Understanding the Difference Between Full and Part-Time Students
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Full-Time vs Part-Time Student

When it comes time for college, students have a few key decisions to make.

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What will they major in? How will they pay tuition? Will they live on or off campus? Should they give junior college a go first to minimize student loans?

While these are all important decisions that must be made, there is another question about attending college that is growing year to year: Should they register as a full or part-time student?

There are many pros and cons when it comes to the full-time vs part-time student debate, and in this article, we take a closer look at the advantages that should be considered.

What the Numbers Say

According to the 2018 numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 8.2 million full-time undergraduate college students at four-year institutions in the U.S. and 2.7 million part-time undergraduate college students at four-year institutions.

Undergraduate college students at two-year institutions favored going part-time more often. About 2.1 million students attended full-time and 3.6 million attended part-time.

What Constitutes a Full-Time College Student?

There are guidelines in place that emphasize what is considered a full-time college student and a part-time college student. The number of credit hours taken during a semester is the deciding factor between being considered a full-time student or a part-time student.

Usually, a college or university will state that to be considered a full-time student, the person must be taking at least 12 credit hours a semester. This would be approximately four classes a semester. This means that anything less than 12 credit hours would be considered part-time.

Advantages to Being a Full-Time College Student

There are certain advantages to enrolling as a full-time college student that you will not get if you are only attending college part-time.

Tax Benefits

There could be certain tax advantages to enrolling as a full-time college student that you would not receive if you were part-time. As it can differ from state to state, talk to a tax professional and see what tax benefits may come your way.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

If you are expecting a scholarship, either academically or for athletics, or counting on financial aid because of your financial situation, you will only receive these if you are a full-time college student.

Complete College Faster

Of course, it makes perfect sense that you would graduate from college faster when you enroll as a full-time student. Full-time students typically finish their undergraduate bachelor’s degree within four years. Part-time students typically take upwards of five years to finish a similar degree.

Immerse Yourself in College Life

There are adults that say their best time in life was when they were in college. There is something to be said when you can fully immerse yourself in college life and experience everything it has to offer.

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Advantages to Being a Part-Time College Student

Not to be outdone, there are definite advantages to enrolling as a part-time college student as well.

Ability to Earn Money

It is extremely tough to find time to work any serious hours when you are attending college full-time. On the other hand, when you take only a couple of classes a semester, you can not only work and bring in money, but you may also be able to pay off your college debt as you go along.

Focus on Your Classes More

When taking a full class load, you are sometimes barely able to keep your classes straight. Often, you cannot appreciate what it is you are learning at the moment. By attending part-time, you can focus much better on the couple of classes you are currently taking and possibly earn better grades.

Experience Life Outside of School

Not everyone wants to immerse themselves in the full college experience. Many people want to experience life outside of school and are only taking courses to improve their position in life, not worrying about the social aspect of college.

Can Raise a Family

Many people attend college part-time because they have a family to raise. When attending full-time, the cost and time of it could be overwhelming and take away from the family.

It All Depends on Individual Situations

When deciding whether to attend college either full-time or part-time, it should be based on your current needs. There is no one universal answer as it depends on life situations. You must weigh the pros and the cons carefully and make your decision based on your individual needs.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is taking the time to learn, and completing school at a pace that works for you.

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