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Should I Enroll as a Part-Time or Full-Time Student

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Abound: Grad School »

This question is one that all prospective graduate students must answer for themselves. But how do you decide? What is full-time and part-time at the graduate level? What can I expect as a full-time or part-time students? The difference between the full-time and part-time is as simple as the number of credit hours you enroll in. Generally, students who are enrolled in at least nine credit hours a semester are considered full-time students. As for what you can expect, consider some important pros and cons to full-time and part-time course loads.

Full-time challenges: 

  • Increased tuition costs and more fees: Graduate courses are generally charged per credit hour, so the more you take, the more you will have to pay upfront. Consider whether you can afford to take a full course load. 
  • Limited flexibility to work outside of class: A full-time graduate course load means less time for work. Consider whether you can support yourself and your studies with part-time work.
  • Graduate school consuming your life: Similar to your undergraduate career, a full time graduate career can be all consuming if you let it. To avoid burnout, join some clubs on campus and make time for outside hobbies and activities. 

Full-time Opportunities:

  • Ability to focus and immerse yourself in studies: A full course load means you can devote most of your time and attention to your studies. 
  • Finish your degree faster: The more credits you take per semester, the faster you complete your degree requirements. 
  • Develop close relationships with students and professors: As you spend more time on campus, you have more opportunities to develop a community with your professors and peers.
  • Get more financial aid: Some financial aid packages are contingent on enrollment status; full-time students generally receive more aid than part-time students. 

Part-time challenges: 

  • Balance work, life, and studies: As a part-time student, you will likely be juggling work or family obligations as well as your studies. Consider how much time you can realistically devote to a master’s program. 
  • Have less access to advisors and administrators: If you’re taking evening classes on campus, chances are you will miss the chance to meet with advisors. 
  • Limited relationships with classmates and professors: As a part-time student, you’ll be spending less time on campus and less time with your peers and professors. You also run the risk of missing out on some aspects of student life like clubs, organizations, or networking opportunities.

Free Money: Go Back to School on Your Employer’s Dime

Part-time opportunities: 

  • Bring your work experience to the classroom and vice versa: Going to school part-time affords you the opportunity to implement what you learned in class at your job. You also bring real work experience to your classes which can give you a leg up in discussions and assignments.
  • Less of a financial burden: Tuition rates can be easier to manage if you’re working while studying part-time, and your employer might even pay for it! 

Regardless of your course load, graduate school is a challenging endeavor that you will want to be prepared for. The decision to attend graduate school full-time or part-time depends wholly on you. There are unique challenges and opportunities with both, so it is up to you to decide what you can handle. Use Abound: Grad to help you find the right college that serves you and your needs. More About Abound: We’re here to help. Abound: Grad School narrows down your options and gets you in touch with schools that we can confirm are Accessible, Affordable, Accelerated, and Advanced. Take a look at the schools we trust and find the program that works for you.


More Helpful Resources:

What is Accreditation and Why is it So Important?

Should I Use Rankings to Find a Grad School?

Are Part-Time Students Eligible for Financial Aid?

5 Tips for Online Students from an Online Professor

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