Considering Part Time Studies

While there are drawbacks for part-time study, (1) on any academic level, none of them should prevent a prospective student from studying. When it is not feasible for many prospective students to undertake full-time studies, part-time studies are still a viable option. The benefits of part-time study often outweigh the drawbacks, particularly for anyone returning to studying after many years on the work force.

What are some of the drawbacks of part-time study?

Time:

Time is one of the major factors to consider with respect to part-time study, because taking one or two courses at a time, weighs heavy time wise. To the student, it can seem like part-time studies take forever. Then, while everyone else is graduating, year after year, the part–time student has to keep on studying. Graduation can seem to be very far away and thus the part-time student can become discouraged. 

On a more positive note, having extra time to read, or being able to spend more time on topics of interest and projects, can work to the part-time student’s advantage. With time management and a good study ethic, a part-time student’s marks can improve considerably. The part-time student also has time to do other things that a full-time student cannot do.

Full-time studies can be like taking ‘crash courses’ that are frustrating to the student who is too busy, while part-time studies allow more time for in-depth study. There is extra time to allocate to academic research and thus the serious part-time student can exceed the potential of full-time students.

Time is important but it should not be the only determining factor, when one wants to return to school    

Cost:

The cost factor of education is always important. While full time courses and part time courses generally cost the same in terms of tuition and books, there are invariably additional expenses for the part-time student.

For example, every trip to the college or university comes at a price. For example, consider the cost of driving a vehicle, or purchasing bus passes to travel to and from campus. There is the cost of vehicle maintenance, insurance, gasoline and the cost of parking on campus to consider. Full-time students pay this as well, but for part-time students, studying over a higher number of years, this adds up and has to be part of the financial equation.      

On a long-term basis, meals for part-time students can be costly too. Full-time students are generally on campus at lunchtime. Many part-time students are obliged to take evening courses, which entails packing a lunch, eating in the cafeteria (if it is open), or going to a restaurant off campus if it is not. The cost adds up over a long time.

Weighing the financial aspect of part-time study against the long-term benefit of part-time study is always a good idea.

Effort:

A student taking part-time courses generally has to put in extra effort in order to attend classes on a regular basis. At home, this may involve the interaction between one’s spouse and family. Having a spouse study on a part-time basis, can be or become an inconvenience for the other partner, particularly when it involves children. It may entail finding appropriate baby sitters or other help, to replace the part-time student who is a single father or mother. Many times, it involves extra involvement and participation of parents and grandparents.

When asked to attend special classes, exams or for interviews by teachers or professors, again, extra effort may be needed, on the part of the student, as well as other family members or friends. There may be conflict that involves scheduling. It may not always be possible to attend everything that is being offered to enhance a part-time student’s education.

Note that most spouses, parents and grandparents, as well as other family members try to be supportive with respect to part-time students. Working out a suitable arrangement on a long-term basis, can resolve this area of concern.

Employers:

Many employers encourage students to be part-time students, as full-time students generally have to take time off work, whereas part-time students tend to work around their employment schedules. A difficulty may arise if the part-time student combines employment and part-time courses and takes on too much. A healthy balance between work and part-time studies is important.

Some employers may be willing and able to assist part-time students financially by paying the cost of tuition, day care costs for children, etc. This may take the form of financial remuneration or re-imbursement when courses have been competed. They may also assist a disabled student to take part-time courses, when full-time study is not feasible.

Teachers and professors:

Teachers and professors often go out of their way for part-time students and revise classes or schedules in such a way as to help them meet their academic needs. This is not always easy for them, particularly when there are extremely large classes, many papers that have to be marked, schedules that have to be up-dated, etc.    

Note that most teachers and professors are very kind, compassionate and understanding with respect to part-time students, so this should not stop a student from taking part-time courses.

Grants, bursaries and awards:

Grants, bursaries and academic awards are generally obtainable to full time students, but not necessarily there for part time students.

Part-time students can and should make inquiries about special grants, bursaries and academic awards only offered to those engaged in part-time study.

In conclusion, any student considering part-time study should speak with a guidance counselor with respect to his or her own situation. With good planning, succeeding at part-time studies is possible.

1. http://legalcareers.about.com/od/educationandtraining/a/parttimelaw.htm