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Should I Be a Part-Time or Full-Time Student?

April 19, 2021

You have most likely heard the terms, part-time and full-time, and probably associated them with a job. However, in your college career you also have the choice of being a full-time or part-time student. There are a few differences between the two and they both have their pros and cons depending on what you desire for your own career path. Knowing what to choose can be essential for completing your degree at the right time and pace. 

The most obvious difference is the number of credits that are taken during a semester. At Idaho State University, a full-time student has 12 credits or more which consist of four to five classes while part-time has 9 credits or less with two to three classes. The distinction between how much it will cost per semester varies on residency and if you are an undergraduate or graduate, but generally part-time costs more in the long run because it is more per credit. Although there are not many other differences, there are pros and cons that may influence which one to choose for schooling. 



Many students are full-time for many reasons. Full-time is commonly considered traditional and students are usually expected to graduate faster than part-time students. Because of the amount of credits needed to be taken, those who consider this should plan to be more dedicated to their studies. It is a presumed heavy workload where many professors expect you to take the time outside of class to study for many hours a week. However, the more classes you take, the quicker graduation will come. If you are in a hurry to get school over with to get going on your career, this is the way to go. Going full-time will also save you money overall. As a part-time student you may pay less per semester, but when you’re finished with your degree you will have paid more than a full-time student. Check out the tuition breakdown at Idaho State. As a full-time student, you will also be eligible for more financial aid and scholarships. 

There are also some drawbacks to going full-time. Most students have a job while going to school and it can be quite difficult to balance the two if you are not practicing good time management. For those who go to school and work full-time (40 hours a week), it might be more difficult. Doing extracurricular activities can be a challenge as well if you are juggling school and a job, but it is not impossible. Another con is creating a schedule when registering for classes. Because of the amount of classes for full-time, it can be tricky to find classes that do not overlap.



Those who decide to be part-time are beneficial when it comes to time frames and cost of tuition per semester (but, not necessarily in the long run). Some students don’t mind taking a little longer to complete college. In fact, taking less classes can allow them to work a job a lot easier and leaves room to do more extracurricular activities. Some other reasons why part-time can be considered is if you are involved in a lot of sports or happen to have responsibilities at home such as being a caregiver for a family. Because there are less classes to take, the cost of tuition could be less  per semester than for full-time because it is more based on the cost of each credit. But, as mentioned the cost per credit of a part-time student is more than the cost per credit of the full-time student, especially if you take more than 12 credits per semester as a full-time student. Some students take up to 18 credits per semester as a full-time student which would put the cost per credit half the price of a part-time student’s cost per credit. If you are struggling to pay for schooling, part-time might be the more affordable option going from semester to semester and it will also be easier to create class schedules when registering.

There are cons to part-time as well. For one, it will take you about twice as long to graduate compared to full-time. For example, if you are planning to graduate with a bachelor’s, instead of four years to complete 120 credits, it might take eight years. You may also not get as many scholarship opportunities and the amount of financial aid you receive can be less than full-time. Many scholarships require you to be full-time, but that does not mean all of them do. Please also consider the long-term investment of your education. As mentioned, you may be paying less per semester (which is helpful if you are paying out of pocket and not getting student loans), but you will be paying more when it’s all said and done. If you are relying on student loans, this is not the recommended route. You could find yourself graduating with way more debt than you would just going part-time and working less.  

When deciding to go full-time or part-time, it is important to know that you don’t have to pick one and stick to it. You also have the option to do both, but it will impact your graduation rate and you might lose some scholarships that require full-time. Always explore your options and speak with your advisor to see what the best course of action is based on your needs. If you want to know the cost of tuition at a full-time or part-time rate, you can visit the Finance and Business Affairs’ website here.