Being a part-time student might be a good option for those who have already begun pursuing a career and are on their way to becoming financially independent. You can also take care of any family responsibilities while simultaneously working towards a degree. According to research conducted by Times Higher Education, part-time students gain higher pay, new skills, and greater responsibilities in the workplace.
However, when comparing the benefits side by side – there are many challenges and often overlooked pitfalls.
Pro: Being a part-time student gives you a flexible schedule
When you’re a part-time student, you have more time flexibility as you slow down the pace of your learning. You take fewer classes per semester so you can focus on other things in life. The majority of full-time workers choose to become part-time students as it allows them to progress through college while enjoying the financial benefits of employment. Also, the variety of online part-time study programs has made advanced education more accessible to a wider number of people—right from the comfort of their homes.
Con: It Will Take You Longer to Get Your Degree
Whether you’re a full time or part time college student, you still need the appropriate classes and right amount of credits to graduate with a degree. A bachelor’s degree tends to be 120 credits, for example. If you’re only attending school part time, it can take you at least twice the time to graduate compared to a full time student! It will be even longer if you spend some semesters only taking 1 to 2 classes (or none at all).
This length of time can lead to some students losing steam and motivation, deciding not to work towards their degree in the end.
Pro: You Can Find a Fresh New Direction
College is a precious period in life when people get to explore their interests and find out new parts of their identities. It consists of many steps that lead towards finding a true calling or discovering something you care deeply about. By becoming a part-time student, you can experience all of this while ensuring you’re not overwhelmed by the transition to a new environment. It can be a less stressful way to step into an unknown life phase.
You could also find new subjects that interest you – and this could lead to an entire career change better suited for you.
Con: You’ll Need a Good Support System
As a part-time student, you’ll likely be juggling lots of tasks and priorities. Most of the professors who teach part-time students understand their intense life tempo but this will not always be the case. Some instructors will not be lenient even if you have a family emergency. It’s essential that you have a strong support system that understands everything you’re handling over the next few years.
Pro: Tuition Costs Will be Lower Each Semester
While you will still end up paying for the entire degree over time, you will have lower costs by taking fewer courses every semester. The financial burden of college is spread out throughout a longer time frame. Full time students, on the other hand, have to lay out thousands or tens of thousands of dollars each year.
However, it’s important to note that this can be a con as well. Tuition prices and college fees rise over time. So, you could end up paying more in the long run by going part time.
Con: There May Be Fewer Resources Available
Part time students have access to less resources than full time students. For example, while there are scholarships available for part time students and adults returning to college, many awards are instead dedicated to full time students. You won’t be eligible for those, while full time students may be eligible for the awards you apply to.
You may also be limited in other sources of financial aid. A school may not offer you a generous financial aid package if you are only attending part time.
And on-campus housing tends to be limited to full time students. This can restrict the colleges available to you, while also making you miss out on some aspects (and privileges) of living on campus.
Even though there are plenty of pros and benefits, being a part-time student is not always easy. It takes a lot of time management skills, commitment, and determination. Although the dynamics of part time study programs are a bit different and possibly less overwhelming, every course has deadlines you have to meet and responsibilities you have to tackle. Before you take the dive into part time college, weigh your personal situation against the pros and cons listed above.
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