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Full-time or Part-time Student? What’s the Best Choice for You?

How do you decide to study full-time or part-time? Ask yourself a few questions and think about your answers. Let’s take a closer look.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
Full-time or Part-time Student?  What’s the Best Choice for You?

Full-time vs part-time student questions? Rest easy. Like anything else, there are benefits and drawbacks to each, but one answer should outweigh the other. Let’s take a closer look.

high school students graduates tossing up hats over blue sky.

1. Am I afraid to drop out or in a hurry to graduate?

Go Full-Time.

Here’s why:

Studies show that university students who enroll full-time and take a minimum of 12 credits per semester are more likely to continue their studies, save money, and graduate.

According to a recent report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas, Austin, 34 percent of students who studied full-time for at least part of their studies completed an associate’s degree or a certificate. Compare that to only 23 percent who enrolled part-time. The study also showed that full-time enrollment during the first semester yielded a higher graduation rate.

For those of you who are afraid you’re going to drop out? Take at least 12 credits your first semester—you’re more likely to return for a second year of school—77 percent likely.

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2. Do I have a family, or am I a primary caregiver?

Go Part-Time.

Here’s why:

If you have a family or are a primary caregiver during the day, full-time study probably isn’t your best choice. Part-time study allows you to make your study experience flexible and meet your needs. Many part-time programs offer a mixture of in-person and online options, too, so that you can continue to earn credit with the flexibility of online learning.

While it will take you longer to finish a degree or certificate, you’ll be able to care for your family and loved ones and go to school. At the same time.

Piggy Bank With Black Graduation Hat And Eye Glasses Near Blackboard

3. Do I have money to pay for my studies?

Go Full-Time.

Here’s why:

If you can afford it, go for it. If you can get financial aid, go for it. Financial aid status is related to your status as a full-time or part-time student. Full-time students have more access to financial aid. Why? They usually have less income than part-time students, who typically work in addition to attending school.

Here’s another piece of the puzzle: federal and state grant programs have different amounts available depending on status. A full-time student can get up to $3,135 from Pell grants. Part-time students can get only part of that. It’s also harder to earn scholarships as a part-time student.

learning the parts

4. Do I want to work while studying?

Go Part-Time.

Here’s why:

Working and studying full-time isn’t sustainable, but working and studying part-time is. It’s easier than ever now, with more universities offering hybrid and online courses, too.

The idea of “earn while you learn” isn’t new, and for many, it’s a necessity. For students looking to earn a certificate or an additional degree while working in a profession they love, part-time study works well—and builds up a reserve of soft skills that are critical for your success in the working world and the academic one.

What are soft skills? Time management. The ability to work independently. Effective communication skills. Motivation. Work-flow… and that ubiquitous work-life balance.

Group Of Mature Students Studying In Library

5. How old are you?

It depends.

Here’s why:

If you’re a part-time student, you’re more likely to study with older students who are working (see #4), have families (see #2), or have other responsibilities. If you’re a younger student, this might matter to you.

If you’re an older student, you might consider whether you want to be among your peers—or not. Younger students are typically in full-time programs because they don’t have additional responsibilities and if they work at all, work part-time. Older students are typically in part-time programs.

Think about what you want, how you want to achieve it, and what you’d like your peer group to look like.

As you make this decision, remember: make the choice that meets your lifestyle needs and choices. Consider your course load, your work load, your family, your peer group, and what you want from a university education.