Full-Time vs. Part-Time Student: What Are the Differences?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 24 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

To graduate from a university programme, students typically meet certain credit requirements, which signifies how many courses they completed and passed. The order and volume in which a student completes these courses can affect their enrolment status. If you're planning on attending a university, it's helpful to understand what may affect your course schedule and enrolment type. In this article, we explain the differences between a full-time vs. part-time student and share a list of factors that you can consider when deciding which type of student to enrol as.

Full-time vs. part-time student

There are three primary differences between a full-time vs. part-time student, which are:

Credit allowance and requirements

The primary difference between these types of students is the number of credits they're allowed per semester, which is usually based on the total number of credits required to graduate from a programme and the expected period of study. For example, a bachelor's programme that's expected to take four years with two mandatory semesters per year has a total of eight mandatory semesters. This means the number of credits you're usually allowed to complete per semester for this programme as a full-time student is the total amount of credits to complete the bachelor's programme divided by eight.

Universities may allow students to take additional credits depending on their academic ability. Some universities also impose a minimum number of credits full-time students are required to complete per semester. Universities usually limit the number of credits part-time students can take per semester by half of the allowance of full-time students.

Tuition costs

Tuition costs are usually lower per semester for part-time students as they take fewer credits. A student may choose part-time enrolment based on their monthly budget. Full-time undergraduate students often pay a capped tuition per semester, while part-time students pay per credit. Since students within the same programme all need the same amount of credits to graduate, part-time students may have higher total tuition since they spend more time in school.

Financial aid

Depending on your financial situation, the availability of assistance programmes may influence your choice to be a full-time or part-time student. Many programmes require full-time enrolment to receive financial aid, private health insurance and scholarships. Some financial aid is usually available for part-time students based on a minimum number of enrolled credits. It's beneficial to learn about your financial aid options before committing to an enrolment type.

Things to consider before enrolment

Before you enrol as a part-time or full-time student, you can consider the following factors this decision may affect:

Schedule flexibility

Being a part-time student may allow you to have extra time for personal responsibilities. If you're a parent, caregiver or employee, being a part-time student can give you more flexibility in your schedule. Being a full-time student may leave you less time for other responsibilities and interests.

Related: The Top 9 Types of Degrees that Make the Most Money

Employment

A part-time schedule may be a good choice if you want to work while enrolled in school. Having a job while in school can help you develop time-management skills and pay part or all of your tuition and living expenses. If you're a part-time student, a more flexible schedule can help you secure more job opportunities as you may have more availability to work various shifts.

Full-time students can also work, but they may require more job flexibility. If you're a full-time student, you may be more likely to work in the evenings, on weekends or during holiday breaks when you're not in class. When working as a full-time student, it's important to manage your time wisely to ensure you're taking adequate breaks for your mental and physical health while still meeting your academic and work responsibilities.

Related: A Guide to Work-Life Balance: Definition and Ways to Improve

Extracurricular activities

As a part-time student, you may have more time for athletic commitments or other hobbies. For full-time students, more time on campus can lead to more opportunities to learn about campus clubs or organisations you can join. Some university organisations may not allow part-time students, so it's important to check entry requirements carefully.

Housing

If you want to live in campus housing, your school may require full-time enrolment. Some universities require full-time students to live on campus during their first year. Universities may not provide on-campus housing to part-time students, so it's important to consider your residential options, such as living in a further but cheaper area to save costs.

Remote vs. on-site

It's important to consider whether a programme is remote or on-site. Full-time students are usually required to study on campus, while many part-time programmes are remote-based. It's important to consider your preferences and learning style when choosing to study on-campus or remotely.

Related: What Is a Higher National Diploma? A Definitive Guide

Experience

Consider what you want your university experience to be like outside of the classroom. If you attend school full-time, you may spend more time on campus, which can help you feel more immersed in the campus culture and meet more people. Since you also spend more time in class, you may also interact more with other students and professors, helping you to build your network. Part-time students are usually less involved in campus activities.

Coursework

The amount of coursework you have can vary depending on your enrolment type. Because they attend more classes per semester, full-time students usually have a larger workload than part-time students. Consider how much coursework you can reasonably handle with your current personal and work schedule to determine if you can commit enough time to your studies. If you want more free time per semester, you can consider enrolling as a part-time student instead.

You can also balance your course schedule by estimating how much out-of-class material you may have to complete. Some classes, such as lab-based courses, may offer fewer take-home assignments as you complete most of the course in a laboratory environment. Research each course you're considering enrolling in to determine what your course workload may be.

Personal preference

Your personal preferences and characteristics also may be a significant factor in your enrolment type. You may prefer to keep a full course schedule and focus on your schoolwork, or you may want to have more free time and enrol as a part-time student instead. Since full-time students have a larger workload, it's helpful for them to have great stress and time management skills, as this can help them stay motivated and productive.

Those who enrol on a part-time basis may have more opportunities to find employment while working and pursue extracurricular activities, which can help with accumulating work experience early. This can be an advantage in finding employment after graduation.

Related: 10 Effective Time Management Skills and Their Benefits

Internships

If you enrol part-time, you may have more opportunities to complete internships concurrently while attending school. Full-time students usually complete internships during summer or winter breaks. As part-time students may take longer to graduate, they usually accumulate more experience before entering the workforce full-time. This can be an advantage in securing jobs after graduation.

Related: What Is an Internship and How to Get One Successfully

Time commitment

Full-time students can typically complete their degrees before part-time students. This is because they usually complete more credits per year, so they qualify for graduation at a faster rate. The average time to complete a degree is usually based on a full-time schedule. For example, students typically finish a bachelor's degree in four years, but it may take closer to five years for a part-time student. The time you commit to your education may affect your finances and career goals, so it's important to consider how fast you want to graduate.

If you want to enrol as a part-time student but still want to graduate within four years, you can enrol in optional semesters to complete more credits. Consider seeking help from any guidance counselling or enrolment services provided by a university to understand what options are available to you.

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