Full-time vs. Part-time: Which is Best For You?

Weigh the pros and cons of full-time versus part-time to create the course schedule that fits your lifestyle.

Photo: Think

By Erika Ward

As an adult student, you have a variety of unique decisions to make as you proceed down the pathway toward higher education.

Aside from the typical decisions of where to go to school and what you want to study, you will also have to decide if you want to be a full-time or part-time student.

These options align with the needs of different types of students, and each comes with a specific set of advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s explore some of the similarities and differences in order to help you choose the best option for your lifestyle.

Commitment

Part-time courses and degree programs have a very different level of commitment than do full-time programs. Full-time students are expected to treat their studies as the main focus in their lives. Full-time students commit at least 12 hours weekly to in-class coursework alone, which doesn’t take into account the necessary time to complete assignments and study for tests. Part-time students might take one class a week, requiring only a couple hours of out-of-class study time.

Depending on how many classes you take, part-time programs can take up to four years to complete. Full-time programs, on the other hand, usually take one to two years to finish.

Many adult learners decide to ease into their new educations by taking one or two classes to start. This can help make the transition from full-time work to school a bit easier. Others find it beneficial to jump straight into full-time coursework, in hopes that they can finish their degree in less time. The decision between full-time and part-time often comes down to two factors: time and money.

Time

Depending on how many classes you take, part-time programs can take up to four years to complete. Full-time programs, on the other hand, usually take one to two years to finish. The decision between the two options often depends on a student’s goals and future plans. If you simply don’t have time to take three years to complete a program, then a full-time or a more strenuous part-time schedule might be more beneficial for you.

Weekly time commitment is also a factor in the decision between full-time and part-time studies. Students who work full-time, or have family or social commitments that require a significant amount of their days usually opt for part-time studies. A student who doesn’t have a lot of weekly responsibilities often finds that they can handle full-time student status as well.

Money

Obviously the more classes you take, the more money you will be spending. Because of this, full-time students often require more financial aid than their part-time counterparts. Additionally, since part-time students have time to work as they study, many choose to pay for school as they go, which can decrease financial burden and loan amounts.

It should be noted that financial aid is readily available for adult students. Studies have shown that as many as 30 percent of adult learners don’t realize that they’re eligible for financial aid and don’t even apply. Always explore your financial aid options, whether you’re a full-time or part-time student.

Financial aid status is directly affected by your part-time/full-time status. Part-time students are usually qualified for less financial aid for a variety of reasons. First, part-time students often have a higher income because they work while they are going to school and opt to pay as they go.

Additionally, federal and state grant programs have different maximums for full-time and part-time students. While full-time students can get up to $3,135 yearly from Pell grants, part-time students are only eligible for a portion of that, depending on how many credits they are taking. The same can be said for other grants and federal and school loans. Scholarships are also less prolific for part-time students.

Availability

Not all schools offer both full-time and part-time options. Some schools only feature full-time coursework, while others specialize in part-time programs. Check with your prospective schools before you decide which option best suits your educational needs.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Back To The Dorms: Adult Students Who Live On Campus
Working in College
Making The Choice To Go Back To School
Adult Student's Study Guide
How School Has Changed: A Guide For Adult Students

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