Do College Credits Expire? | Best Answers

You may have completed college for some years now and you’re beginning to ask yourself – do college credits expire? No, College Credits don’t expire. However, you may encounter challenges when you decide to use these credits in the nearest future. Thus prompting the questions – how long are college credit good for? how long do college actually credit last?

These questions will naturally lead to other questions that would branch into fresh discussions. We are here to answer all these questions as well as discuss these consequent discussions. In fact, that is what this post is about.

Now, let’s regress a little to the basics. You’ve probably heard someone say, oh yes, your college credits can last for as long as possible and it clicks instantly. You know what college credit is! Some other people may find the subject entirely new, however.

Some others may have forgotten entirely what it was even though they actually went to college at some point and got some credits. Therefore, we really need to ask:

What is College Credit?

College credits are simply the grades you got from all those times you spent in class or online for a course, without which graduation would be impossible. The explanation is not as simple as this, however.

To really understand college credit, you have to understand credit hours and their workings.

A credit hour is what characterizes your tertiary education. Hence, one credit hour implies that you have one hour of class instruction per week over the course of a semester (or 15 weeks).

In some cases, there is an addition of 2 hours of practical, out-of-classroom work, such as lab time, adding to this.

So you see, many schools prefer to go with 3 credits for majors, implying that you attend class 3 times a week for an hour. It can also mean, however, that you attend classes for that course twice a week for 90 minutes.

The beautiful thing is that all these credit hours for individual courses add up to a total number which determines the total credit achievable.

This means that to graduate, there is an average number of college credits you need to successfully complete.

The way it works in most schools, you have to make about 64 Credits to complete a 2-year associate’s degree and up to 120 credits for a 4-year degree.

Why Worry Whether College Credits Expire?

You don’t wake up one morning and start worrying about whether college credits expire. No, something must have prompted it. For most people, it is the idea of continuing education after graduating a long time ago.

For other people, it is resuming a course they stopped some time ago due to circumstances or a personal decision. Thus, the rational thing to do in this case is to transfer their old college credits to a new institution.

According to The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the enrollment rates for adult learners are increasing at a faster rate than “traditional students.” Adult learners here refer to adults aged 25 and above, whereas, traditional students are adults below 25 years of age.

Between 2004 and 2014, the enrollment of traditional students was higher than the enrollment of adult learners. However, NCES projects that adult learner enrollment will increase by 18% through 2025, compared to a 13% increase among traditional students. Besides in 2016, approximately a quarter of all students in higher education institutions were over age 30.

NCES’ report is enough evidence that many adult learners are now choosing to go back to college to continue their education. Therefore, if you fall into this category, you’ll surely want to know if you can still use credits you’ve earned in the past, or do you have to start from scratch?

But before you decide on any of this, you may be wondering:

How Do I Check my College Credits?

Checking or knowing your college credit is not much of a hard job. One of the best ways to do this is by contacting your school, or schools, where you successfully graduated from.

Get in touch with the registrar at your school and verify the procedure they follow. For most schools, you can complete this online. Some programs even may fax or e-fax your transcript in addition.

However, in some instances, you’ll need a written transcript. If this turns out to be your case, simply copy/paste the template below into a word doc and send to your school:

Written Transcript Template

<Name of School>
<School Address>

Date: 00/00/0000 (Month/Day/Year)

To Whom It May Concern,

Please process my request for a copy of my full transcript. I have enclosed the $00 processing fee that is required by the school. To help locate my records, I attended <school name> from [start year] to [end year]. My Social Security number is 123-45-6789 and my student ID number was 128987.

Please mail (or email) the transcript to the address as indicated below:
<Name of Recipient>
<Mailing Address> or <Email Address>

Thanking you in advance for your prompt assistance.

Yours truly,
John Smith

You should ensure to send using a certified mail so you can validate if and when your request was received. Also, the reason for requesting college credit is mainly when you’re transferring to a new school.

Therefore, if you already know where you are transferring, be sure to ask your new school how they prefer to receive your transcripts. Also, include this information in your letter (if applicable).

How Long Do College Credits Last?

Since the answer to the question – do college credits expire – is no, it thus follows that college credit can last till eternity. In other words, you can dust up all your college credits and decide to use them to advance your study, or transfer them to a new school.

However, there are instances where it would seem like your college credits have expired. These situations which render your college credit ineffective and useless include:

The relevance of Existing Credits

Although you have acquired a lot of credits, you may not be able to use or transfer all of them. You have to ask yourself, “Are my old credits relevant to the new course or the one I’m transferring to?”

For example, if you decide to move from a humanities program to a psychology program, you may be unable to use your old college credits. The same is also true when you’re transferring from a math and science program to a business program.

In either of these cases, you’ll find that your older courses aren’t relevant to your new degree program. Therefore, there will be a need for you to first check which of your old courses will be relevant to your new program before applying for it.

Speak with the admissions office and find out which of your credits are relevant, to save you the disappointment that may arise from transferring college credits.

How Long your Credits Have Stayed

Old knowledge is evolving and new knowledge is born on a regular basis. Before asking the “do college credits expire?” question, you have to first confirm if the knowledge you gained is still relevant. Ask yourself this question;

“Is the information I learned when I first took my credit course still valid or has it changed?”

Colleges do their best to make sure their graduates possess current knowledge. Therefore, they update their students on relevant information, theories, and practices that’ll help them succeed in their field.

The reason for this is that if your credits were earned more than 10 years ago, they may be seen as less relevant than those earned in more recent years.

Furthermore, they may not be eligible to transfer, depending on your school.

It is no trick that you can transfer some specific courses no matter the discipline. These courses are called General Education (Gen Ed) and they include courses like Maths, Basic Science, and English Language.

Gen Ed may be eligible to transfer regardless of age as they do not entirely cover specific industry practices.

However, fields like science, nursing, or engineering rely on constantly changing information and technologies. For these ones, you may have trouble transferring credits earned 10 years or longer.

Nonetheless, some institutions may consider offering you college credit for real-world experience.

We will keep emphasizing attending an accredited educational institution. This is because the pros outweigh the cons. Now, accreditation is coming into play again.

You may have a problem transferring your credits if your former college has no accreditation. Credits from a non-accredited school may be less likely to transfer (or may not be eligible at all).

Additionally, your previous school’s accreditation status at the time you earned your credits is important and the institution’s policy will determine if their courses are transferable.

Furthermore, the fact that a degree program is accredited does not guarantee the transfer eligibility of the credit.

This matter may be difficult for you to understand or navigate alone, therefore you may need to speak with the academic director of your new program. Ask questions for clarification, so as to know specifically what courses you can transfer.

Transferring College Credits

As explained earlier, transferring college credits is one of the reasons why people ask the question, “do college credits expire?”

It is when you decide to pick up a program you’ve dropped a long time ago to start somewhere else that you begin to ask, “how long do college credits last?”

These questions have been answered, however. Therefore, we’ll proceed to answer the new questions arising from transferring college credits.

Various classes of students transfer credits. Transferring college credits thus depends on your reason for transferring. In this vein, military service members looking to get back into the civilian workforce may transfer credits.

Also, students looking to study abroad as international students may transfer credit, as well as people who started their degrees years ago and didn’t finish.

Furthermore, some professions require their professionals to regularly update their knowledge.

Therefore, working professionals who are pursuing new certifications or advanced degrees to apply to their work experience may also transfer credits.

However, if for any reason you’re transferring credits, you have to confirm that the new university is flexible enough to accept your credits. Most importantly, contact your course/program adviser and let them guide you.

How to Transfer Credits

Transferring credits may vary school by school. The guidelines for transferring credit in one school will surely not be the same guidelines for another school.

However, have it in mind that you may have to do the following even before communicating with your adviser or admissions officer.

  • Early Sending of Transcript to New School
  • Take Tests to Boost Previous Experience
  • Job Experience
  • Transferring credits from abroad
  • Transferring credits to and from an online degree

#1 Early Sending of Transcript to New School

Transcript partly solves the problem of determining relevant courses. It is how your school will evaluate whether the courses you’ve already taken apply to the outcome of your new degree. Also, If you’re an international student, you may be required to translate your transcripts into English.

#2 Take Tests to Boost Previous Experience

Sometimes, your transferring to a new school is not only dependent on your college credits. You will do well to take tests to prove your knowledge of a prerequisite course. There are a couple of these tests around, even though they are not free.

Colorado Technical University, for example, offers the CTU Fast Track program. This is a set of exams that provides students the opportunity to earn credit for what they already know from their previous schooling as well as their work experience.

There are also nationally recognized testing companies such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DANTES Subjects Standardized Tests (DSST).  DANTES means the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support.

#3 Job Experience

Job experience helps make your transferring college credits easier. Your previous work experience, previously earned certifications, as well as professional training may directly align with the courses in your new program.

When this happens, you may have to talk to a Prior Learning Assessment Advisor. They will guide you on applying your qualifying professional experiences to your desired degree program.

#4 Transferring credits from abroad

You now know that the answer to the question: Do college credits expire? is NO. However, you may be asking as an international student, “Is it possible to transfer college credits from abroad?” The answer to this is YES!

It is absolutely possible to go to college in the US or Canada from abroad with your home college credits. However, your new college will demand some things from you. These requirements are college-specific though.

Nonetheless, most schools will require the following from your previous college record:

  • Official academic transcripts
  • Formal English translation of your transcripts
  • Credit evaluation report
  • Official syllabus or curriculum of your previous courses

To ease the process of transferring credits abroad, you may use Transferology. It is a free resource that helps you figure out if your credits will transfer, regardless of your nationality.

#5 Transferring credits to and from an online degree

Transferring college credits apply to both On-Campus and Online Colleges or universities. However, you have to research your preferred online university to be sure they accept college credits transfer.

University of the People is one online university that accepts students from all over the world and considers their previous credits taken from any accredited US and non-US institutions. Not only do they take university credits but also advanced placement tests. You can transfer 50-75% of your credits towards your next degree at the University of the People.


Do college credits expire? You know now that the answer is No. College credits don’t expire. However, there are instances such as the relevance of the existing course to the new one, which puts the question of credit expiry to test.

Thus, if you would want to continue your schooling after a long time to a new school now, or advance your education in a new program, you will have to know the school’s credits transfer procedures. This may prove difficult. In any case, you may need to contact your course adviser or admissions officer for proper guidance.

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