What’s the Difference Between Full-Time and Part-Time Students?

The difference between full-time and part-time can be confusing for some students, and the choice you make whether to enroll as a full-time or part-time student can affect your academic success, social life, and future career opportunities. However, before making this decision, you should be able to identify the differences between full-time and part-time students. Some of these differences may vary with several college policies, but they are usually the same generally.

What's the Difference Between Full-Time and Part-Time Students?

Who is a Full-Time Student?

A full-time student is a person who is enrolled in a course or courses to complete a degree, diploma, or certificate program at an educational institution. 

Full-time students typically attend classes Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but many colleges have evening courses and weekend courses available as well. Full-time students usually take between 12 and 18 credits per semester (a semester is usually 16 weeks long).   and the majority of college students are full-time. But there’s a growing number of students who don’t fit into this category: part-time students.

Who is a Part-Time Student?

Part-time students are those who attend school fewer than 12 hours per week at a community college or university campus or online program with no designated start time or end time each day. 

Opting for a part-time study program is a decision that can stem from several personal factors. However, if you’re still confused about whether to go for a part-time or full-time study program, there are a lot of factors that can go into deciding which is best for you. The part and full-time programs have their advantages and disadvantages. We’ve explained the differences below to help you make a decision.

Full-Time Student Vs Part-Time Student: The Difference Explained 

  • Cost: It’s cheaper to study full-time than part-time. Part-time students usually don’t pay the same tuition fees as full-time students. They also don’t usually qualify for the most available financial support such as loans or grants that are available for full-time students. The main difference when you choose part-time study is your allowance. On the flip side, Sometimes, full-time students have to struggle as well, as allowances usually don’t cover everything so the student may need to get a part-time job as well. 
  • Time: It takes longer to complete a degree if you study part-time. This is because you will have less time in the day or week to dedicate to your coursework. You may also have less time to study because you may need to work through the weekends or evenings. If you’re going to be a part-time student, you’ll likely spend less time in class than your full-time counterparts at many institutions. You may also be allowed to take fewer courses at one time, which means that it will take longer for you to complete your degree at most schools before you are considered good to go. 
  • Tax benefits: benefits such as tax credits and tuition fees may be available to you if you are a full-time student. However, there are no specific tax breaks available to part-time students. full-time students on the other hand are eligible for benefits like; Tuition Waivers, Tax-free Scholarships, fellowships, grants, and student loan interest deduction.
  • Academic expectations: Full-time students and part-time students share a lot of the same coursework, but the biggest difference between full-time and part-time students lies in the schedule. Full-time students are held to stricter academic standards. This can be a good thing for students who want to maintain good grades than part-time students who are in it for something other than getting the best grades in their classes. Full-time students are also mandated to undertake all courses on campus, often in a very tight timeframe. Part-time students, on the other hand, have more flexibility; most classes are offered online, so long as at least 2/3 of the course’s material is covered in classroom meetings.
  • Learning style: Full-time and part-time students have different study styles. This means that full-time students might have to take a lot of tests so they can get good grades while part-time students can only take one test if they’d like and not worry about their grades. Part-time students have the benefit of planning their classes around their schedules. Part-time students also don’t have to worry as much about failing classes or not meeting academic requirements since they’re not in college full-time. Full-time students generally often have access to more resources on campus and are generally more focused on academics.
  • Research opportunities: Part-time students may not be able to take advantage of research opportunities or participate in campus activities like internships or study abroad programs. They may also lose out on scholarships and special help with tuition costs that are available only to full-time students.
  • Time management: While all college students have time management challenges, part-time students require a higher level of focus and planning than full-time students because of the added responsibilities that come with work and family. Part-time students often have jobs and families, which means they have fewer hours to devote to their studies, and more distractions to deal with alongside schoolwork.
  • Routine: Full-time students tend to follow a more structured class schedule, creating a sense of routine that helps them develop the discipline needed for academic success. Part-time students, on the other hand, enjoy more flexibility in their schedules.

Am I Eligible for Financial Aid As A Part-Time Student?

If you’re a part-time student, you may be eligible for some types of financial aid. There are two general categories of financial aid: need-based and non-need-based.

Need-based financial aid is provided to students who demonstrate a need for financial assistance and meet other parts of the school’s eligibility criteria. The U.S. Department of Education provides a standardized method for calculating your eligibility by removing the Cost of Attendance (COA) from your expected family contribution (EFC), on your Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The questions you have answered about your family’s income and assets on the FAFSA form are then used to determine eligibility for need-based financial aid including grants, loans, and work-study. Non-need-based financial aid, on the other hand,  is offered to students regardless of their financial situation. This type of aid includes merit scholarships, athletic scholarships, and some institutional scholarships. As a part-time student who is enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester, you may be eligible for these two types of financial aid. 


The debate between full-time and part-time students is an age-old one. The answer to whether or not you’ll benefit from going to school full time depends on your finances, time, learning style, and many other factors as stated above. Full-time students will likely find it easier to succeed academically as they are often held to stricter academic standards and normally have easier access to various scholarships. However, the majority of scholarships out there are not restricted to either part or full-time students and usually, anyone who meets the criteria can apply for financial aid. So if you’re considering going to college on a part-time or full-time basis, we hope this blog post has helped you feel more comfortable about which choice to make.