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What happens to my college credits if I’ve been out of school for a while?


    While college credits don’t technically ever expire, they can become harder and harder to put toward a degree over time. This is why it’s so important to understand what’ll happen to your college credits if you decide to take a break from completing a degree or if you’re taking a break between an associate and bachelor’s program. The longer the break, the bigger an impact it could have.


    How long are college credits good for?

    College credits don’t necessarily expire, but depending on how long it’s been since you’ve taken the classes, they might become ineligible to use toward a degree. There’re some general rules at schools that you should be aware of when it comes to the lifetime of your classes.

    • Core class credits: These go toward your general education requirements, and most of the time, these credits don’t expire. If you have these credits, for the most part, they should easily transfer to most schools, and you don’t have to worry so much about them expiring.
    • STEM class credits: Science, technology, engineering, and math class credits generally have an average life of 10 years. Anything over 10 years is typically ineligible to transfer.
    • Graduate class credits: These credits generally have a seven-year lifespan.
    • Life experience: Some institutions will honor real-world experience in place of certain class credits. You’ll need to work with your school to find more information on this process if it’s available to you. This won’t be available at every school.

    It’s important to note that all schools have different policies around the lifetime of credits, so don’t assume what one school does is going to be the same as another school.


    Not all degree programs and schools will have the same policies in regard to the lifespan of college credits

    When determining lifespan, colleges will likely consider recency – how long ago you took the class.

    The relevance of the subject matter of a class is also something to keep in mind, as schools will look at this differently. Some classes, while no longer eligible to fulfill the credit they were initially intended for at a certain school may still be usable in other ways. For instance, a class you have credit for that was initially intended to fulfill a major degree requirement might not be usable for a major requirement anymore but may be usable as an elective credit at another school.

    Accreditation for certain programs is another important factor to consider. If you attended a school that’s no longer accredited or no longer exists, your credits will most likely not transfer to a new school. If a school you received credits at initially is accredited and your classes were completed within the last 10 years, there’s a high likelihood you can get some credits transferred to a new school.


    Final thoughts

    If you decide to leave school for a period of time, try and limit the amount of time you spend out of school, if at all possible. The longer you wait to return, the greater the chance that some of your class credits might become ineligible to transfer. Work with your school to find out what your options are when you do return.