Every decision concerning college has pros and cons, and almost none more-so than the decision between being a full-time student or going part-time. The most important thing to remember about this decision is that it should be based on what is best for you as a student.
What’s the difference between full-time and part-time students?
The most obvious difference between part- and full-time students is the amount of credit hours they take during a semester. Full-time is generally a minimum of twelve credits or about four classes. Part-time is usually somewhere between six and eleven credits or two to three classes. Therefore, a full-time student spends more time in class during a semester than a part-time student.
What does this mean for college tuition?
Part-time students have to pay per credit. Therefore, they pay less than full-time student for a semester. Once a student reaches enough credits for full-time status, tuition reaches a cap. This means that a student taking eighteen credits will pay the same amount in tuition as someone taking the minimum of twelve credits. However, there is also something called a “full course load”. In some schools, you need permission to take more classes than what is considered a full course load. You may also have to pay for the extra class. Keep that in mind when considering how many credits you want to take in a semester.
So, what are the benefits of choosing one over the other?
With part time student status, there is more flexibility with your schedule. After all, it’s a lot easier to pick two classes that don’t overlap than to try and work in five. An open schedule allows you to work more while moving through your college career. It is also most possible to pay off tuition costs as you go when you study part-time because you have the time to work. This is most useful if you do not want to take out big loans or cannot get scholarships. Going to school part-time can also help you earn in-state residency (and therefore in-state tuition, which can be useful if there is a significant difference), as you cannot become a resident of most states while going to school full-time.
The benefits of full-time include completing school faster. There are also many scholarships that require you to be a full-time student in order for you to utilize them. These scholarships can help nullify the cost difference, but of course, you have to apply for them and continue to earn them. Another thing that helps to balance out the overall cost is that after you reach the tuition cost cap, you are no longer paying per credit. In a way, this means you get the most bang for your buck; you just have to deal with a larger cost up-front.
Some schools also require that you be a full-time student to live on campus. Check with your school’s policies on the matter before making your decision if living on campus is what you want to do.
Can you be both a part-time and a full-time student?
It is completely acceptable to mix the two types of statuses. Sometimes the stress of full-time school can get to be too much, so taking a part-time semester or year is beneficial. Or maybe you’ve gotten most of your credits through part-time schooling and want to finish up your last year and a half with fifteen credits each semester. Situations change, and so you can adapt your status to fit your situation best. There are also research positions or internships that might make you drop to part-time to earn that vital experience. The important thing to remember is that you have the ability to adjust your schedule to whatever fits your needs.
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