While some adults manage to add a full-time college degree to their busy schedule, other students prefer not to commit full-time to the rigorous demands and expectations of a college program. This is particularly the case for students already working full-time or caring for others at home. While desiring the benefits of a bachelor's degree, many adults do not want to give up their other responsibilities in return. Part-time college programs address the needs of busy students with flexible schedules, financial aid and accessible delivery methods.
Research part-time undergraduate programs that interest you. Many schools offering full-time programs also offer a part-time option. Inquire with the school's admissions office or the program's department about part-time options and how part-time enrollment effects the curriculum. For example, are all required classes offered each semester, or will the part-time course schedule create problems with obtaining needed prerequisites each semester?
Compare the programs and schools you select. Consider the cost, which can be greater for part-time students because the program duration is longer. Inquire about accredited online programs that allow students to conveniently complete a bachelor degree from home or during personal time at work. Not all part-time programs are created equal, so do your research. Some programs allow students to take one class a month, some offer weekend or night classes, some offer college classes on-site to large companies and others incorporate a hybrid (half classroom, half online) strategy.
File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Part-time college students are eligible for federal financial aid and some college-based aid. Financial aid awards are generally awarded based on the number of college credits you enroll for. Part-time students should expect a reduced award.
Apply, enroll and complete the program. Communicate with professors regarding any issues that arise during the program. Professors often understand that part-time students have demanding lives and have needs that differ from traditional full-time students. For example, communicate with professors when you need more time for an assignment due to a situation at work.
Identify school resources that will help you be successful. Colleges and universities generally offer the same benefits to part-time students as full-time students. Take advantage of student counseling services, career services and access to time or stress management tools. Ask if your school library can mail you books or deliver books to a near-by library for pick-up. Purchase student health insurance if you don't have any, to keep yourself healthy. Schools increasingly offer excellent health benefit plans to students at low costs.
Plan out your school schedule around your availability to include studying and class time. While the benefits of studying are not as immediate as for other tasks, do not allow your studies to take the backseat. Keep on top of reading and homework, and avoid procrastination like the plague. While it may be difficult to find a couple of hours one week for studying, it will be even more difficult to find double the time the next week.
Ask other adults or responsible children in the home to take on more responsibility. For example, ask your teenager to do the dishes in the evening so you can do homework, or ask your spouse to take over the Saturday morning grocery shopping so you can use this time to study instead.
- California Postsecondary Education Commission; "Part-Time Undergraduates in Postsecondary Education: 2003-04"; U.S. Department of Education; June 2007
- U.S. News; "Going to College Part Time Has Perks and Perils"; Jackie Mantey; August 2007
- Course Advisor: Benefits of a College Degree
- Forbes.com; "Back to School: How to Pay for College as an Adult"; David Randall; Auguest 2009
- Rutgers University: Part-Time and Non-Degree Applicants
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.