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Thinking about auditing a course at your college? Or perhaps you’ve heard the term and you’re wondering how auditing works. When you audit a course, you go to class and fulfill many of the same requirements as a student in that class would, but you don’t receive a letter grade or any credits for taking the course.

Here’s everything you need to know about auditing courses, including the benefits and the drawbacks.

The Auditing Process

One thing that’s important to understand about auditing is that it can work slightly differently from school to school. While most aspects will be the same, you’ll need to check with your college for certain details, such as the deadline to audit a course and what types of courses you can and can’t audit.

First, you must choose the course you want to audit. Most colleges require you to pay course fees for auditing, even though you won’t be earning any credits. It’s best to avoid auditing courses that you’ve already taken or courses that you may take in the future.

Many colleges prohibit auditing courses in your major and courses that involve either lab work or performances. You’ll need the instructor’s permission to audit a course, and there must be space in the class, as those looking to take it for credit will receive priority over those who are only looking to audit it.

The audit deadline is typically the same day as the deadline to add the course. That is also the deadline to switch from auditing a course to taking it for a credit, or vice versa.

When you audit a class, you’re there as a passive learner. This means that you’re required to meet attendance requirements and occasionally complete assignments, but you won’t recite anything or take tests.

Even though you’re not earning credit when you audit a course, it affects your status as if you were. If you’re a couple credits away from being a full-time student and you audit a course worth that number of credits, you’ll then be a full-time student. Auditing a course can also bring you to your credit limit, in which case you won’t be able to take anymore classes.

Why Would You Audit a Course?

The big question when it comes to auditing is why you would choose to commit the time and effort without receiving any credit for it. There are a few reasons why it can be in your best interest to audit a course.

The most significant benefit of auditing a course is that you’ll expand your knowledge on a subject without the pressure of completing assignments and studying for tests. You’ll learn the same material as any other student in the course. This is a good idea if you like the subject of the course, but it’s not a graduation requirement and you don’t want to add too much work to your current course load.

Auditing a course can also work well to get an idea of what a subject is like if you’re thinking about choosing it as your major. If you’re auditing for this reason, you should look for an intro course that will give you an idea of what that subject is like.

You may find that auditing a course can help you learn what you need to be successful in another course, making auditing a good supplementary option. Let’s say that you have a biology course you need to take and you find the subject difficult. You could audit a course focusing on the principles of biology at the same time. This will help you learn more about the subject without giving you any additional responsibilities.

When to Audit Courses

The only time that you should audit a course is when you have extra time available in your schedule. If you have a tight schedule, it doesn’t make sense to spend time auditing and potentially needing another semester to meet your graduation requirements.

Check with your college to see which courses you can audit so you don’t end up trying to audit a course where that isn’t allowed. Keep in mind that even if the college will let you audit a course, it could be full, which will also prevent you from auditing. Because you can’t be sure what courses you can audit until you actually attend them, be ready for changes and don’t count on being able to audit anything.

Closing Thoughts

While your grade point average (GPA) and degree are important, those aren’t all that college is about. Going to college also provides you with a valuable opportunity to learn and meet new people. With auditing, you can do both of those things without the usual stress and workload involved when you take a course.

It’s a good idea to first add the classes you need for a semester, and then assess your schedule. If you have a light to medium workload and you see a course that you’d like to attend without worrying about your grade, give auditing a try. You can always drop it just like you would any other course, and you may be able to switch to taking it for a credit if you want.