Converting Quarter Hours to Semester Hours

PTK Scholarships -

"What is a credit hour?"
"What is a 'college-level' credit hour?"
"How can I convert my quarter hours to semester hours for inclusion on the PTK Scholarship application?"

These and other questions answered here!

In the United States, students enrolled in a college operating on the semester system generally receive credit hours based on the number of "contact hours" per week in class, for one semester: better known as semester credit hours.  The International Affairs Office of the U.S. Department of Education offers the following definition:  “Semester Calendar Credit Hours.  Most U.S. higher education institutions operate on an academic year divided into two equal semesters of 15-16 weeks’ duration, with a winter break of 2-3 weeks and a summer session of 10-12 weeks, plus additional shorter breaks.  The actual amount of academic work that goes into a single semester credit hour is often calculated as follows:

  • One lecture (taught) or seminar (discussion) credit hour represents 1 hour per week of scheduled class/seminar time and 2 hours of student preparation time.  Most lecture and seminar courses are awarded 3 credit hours.  Over an entire semester, this formula represents at least 45 hours of class time and 90 hours of student preparation.

What this means is that typically a course is worth 3 or 4 credit hours (example, HI 4193 (US Environmental History) is a 3 credit hour course).

When the Phi Theta Kappa scholarship application asks about completed credit hours, this is the definition you should use.  Your transcript will typically offer this information by course (see screen shot above).

Sometimes it is necessary to remove some coursework from the transcript when calculating total number of credits completed.  This is done to look at only the “college-level” coursework (credit hours).  When Phi Theta Kappa scholarship applications reference “college-level” credit hours, we are referring to those courses that your college deems to be above the remedial or developmental level (i.e., MAT 1001 as opposed to MAT 0099).  Students who have taken English as a Second Language (ESL) coursework need to also remove those courses from the coursework total, even though they are not typically considered to be remedial or developmental.  Judges are interested in the total body of work, not just the courses required for graduation, your degree or your transfer, so all college-level coursework counts!

The Phi Theta Kappa scholarship applications are built on “semester” credit hours.  Realizing that some colleges operate on a quarter system as opposed to a semester system, we offer the following chart so that quarterly students can convert their college-level credit hours to semester college-level credit hours for consideration.  Looking at the chart below, you can see that each quarter hour is equal to roughly two-thirds of a semester hour.  To fully calculate your semester hours, divide your total number of quarter hours by 1.5.




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