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How Long Do College Credits Last?

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If you had taken a break from college and completed some courses and want to resume, this article is for you.

Why is this?

It answers the question, ‘How long do college credits last?’. It also discusses the shelf life of credits across courses, the determinants of shelf life, how to check the eligibility of your college credit, and how to transfer your college credits.

How long Do College Credits last?

That is a question that every student that has deferred studies for one reason or the other needs answered. Transferring these credits can help you complete your degree cost-effectively and within a shorter period.

If this is the case, this is what happens.

If you left your bachelor’s degree unfinished or whether you finished an associate degree, you have credits that you can use. Using your associate degree as a foundation of a bachelor’s degree can save you up to two years.

Therefore, you need to know if your credits are still valid.

Shelf-life Periods For Different Courses

Technically, college credits have no expiry date. However, the likelihood of transferring them into another program diminishes. Ideally, the main classes are evergreen.

If you are going back to finish your undergraduate degree, you can quickly transfer core classes between schools. That applies to education courses that most students partake during the initial years.

Other courses are discussed below.

  • STEM courses
  • Graduate courses
  • Real-world experience

STEM courses

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses have a shelf life of 10 years. That is, any advancements in these fields or practical methodologies are exhausted within this time.


If your STEM courses are more than ten years old, you might not be able to transfer them.

Graduate courses

The shelf life of graduate courses is about seven years. Nonetheless, transferring credits to courses that are streamlined to professional needs is hard. That is because the methods taught back then might be outdated now.

Real-world Experience

Some programs allow for credit transfer for real-life experiences. If you have worked in the industry or field of your degree, that experience could earn you credit. 

However, these credit terms and conditions are not exact for all colleges. Various institutions and programs have different acceptance protocols for previously completed credits.

Therefore, you need to find out what is acceptable in your institution.

You need to identify accredited programs that provide some benefit, credit or recognition for previously completed work.

Such programs can make a difference in the amount of time and money you will use to complete your education. You can research to find out if your credits are still valid.

You can reach out to college admission staff who can explain what types of recognition or credit the school has to offer. Also, you can use the College Transfer Net.

This website requires you to enter your previous coursework and know how you can transfer it into credits.

The Determinants Of Shelf-life

In as much as credits have no expiry, you might encounter some challenges when trying to get them accepted by your new college. You need to assess the probability of your credit transferring by considering three things.

  • Relevance
  • Recency
  • Reputation


Your credits must be relevant in the area of study you want to undertake. Also, the credits must qualify as core programs at the new school.

In some cases, previous courses that are not deemed relevant to your new major could still be useful as they could be applied to any elective courses.


Some colleges set ‘use by’ date limits for credit. They range between five and ten years. That applies to fast-paced fields where advancements are always emerging.

Therefore, old coursework might not be valid. For example, courses in science have a shorter life span than humanities, such as English and history, that do not change drastically over time.


If your credits are from an institution that is not accredited, they will not transfer. It does not matter whether you completed them recently or they are core curriculum.

The reason is that the quality of education provided does not meet the bare minimums provided. Therefore, ensure that you study in registered colleges to avoid problems.

How To Check The Eligibility Of Your College Credit

You can contact your university directly or use online tools for free. All you have to do is key in your courses, and the tools calculate the output hours that you can transfer.

Nevertheless, the admission board makes the final decision, and you need to be open-minded.

How To Transfer Your College Credits

Knowing the factors that affect the eligibility of your transfer credits, you can plan your next steps to complete your education.

It is vital to note that every institution has its policies, and you need to contact the admissions department for further clarification.

However, the procedures for transferring college credits are uniform across colleges and universities. The following are steps for transferring credits.

  • Research your institution of interest
  • Gather your transcripts and other requirements
  • Get an admissions counsellor

Research Your Institution Of Interest

Unique rules regarding credit transfer govern every school. Therefore, consider schools whose policies are flexible so that your earned benefits do not go to waste.

Once you get a list of schools, narrow down your research. Understand the policies at length so that you know how to prepare for your application and admission process.

The good thing is that colleges are different, and you might find one that transfers credits even when they are more than a decade old.

The secret is to do extensive research to identify the right colleges.

Gather Your Transcripts And Other Requirements

Most schools will ask you to provide your credentials, transcripts, syllabus, and other proof of your previous course load. They are strict on this, and you might have to submit a letter of acknowledgment from your last school.

Get An Admissions Counselor

Make sure that you have a counsellor to guide you during the transfer process. Many questions might emerge, and getting advice from an experienced professional is essential.

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