requirements still leaves you  24 to 40 credits that have absolutely no prescription to follow, except that THEY CAN’T BE PSYCHOLOGY COURSES ONCE THE 45 CREDIT LIMIT IS REACHED. (Why am I yelling all of a sudden?)  We could call these “free electives,” but because they’re not cheap, I’m going to call them “Non-Psych Electives.” (I would call them “Mystery Electives,” to capture how exciting they are, except that that makes me think of mystery flavor dum dums. Whereas the cruel hand of fate determines which mystery dum dum you get, YOU have a lot of control over what these classes will be.)

My point is that after diligently checking requirements off the DAR list, most of you still need 24-40 Non-Psych Elective Credits, and those of you who tested out of some or all of the language requirement (i.e., you didn’t get course credits, but you don’t have to spend 12 hours studying languages) have more like 36-52 Non-Psych Elective Credits to fill.  That sounds like a lot, and it is. But it’s not a bad thing–it’s an opportunity.

So, what are you going to do with your Non-Psych Elective Credits?

These Non-Psych Elective Credits can be fulfilled with practically ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF PSYCH. (Again with the yelling…) Only 8 of these credits can come from PE skill classes, and there are rules about how many must be completed in residence at Hofstra. For some students, a second major, one or more minors, or following health professions requirements fills up these credits. For others, having transferred or changed majors from another program to Psychology means that you’ve already taken several non-psych courses beyond the distribution requirements.

But for the students who become Psychology majors relatively early and don’t have second majors, minors, or other prescriptions to follow, there is a LOT of room to fill with random stuff. By “random stuff,” I mean “fantastic opportunities to explore other subjects and broaden your horizons.” I encourage you to think about how you can mix in some Non-Psych Elective Courses  in ways that enhance your college experience and help you complete the education you came to Hofstra to get. Find courses that complement psych (e.g., Neuroscience, Marketing, Sociology) or help you build up another skill set (e.g., Legal Studies, Business, Community Health). And don’t forget to try things that add some balance and, dare I say, fun to your schedule (e.g., Ballroom Dancing, Tai Chi, Photography, Ceramics).  If you have the pre-reqs for it, you can probably take it, but be sure to consult with the relevant department if you’re considering adding a double-major or minor.

The bottom line…

Ignoring the number of credits you need from different types of courses can lead to some all-too-common, but totally preventable problems. Although they make advising more exciting, I want to help you avoid these problems.

  • PACE YOURSELF!  Try to fight the urge to cram all of your psych requirements into your first (or last) couple of years at Hofstra. This can be fine, but it’s usually better to spread things out and not take too much Psych too soon (when your study skills, career goals, and interests within the field are less developed) or too late (when you’re scrambling to fit things together to graduate on time). Mix in some Non-Psych Electives along the way, and check in with advisors early and often to prevent problems.
  • COUNT YOUR PSYCH CREDITS!  How many have you earned? How many more are required? One of the biggest problems is accidentally going over the 45 credit maximum for one department. Once you go over, the credits stop counting, and the total number you need goes higher and higher beyond 124. This happens, and the students live to tell the tale (and graduate), but it’s an expensive, frustrating mistake.  Meeting with an advisor to double-check your credit counts can help ensure that you stay on track.
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