One of the major benefits of online education is its flexibility. Brick-and-mortar colleges aren’t a good option for everyone – many people don’t live close enough to a college to take classes there, or they might have a full-time job, a family, or other major responsibilities that get in the way of school. For these people, online education is a very practical alternative. Earning an online degree lets you complete your education at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.
If you’re considering distance education, you’ll have the option to take classes on either a full-time or part-time basis. What’s the difference? Keep reading to learn more about each option and decide which is best for you.
Part-Time vs. Full-Time – What’s the Difference?
You’re considered a full-time student if you’re taking 12 or more credit hours per semester. Most online classes are three credit hours each, just like traditional classes. This means you’d have to take at least four classes every semester to be a full-time student.
If you take fewer than twelve credit hours per semester, you’re a part-time student. The number of classes you take is up to you. If your schedule is already packed, you might decide to just take a single class at a time. If time allows, you might prefer taking several classes to make quicker progress towards your degree. It all depends on your personal preferences.
The Benefits of Taking Online Classes Part-Time
If you’re a part-time student, you will need more time to finish your degree than you would if you studied full-time. But that doesn’t mean taking classes part-time is a bad idea – far from it. For many students, a slow and steady approach is more effective than trying to earn a degree quickly.
Many students – especially adult students – are faced with the unique challenge of juggling multiple responsibilities along with going to school. It’s one thing for a 19-year-old traditional student to spend 40 or more hours a week going to class and studying. But for an adult who already has a full-time job and a family, this scenario isn’t very realistic. There are only so many hours in a week, and each three-credit online class will take up eight to 10 of those hours. A part-time course load can help people fit school into their already-busy lives.
Taking classes part-time can also help students stick to their goals. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or fall behind when taking a full class load, and this can lead to dropping out of an online degree program completely. Part-time students often enjoy their classes more and have less stress to deal with than full-time students.
Financial Aid Considerations
If you’re planning on applying for financial aid, give some extra thought to how many classes you take. Financial aid is often not available for part-time students, whether they are taking classes online or in person. If receiving financial aid is very important to you, you might have to enroll in classes on a full-time basis.
Are Part-Time Classes Right for You?
If you want to earn an online degree but you only have limited time for studying, taking classes on a part-time basis might be the best option for you. You’ll be able to take on only the course load you can handle, and you’ll always have the option of going full-time in the future if you want to. Your financial situation and your schedule will help you decide whether being a part-time or full-time student is a more practical choice for you.