Years ago, most of the people who audited college classes already had college degrees and simply wanted to sit through a class in a subject where they had an interest. You may have heard people talking about auditing a class and wondered what it meant. If you audit a class, you take it for no credit, and do not have to do the assignments or take tests. You still attend the class, learn from lectures, and have access to textbooks, the instructor and learning materials. You will also be asked to pay for the course as if you were taking it for credit. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of auditing a college course.

Interest in Topic

If you are very interested in a certain topic but it isn't applicable to your major or graduation requirements, auditing a course can be a perfect way to learn more while preserving a high grade point average. Auditing is a low-risk way to learn more about a certain subject or investigate a potential new major or career choice. Because the auditing process is formal, you will learn what types of assignments, tests, and course material is required in different subject areas. You can get an introduction to a number of diverse academic disciplines by auditing courses without the pressure of papers, grades and tests.

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Preparation for Difficult Courses

Most colleges do not allow students to audit courses that they will later be required to take for credit. However, you can audit introductory or survey courses in different academic subjects if you know you will need extra preparation for later, in-depth courses that you know you will need to pass in order to receive your degree. As an example, you might know that you will have to work hard to pass a chemistry course. You can gain extra preparation and familiarity by auditing a survey of Chemistry course. You may also choose to audit introductory courses in disciplines that are simply unfamiliar to you, such as specialties in research, biology, history or math.

Lifelong Learning Goals

You may be at a stage in your life where you already have a college degree, and are simply interested in learning more about different subjects. If you are a history buff, you may want to audit history courses at a nearby college. If grades aren't necessary and you do not feel you need to take tests to enhance your learning experience, auditing college classes is an excellent way to continue learning throughout life.

Potential Pitfalls in Auditing Classes

Just because you are auditing a class, it is not free education. You will be asked to pay regular credit fees to audit a course. Many colleges and universities will also record your participation in the course. These participation records won't affect your grade point average, but it's possible that admissions personnel at other schools may question your transcripts and academic commitment if you have audited more than a few courses.

Taking a college course as an auditor can be a rewarding experience, where you will experience learning without the pressure of mid-term exams and final paper requirements. There are many valid reasons for taking a college course without a grade, only to obtain knowledge and experience.