Paying for College as a Part Time Student: What Are Your Options?
Paying for college is a challenge and a balancing act. Period. When you’re a part-time college student, there are a whole new set of challenges. So, what are the options for paying for college as a part-time student, and are they the same as for full-time students?
Financial Aid Options for Part-Time Students
Going to school part-time can be cheaper, but you may still need to take advantage of financial aid! But some of your options may be limited as a part-time student. Did you know that you need to be enrolled at least half time (by your school’s definition) to be eligible for federal student loans? Other financial aid may be limited based on your enrollment status, so you need to set up some time with your college and financial aid advisor to understand your options.
Although going to school part-time means you are delaying your graduation, it can make college a bit more affordable per term. If your financial aid is limited due to your enrollment status, you may want to consider working while in school.
Working While in College
As a part-time student, you typically have more flexibility with your schedule, making it easier to find job opportunities which work. Although many part-time students who also work find it hard to balance work, homework, and a social life, but it is for all students.
The obvious benefit of working while in school is being able to earn money! It’s not uncommon to come across people who are working to pay for college! It’s their strategy to avoid borrowing student loans. Another benefit is that you can start gaining those years of experience often required by entry level positions after graduation.
Attending school part-time may also allow you to work multiple jobs! This could be beneficial if you are in a situation where you are required to do an internship that might be unpaid, and still need to have a paying job.
The downside here, is if you are planning on some type of post-graduate education, you are only increasing your amount of time in school. And although paying for higher education is certainly a huge issue: but if you start failing classes or your mental health declines because you are SO stressed about money and school, is it worth it? You just need to make sure you find the balance you need.
Some people may need to reduce their coursework because it’s overwhelming to manage four classes with the demands of their lives (it could be a job, family, or health issue). But that’s okay. Your path to success may be a bit different than your friends, but just make sure you have a plan to get there. Set up some time with your college advisor to make sure you know which classes you need to take. And see if you can take advantage of summer terms to help speed up the process.
But if you need to work while going to school, a part-time course load may be helpful to your sanity. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself to a point of failure, but just remember it may take you a little more time to graduate.
Full Time vs. Part Time Student
Paying for part-time classes and full-time is not necessarily the same. Full-time students are usually taking at least four classes and therefore spend significantly more time on campus, where it is nearly impossible to work a full-time job while being a full-time student.
At least at the university I attend, many students find part-time on-campus jobs which fit around their class schedule and don’t require any kind of commute because they are already on campus. This is a convenient option, but it can be a stressful (and kind of boring) when you basically spend all your time on campus. However, it works well for many people.
College is an incredible balancing act of planning for the future while living in the present. Not every decision we make is going to pan out the way we expect. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the right path.