Students can choose what, how, and when to learn. These are the basis on which colleges and universities design courses, calendars, and academic programs. A common and hard decision students have to make is whether to study on a full-time or part-time basis. But what exactly is the difference between a full-time and part time student?!
For most U.S. colleges and universities, part-time and full-time students take varying numbers of credit hours. To be considered a full-time student, you need more than 12 credit hours, typically four classes. Anything less is considered part-time.
For every class, there are a number of hours allocated, normally three. Accordingly, twelve hours or more are required for full-time students in a given session. This student will need to fulfill a minimum of four classes. On the contrary, part-time students require between three and eleven hours which translates to a minimum of one class per semester.
But is that it? You will be surprised to know that credit hours are just the tip of the iceberg. Most students are concerned with how these schedules will affect their tuition fees, scholarships, citizenships, and more…
Full Time Vs. Part Time Students
Learning institutions in the U.S. have two major systems of quantifying school calendars: semester and quarter systems. These systems have an effect on the classes required to complete either of the two.
Typically, a semester runs for 15 weeks in two intervals, one in fall and the other in Spring all year round. 4-5 courses per semester are required for a student to qualify as full-time in this system.
Academic calendars based on quarter systems run for the whole year in sessions lasting 10 weeks. Thus, these terms run in all four seasons. Colleges offering this system require that students fulfill 3-4 courses per session to qualify as full-time.
You will be interested to know that the summer quarter is optional in colleges and universities offering quarter systems. On top of that, they allow students to take more courses during the summer quarter.
Similarly, quarter and semester systems affect part-time learning in course load requirements. In essence, the study duration, whether for part-timers or full-time students, will tie to courses taken and credit hours fulfilled.
Part-time and full-time programs also vary according to student learning abilities. Students with learning disabilities have reduced course load in comparison to the abled students. As such, they could end up learning on a full-time basis but taking course loads equivalent to those of part-timers.
Is It Better To Be a Full Time Or Part-Time Student
Higher education in the United States is primarily influenced by demographics, state laws, religion, and social contexts. These elements affect the institution and the student in various ways.
Subsequently, students enrolling in colleges and universities have to consider these factors when deciding whether to study full time or part-time.
Again, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to planning your learning schedule. However, there are general perks and downsides to the choice you end up making.
Intrinsically, what student A might find amusing about studying full-time could be different for student B and vice versa. The question of which is better is broad, and an answer can be arrived at by weighing the pros and cons of both programs.
Let’s break the advantages and disadvantages down for each.
Pros And Cons Of Full-Time Students
As full-time students take more courses in a given session, they are bound to finish their programs sooner. This time is usually one to two years. This program works best for students focused on completing their studies first and going on with other things later.
Since the course load is high, students on a full-time basis have tight schedules leaving little or no space to venture into other areas like employment.
Full-time students end up spending more money in a short period to finish school. Despite that, there are financial aid programs for full-time students. Even better, you will qualify for more aid than your part-timer counterparts. The downside to this is that you might end up on huge student loans.
Scholarships have specific guidelines for interested students. Therefore, if you are applying for scholarships, you need to check whether they allow you to choose which enrolment type you want.
The U.S. migration law requires that international students with F-1 student visas study on a full-time basis. Nonetheless, these students aren’t limited to financial aid, but the conditions will vary from state to state.
Pros And Cons Of Part-Time Students
Part-time learning comes with several flexibilities regarding schedules as opposed to full-time learning. The very definition of it, taking lesser credits per session, is a good example.
Nevertheless, this sacrifice means lengthening your stay in school. Part-time students have the ability to work and study simultaneously. After all, you will practically have too much unaccounted free time.
Spreading out the course load helps balance all areas of your life, which in return promotes holistic growth. For instance, working part-time jobs builds your skills in many ways and also helps you pay for tuition. This has the benefit of shaping your work ethic and financial responsibilities.
Similar to full-time students, part-timers are eligible for federal student loans and grants.
However, full-timers are prioritized. It’s expected that part-time students have commitments on top of learning that take precedence. Ergo, they should be able to cover tuition fees without much struggle.
Given that part-time learning allows you to explore multiple life choices while studying, you are less likely to get overwhelmed with school. Some studies have shown that dropout rates are higher for full-timers than for part-timers.
Implications Of Your Enrollment Status
Students should realize the impact of their enrollment status choices on life in and after school. In some U.S. States, full-time students enjoy tax credits and deductions as opposed to part-timers. This also applies to car premiums and taxes.
You need to also consult with the academic registrar about what dropping classes or taking gap years result to. This will vary across colleges, states, programs, and even states. The good news is that such information can be found on the institutions’ websites.
By now, you should have realized the magnitude of the choice of enrollment type you make. The several considerations to be made will ensure you achieve your goal without too much friction. If you find that you have to contemplate a lot, consider consulting with a student advisor to get professional counsel.
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