Full-Time vs Part-Time Students | Which Type is Best For You?

Fulltime student vs. Part time student
Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

One of the first decisions any student has to take before starting a new degree or semester is how many credit hours they will be taking. Be a part-time student and have more availability to continue with other responsibilities, or become a full-time student that mainly focuses on getting the degree faster.

What happens if we compare full-time vs part-time students? Which is the best choice?

This all depends on how much time each student can commit to college. After all, one thing is to study full time when you have all the time in the world, and another is when you have work obligations, a family to take care of, and many other things to pay for before you can actually pay for full tuition.

Even though each case is unique, there are many aspects that all students need to take into account before choosing how to study.

Which way will I spend more money? Which is the best for finishing first? How many credit hours can I take if I have other obligations? What should I prioritize if I want to get a job in the field I’m studying while still in college? If you have some of these questions and are still wondering which type of student you will be, we have good news for you.

Here at Gradehacker, we have experience working with non-traditional students who want to balance their personal and college life. We understand how vital time commitment is when it comes to starting new classes, and that’s why we listed the most important differences and advantages between full-time and part-time students.

Let’s begin!

Full time vs part time students College

What's the difference?

On the one hand, a full-time student is generally someone with a minimum of twelve credits, which depending on the college, is between four and five classes per semester.

On the other hand, students enrolled part-time take fewer than 12 credit hours, which usually means taking between two or three classes.

From the start, the main difference is the number of college credits each student gets per semester. 

But who chooses which? Well, if we consider the time that each type requires, it’s easy to assume that people with family and work are part-time students, while those without these obligations and have more free time are full-time.

Actually, the truth is more complex than that.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCESa), of the 19.4 million students who attended colleges and universities in Fall 2020, 11.9 million attended full time, while 7.5 million were part-time. And if we take into account that The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2020, 41.5% of full-time college students had a job, that leaves us with 4.9 million students with responsibilities that still chose to study full time.

While the percentage of employed part-time college students is higher (82%), the reality is that millions of students who work still find a way to study full-time. But why?

Let’s see the factors that all college students need to consider first.

Time Commitment

First is time commitment because you need to be sure that you will attend classes once you enroll; otherwise, you will likely be wasting your money.


If you have other responsibilities, you will have more flexibility with your schedule as a part-time student. If you pick two classes in different timelines, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on your work while completing your degree.

However, this rate significantly increases the time it takes you to earn your degree.


On the contrary, you will finish college earlier as a full-time college student. Most can graduate in four years by taking approximately 15 credits per semester, which would be around five classes.

That amount of classes require much study time, reading material, discussion posts, and assignments. By no means is it impossible to ace every one of them, but with full-time student status, you will need many hours available per week.

Full time vs part time students Students in class


Another important and well-known aspect is the cost. Which way requires you to pay more?


Usually, people in part-time enrollment pay for their studies per credit. According to EducationData.org, students in a four-year public college pay an average of $312 per credit. Therefore, a 10-credit semester will cost approximately $3,120.

In comparison to full-time students, they pay less for each semester. The bad news is that part-time students will continue studying and paying for their classes once the full-time students have graduated.

Still, one of its greatest advantages is that if you can’t apply for any scholarships or can’t afford college by any other means, you can get a job with part-time student status.

It will fill up your schedule with more responsibilities, but it will definitely reduce your financial burden.


Full-time students tend to pay an annual or semester-based tuition rate. It may be more upfront, but many schools offer a flat rate for taking 12 to 18 credits per semester.

The more credits you take, the less you’ll pay! A cool benefit that will help you save a lot of money in the long run.

Additionally, once you reach the tuition cost cap, you will stop paying per credit. Overall it ends up being a similar amount of money you spend as a part-time student, which means you’ll have to deal with a higher cost up-front, but in return, you’ll get your degree faster!

Financial Aid

As financial aid is a requirement many people need before college, we think it’s important to consider it a decisive aspect. Whether you are a full-time or part-time student will directly affect your eligibility.

Scholarships help alleviate the heavy burden of college costs, and there are many options for all types of students, but in order to get them, you need to meet specific requirements.

Now, if you are a non-traditional student and want to find the best scholarships for you, read this article!

And if you are a nursing student, we also have a list of the best scholarships that suit your needs! The same goes if you are a member of the military force or a military spouse.

There are some great scholarships for you out there, so don’t miss out on them!

So, regarding financial aid, those in full-time enrollment have the upper hand, as studying full-time is a common requirement for most scholarships.

Even though more financial aid is available for full-time students, there are scholarships for people with part-time status based on merit or need. But of course, the amount granted is lower.

For instance, if you want to apply for any federal financial aid, you need a minimum of six credits per semester. But as these programs base their maximum eligibility on the number of credits taken, the fewer credits you take, the less money you’ll receive.

Full time vs part time students Adult student in class

Full-Time Pros and Cons

The best advantage of full-time study is that you will finish your degree earlier, which will lead you to find a better job faster.

Even though you get a more significant tuition fee upfront, there are more scholarships available for you, besides having the possibility of saving money by taking more credits per semester.

Still, with so many classes, you’ll need to spend many hours reading important material, preparing yourself for exams, and writing long essays. So, you’ll have less free time for hobbies and responsibilities like work and family.


Earn your degree faster

Larger tuition upfront

More scholarships available

Less time for hobbies and responsibilities

Some colleges offers discounts for taking more than 12 credits per semester

Part-Time Pros and Cons

On the contrary, being a part-time student gives you the time to fulfill all your obligations. By taking two or three classes per semester, you will be able to work, take care of your family, and study.

It will take you more time to earn your degree, but you won’t have to prioritize one thing over the other. It’s not easy, but balancing college life and work is 100% possible.

The good news is that you pay less per semester, and while it’s true that there are fewer scholarships available, you can still work and pay for college with that.


Lets you work, take care of your family, and study at the same time

Earn your degree slower

Pay less per semester

Fewer scholarships and financial aid available

Which is Best for You?

While part-time and full-time students have different needs, the most important thing you need to consider is which fits your unique necessities best.

Maybe you want a college degree, but you can only pay for tuition by keeping your daily job. And if providing for your family is also a need, and you are in no rush to earn your degree, then the flexibility of part-time enrollment is the right choice for you.

Or perhaps you have plenty of time available and only think about working your dream job. The only problem is that you need the degree and experience, and you want it now. If you can afford a higher attendance cost upfront, the full-time status is for you!

Still, don’t stick with one for your whole college experience! You can start part-time and work for a year and then change to a full-time schedule. Or, you may begin as a first-year student paying for full-time tuition, but as you then find a job that also gives you experience, you change to part-time study.

Consider your needs, see what you can do to improve your life, and do it. You can trace your own college journey!

We hope you have a better understanding of what full and part-time students have to deal with. Next time you are about to start a semester, you’ll consider how you can take the most advantage of your situation, regardless of which enrollment status you choose.

But if you need more time and are looking for extra help, you can check out our services! Get help with your essays, exams, and entire classes. And if you are thinking of studying full-time while still working, don’t miss our degree accelerator subscription and get your degree three to five times faster!

If you want to see more tips and learn more about how to improve your college journey, check out some of our related content:

Here's Some Free Valuable Secrets To Make Your College Journey Easier