In general, most schools require that full-time students take at least 12 semester credits as undergraduates or at least eight or nine semester credits as graduate students, depending on the school. Anything less than that is considered part-time attendance, which can vary from one credit to just shy of full-time. Being a full-time student has several advantages over attending school part-time.
Faster Completion of a Degree
The more classes you complete each academic term, the faster you will finish school. When you take 12 credits per semester, you will finish a bachelor's degree of 120 credits in five years. If you take 15 credits, you will finish the degree in four years. On the other hand, if you are only taking six credits per semester, you will have to study 10 years before you get your bachelor's degree.
Most degrees come with increased opportunities for employment and higher pay scales, so the sooner you complete your degree, the sooner you can get a higher-paying job. Completing a degree in the traditional four years also looks better on a resume than a degree that took five to 10 years to complete.
Bigger Focus on School Work
Most part-time students also work at least part-time, or sometimes even full-time. When you are a full-time student, you can devote your attention to school without having to juggle the responsibilities of a job. Even if a full-time student has a side job, it is usually an hourly job without significant stress and responsibilities. This allows the student to focus more fully on learning and getting good grades in classes.
Often times, part-time students are also working and completing courses around their families. They may have small children at home, which puts further demands on their time.
More Financial Aid
full-time vs part-time student financial aid is also a huge consideration. Full-time students typically get more financial aid than part-time students. One reason is because the tuition is more expensive, so students have more financial need. Another reason is that full-time students typically have less income than part-time students and therefore can afford to pay less for college.
For example, a student going to school part-time and working full-time might have an estimated family contribution of $4,000 per year, based on the federal government's formulas. If part-time tuition is only $6,000, the student only has $2,000 of financial need. If, on the other hand, the student is not working and has an EFC of $0 per year and tuition of $12,000, the student has $12,000 of financial need.
Immersion in College
Many adults look back fondly on their college years as a unique time of a vibrant social life, countless available extracurricular activities and a general freedom from responsibilities. Full-time students generally get to have more of a college experience than part-time students who don't have as much time to spend on campus. Especially if the part-time student does not live on campus and is working a job, he will probably not get to do much on campus besides taking classes.