Full Time vs Part Time Student Guide

Full Time vs Part Time Student Guide

Knowing the difference between full time vs part time student status is important when determining how your status as a full or part time student affects the amount of Pell grants you receive from the U.S. Department of Education. Most colleges and universities (both traditional and online) consider students taking 12 to 14 credits per semester as full time students, while those taking less than 12 credits are assigned part time status. Most college level classes award three, four or five credits to students who successfully complete the class and receive a passing grade, with the majority of classes providing a standard four credits. This means that a full-time student who is taking at least three, four-credit classes during a semester is eligible to receive a full Pell grant award as long as their financial information indicates they are economically disadvantaged.

Currently, full time students who qualify for financial aid can potentially receive up to $5,500.00 in Pell grants for each semester they are enrolled as a full time student. Part time students presenting financial need receive Pell grant monies commiserate with the number of credit hours they are taking. The less credit hours, the less money they will receive from the Department of Education. The maximum amount a part time student can receive in a Pell grant award is $2,700.00, while the minimum amount is $1,100.00.

For more information about student enrollment status and Pell grants, visit USE Pell Grants.

Enrollment Options—Full Time vs Part Time Student Advantages and Disadvantages

Deciding whether to enroll as a full time vs part time student depends on several factors, with finances usually being the most decisive factor shaping a student’s class schedule. Working 30+ hours a week and taking a full load of online classes is difficult but it can be done if you remain self-disciplined, motivated and focused on your goals. A huge advantage of earning a degree through an online school over attending a “brick and mortar” school is the flexibility and convenience provided by the distance learning experience. Since classes, assignments and lectures can be accessed at any time on your computer, you do not need to worry about driving to a campus, finding a place to park and getting to class on time.  3 things to look at when making a decision on going part-time or full-time:

  1. Finances
  2. Work Load
  3. Flexibility

Another advantage of being a full time student is the ability to earn your degree is less time than it would take if you were a part time student. A typical bachelor’s degree takes four years if your schedule contains at least 12 to 16 credits per semester. As a part time student, it may take six to seven years to earn a bachelor’s degree, depending on how many credits you earn each semester.

Graduation Rates of Part-Time vs Full-Time Students

In addition, research concerning full time vs. part time student graduation rates found that the majority of part time students fail to graduate. Last year a nonprofit organization called Complete College America compiled statistics from 33 states regarding the rates of graduation experienced by various higher learning institutions. According to the report Time is the Enemy, even when students are given extra time to complete degrees, only about 25% of them ever actually obtain the degree they originally planned to earn.

Benefits of Part-Time vs Full-Time

Attending online school part time primarily benefits students who have already earned their bachelor’s degrees and are working on a master’s or doctorate, which involves around two years of internships or on the job training as well as coursework. Because tuition for graduate school is more expensive than undergraduate tuition costs, the majority of graduate students work either part time or full time to defray costs and reduce the amount of loans they need to take to obtain a graduate degree.


Parent Earning Online Degree Part-Time.

The full time vs part time student argument extends into other areas as well. For example, taking a full load of online classes may not be feasible for single mothers who need to work and have small children who require most of their attention. In a case like this, opting for an associate’s degree or vocational certification rather than struggling to maintain the motivation and focus necessary to successfully earn a bachelor’s degree represents a more viable alternative.

Because learning styles naturally differ among individuals, some students may not be able to manage the large amount of memorization, reading and test taking skills necessary to pass three or more classes per semester. For this reason, it is more sensible to choose a part time enrollment plan and take the extra time you may need to pass all your classes and earn your degree.

Before resolving the full time vs part time student dilemma and enrolling in an online school degree program, consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options carefully and take time to think realistically about your ability to juggle work, school, children and family if you do choose the full time option.

One thought on “Full Time vs Part Time Student Guide

  1. Great information about full time and past time students, I’ll be sure to bookmark this page just in case I forget something.