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How to Juggle it All & Complete Your Degree on Time

October 19, 2020

Life is tough and college students know all about it. Late night study sessions, yearly exams and so many things to learn. But for some students, this tough load can be doubled with the addition of having a family and needing to work to support themselves. How do these students do it? Is it even possible to have a family, work full-time and still complete your degree in a reasonable amount of time?

The answer is yes, you can. Many universities actually cater to these kinds of students, who can also be referred to as non-traditional students, offering courses and degree plans designed to work with a full-time work and family schedule. For example, the Idaho State University College of Business offers a mix of morning, afternoon, evening and online courses for students who don’t have time during their regular schedule to take courses. “I often tell prospective non-traditional students that we have a pretty varied schedule where students can utilize early morning, late afternoon, evening and online classes in a variety of combinations to fit their busy schedules. Many general education courses have evening classes (English, Math, the sciences, etc.) and we sometimes have evening options in business classes, but those are not as prevalent. To make up for that though, I always emphasize our online options, pointing out that students can take classes in a variety of modes at the same time. So essentially what I'm trying to say here is that they don't have to be all in-person, or all online,” says Ashley Larson, an undergraduate advisor at the College of Business.  This also isn’t unique to just the College of Business. Many other colleges on campus offer similar mixed options to help their students. The business programs that offer full online programs are finance, general business, healthcare administration, management, marketing, MHA and the MBA. Most importantly however, if you’re a student who is looking at online or mixed options because your schedule isn’t ideal, get in contact with an advisor. Advisors know all the nuances and scheduling and will be able to help you create the right schedule for you that fits all your needs while still keeping you on track to graduate on time. Advisors at the College will do everything they can to work with you and ensure you get the best education possible. If there are courses you need that might be in the middle of your workday, ask your manager or employer if there’s a potential workaround like working later or earlier in the day to make up for it.

Now the question becomes which one is better? Are there any particular advantages to taking one over the other? It really comes down to what your schedule is like and what the best learning environment is for you. If you know that you’re the kind of student that needs the face-to-face interaction and the classroom environment, then face-to-face courses or synchronous online courses would be ideal for you. If you like the freedom of an asynchronous course or if you don’t have any room in your schedule for face-to-face courses, then asynchronous online would be for you.

Finally, is it better to take full-time credits or part-time? If time is no issue, wouldn’t it be better and less stressful to take fewer credits? Well let’s look at it by cost. Assuming cost is no issue for you, then yes it could be better to take fewer credits and finish it in a longer period of time. But if cost is an issue, let’s break it down. At Idaho State, for example, the cost per credit if you are attending part-time, it costs $402 per credit. Let’s say you take 9 credits a semester. Tuition wise (accounting only for the credits, not books or any other class materials), this puts you at $3,618 per semester. The traditional undergraduate degree is 120 credits long so if you only took 9 credits a semester, it would take you roughly six and a half years to complete your degree. It would cost you about $48,240 over the course of your degree. To attend full-time at 12 credits or more a semester, it costs $3,936 per semester. If you attended for 12 credits, it would take you about 5 years to complete and cost you $19,680. Attending college at 9 credits a semester nearly triples the cost it would be to attend college full-time and in theory, three more credits is not that much more to add to your plate. While it may be one more course, it could be a course or subject that doesn’t require as much from you as much as another course does. While at the end of the day, it is up to you to decide what you can handle, from a financial standpoint, it is much cheaper to add one more course and take 12 credits than it is to take 9 credits. 


Whatever you decide to do, attending school while still having full-time job and family obligations is possible and the college will do everything it can to ensure that you still receive the education you’re paying for while accommodating your schedule.