This is not pointless, I promise you.

As you peruse the Directory or Vergil, you may find yourself questioning: Why are some classes zero credits? Why do some have half credits? Why are there classes that are six credits? How do I graduate? Look no further, for Bwog has assembled a non-exhaustive list of pointers about the point system!

In general, Columbia College and General Studies students need 124 points of credit minimum to graduate; SEAS students need 128 points of credits minimum; Barnard College students need 122 credits. Depending on your major, you might need more than that, in addition to the other courses you take as an undergraduate. There are many ways to fill those credit values, but points can be deceiving within both required classes, like the Core Curriculum, or electives. 

General Disclaimer:

  • Your school provides a range of points needed to be a considered a full-time student: 12 to 18 points of credit for CC and GS, 12 to 21 points of credit for SEAS, and 12 to 19 points of credit for Barnard. 
    • GS Students may also take courses part-time (semesters with less than 12 points of credit) as their tuition is based on the number of points taken that term.
    • These ranges are given because a schedule with four 3-point credit seminars (12 points of credit total) is just as insane work-wise as one with four 4-point lectures and a 3-point seminar (19 points of credit), regardless of points. 

Experiential Knowledge About the Core:

  • Many people say that University Writing (UW) is more work than Frontiers of Science (FroSci). However, UW has 3 points of credit and FroSci has 4 points of credit.
  • Literature Humanities (LitHum) and Contemporary Civilizations (CC) are both 4 points of credit, but the general experience will find that CC is more work than LitHum. This can differ depending on the professor or personal skill sets (The average student has less experience reading philosophy). 
  • “FROSCI is like ‘the virgin 4 points of credit course’ while others are like ‘the Chad 4 points of credit course’ General Chemistry or Lithum. All are 4 points but the actual workloads are much different.

Stuff About Sciences:

  • One Bwogger believes General Physics 1201 and 1202 should both be 4 points of Credit. General Physics 1201 and 1202 are 3 points of credit. “I will die on this hill.”
    • You usually have to take General Physics lab concurrently (1 point of credit) which makes it a 4-point block.
  • Labs have a big variety of work for similar amounts of credit. 
    • For information about wet labs: General Chemistry Lab is a lot of (busy) work while Intensive General Chemistry Lab is a little more straightforward. Biology Lab is apparently straightforward as well. All three courses are 3 points of credit.
      • Organic Chemistry Lab is 1.5 points of credits. It’s also a year-long, while General Chemistry lab is a single-semester course with 3 points of credit. Treating it as a 3 point course each semester is much more realistic. 


  • Lots of variety! There is a distinction between classes that teach foreign languages and classes that apply the foreign language. The application courses are available for students with a solid foundation in the course.
  • Most classes that teach a foreign 4 points of credit, but foreign language education courses range from 2.5 points of credit to 6 points.
    • Examples: 
      • 2.5 Points of Credit: The East Asian Languages and Cultures department offer first-semester language courses (First Year [Language] I) to be split into a yearlong course called “Introductory A” and “B.” This exists for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. These courses are 2.5 points of credit each, which sums to the 5 points of credit the course is usually. 
      • 3 Points of Credit: Aramaic and Akkadian language courses are 3 points of credit. They seem to be the only language courses that have 3 points. These are both ancient, with Aramaic only spoken in small communities while Akkadian is a dead language.
      • 4 Points of Credit: Almost every other language except the ones listed as exceptions here.
      • 5 Points of Credit: These languages usually use a different alphabet than the Latin alphabet: Japanese, Mandarin, Hindi-Urdu, Arabic, Russian, Hebrew, Korean, etc. However, the alphabet policy is not a universal rule. Usually, if the language track differentiates classes by years (First Year, Second Year, etc.) instead of level (Elementary, Intermediate) it will be 5 points of credit.
      • 6 Points of Credits: These are for intensive courses. A single year of a foreign language is condensed into a single semester. This option is offered for Latin, Ancient Greek, and Italian.
  • “The most difficult language course you will ever take is 3 credits.”
  • “The French department never exceeds 4 credits because they ‘work hard in the French department.’ ” 

What is the difference between zero, one, two, three, four, (and five and six!) point of credit classes?

  • Part of the point difference results from time. Seminar classes, recitation, discussion sections, or just longer classes, class time ideas but also departmental policy.
    • As a result, if the class has an additional, shorter period to discuss what happened in the main lecture, it’s probably four points of credit! A makeshift calculation is that the points of credits are the number of hours you’re in class during the week for lecture classes.
  • 0 points of credit courses: Dance classes (have a choice of credit or not) and some independent study courses.
  • 1 point of credit: Usually intro-level “seminars,” meet once a week. Some are P/D/F. Alternatively, Physical Education classes!
  • 2 points of credit: Uncommon, little defining qualities.
  • 3 points of credits: Certain STEM lectures, some with recitation (Physics). Alternatively, humanities lectures with NO discussion section (also known as “seminar section”) are three points, likely because there is no extra course in your schedule. It also may be because it’s an intro-level class in the math/science core, and they’re trying to fit it in a humanities student’s schedule as much as possible. 
    • Think of force-spoon feeding medicine to a baby.
  • 4 points of credits: STEM classes with recitations, Humanities Classes with discussion sections, or seminars that only occur when you’re an upperclassman in your major’s department. These are the 3XXX and 4XXX level classes. 
    • 3000s = solely seminar classes restricted for those advanced in the major, 4000s = graduate-level classes available for advanced undergraduates. 
      • Note: you can only take graduate-level classes that begin with “GU.” “GR” is just for graduate students.
        • Some departments (Stats <3) don’t have an established undergrad/grad distinction, so most are GU.
  • 5 points of credit: Certain labs or independent studies courses.

In the world of Barnumbia undergraduate education, there are a vast array of courses. Each one has its own credit, and while this article seeks to explain them there will ALWAYS be discrepancies. Stay informed by what people say from having taken the course recently, and from a similar background in the subject as you.

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