Full Time Student Hours vs. Part Time: What’s the Difference?

Two clock icons with "vs" in between them.Full-time student hours means that a student is generally enrolled in a minimum of twelve credits or about four classes per semester. You are considered a part-time student if you are taking fewer than 12 credit hours, usually between two to three classes. Therefore, a full-time student spends more time in class during a semester than a part-time student. The most obvious difference between part- and full-time student hours is the amount of credit hours they take during a semester. But let’s explore further what this means.

What does this mean for college tuition?

Tuition icon

Part-time students have to pay per credit. Therefore, they pay less than full-time students 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?

Choosing part-time

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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). This is because you cannot get residency for most states while going to school full-time.

To recap, here are the benefits of being a part time student:

  • More flexibility in scheduling classes
  • Allows you more time to work and earn money
  • Allows you possibility to pay for your tuition as you go
  • Can aid you in earning in-state-residency

Choosing full-time

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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.

To recap, here are the benefits of being a full-time student:

  • Complete degree faster
  • You are eligible for a much wider range of scholarships
  • You are eligible to live on campus
  • Families of full-time students may be eligible for tax breaks

Can you be both a part-time and a full-time student?

Part-time icon and full-time icon with "and" in between them.

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.

Every decision concerning college has its pros and cons, but almost none more so than deciding between going part-time or full-time student hours. The most important thing to remember about this decision is that it should be based on what is best for you as a student.

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3 thoughts on “Full Time Student Hours vs. Part Time: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Shandy says:

    Well this clears up everything for me.

  2. Full time students gets the chance to study first hand. They also can score very good in their exams. Part time students learn and earn side by side. This can be more fruitful because you are getting the experience on interacting with the outside world and learn about it along the way. If I may say the part time students who are working as well are more open to world than full time students.

    1. Erika says:

      That’s my situation right now, working in my field of studies while still studying (but full time student in my case) and I agree that my work has opened me up to a world of new lessons and experiences in ways that simply being a student would never have.

      Also, my grades have not suffered; it’s just a matter of learning how to manage your time better.

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