There are many obstacles and potential roadblocks that can make it hard to earn a college degree. One of the biggest challenges students face is having the time needed to complete a degree. A full-time pursuit of a college degree can be just as demanding as a full-time job. Having to balance up to six courses a semester does not leave much room for other activities. 

Many aspiring students interested in earning a degree are often discouraged by the time needed to participate in a full-time program. Traditional colleges have afforded students the ability to participate in a degree program part-time, but do online colleges do the same? Can you attend an online college part-time?

Online college: part-time vs. full-time

What exactly does part-time and full-time enrollment mean? Traditional and online colleges categorize their students into two main buckets: full-time students and part-time students. To be considered a full-time student, that student must be taking a minimum number of credits each semester. Typically, that minimum is 12 credits a semester.

Part-time students are any students that fall below that number in a given semester. But why even make the distinction? Traditional colleges and online colleges typically offer different benefits and different tuition rates depending on a student’s enrollment status. 

For example, many schools offer students a flat-rate tuition fee if enrolled full-time. That means that students will pay the same amount for that semester’s tuition whether they are enrolled in 12 credits or 18 credits. Part-time students tend to only have access to tuition-per-credit rates.

Online College Part-Time Enrollment

Most online colleges offer students the opportunity to enroll in an online degree program part-time. This goes along with the many ways that online colleges work to be more flexible than traditional schools. 

While many traditional colleges tend to have more requirements for their part-time students, online colleges tend to be very flexible when enrollment. Whether it’s one course a semester or five classes a semester, most online colleges are incredibly flexible in allowing students to create a schedule that works best for them. 

The Benefits of Part-Time Enrollment at an Online College

Many potential students who are considering enrolling in a college are always waiting for the right time. They are waiting for some hole to open up in their schedule where they’ll be able to commit themselves entirely to a full-time college experience.

But this can be a trap. As people get older, it’s just a fact, that life becomes more demanding. Job responsibilities and family responsibilities begin to pile up, and it becomes harder and harder to find the “perfect” time to get that college education. 

Part-time enrollment allows students to get the ball rolling on their education while still keeping their commitments. By choosing to pursue a degree part-time, students no longer need to find hours and hours of free time a week. They can start tackling their college degree in more manageable chunks. 

By choosing to enroll in a degree part-time, students can work towards their goal of earning a college degree without monopolizing all of their time.

Who is part-time enrollment at an online college for?

Traditional full-time college makes sense for students fresh out of high school. Most high school graduates are in the fortunate position of not having many responsibilities yet. They can commit themselves entirely to four years of schooling with little to no incident.

But high school students make up just a tiny fraction of the people that might want to earn a college degree. There are plenty of folks who fall outside the traditional education path to make a college degree.

A great example of this is the working professional who wants to change careers. Many people find that the career path they thought would be for them isn’t a great fit later in their lives. But now they are on their own, and they need that career to support themselves financially. How are you supposed to support yourself financially while also getting the education you need to start a new job? That’s where part-time enrollment comes in. 

Working professionals make up a considerable number of students who are enrolled part-time. Another primary user of part-time enrollment is active-duty service members. Many online colleges even offer special discounted tuition rates to active-duty service members to allow them to work towards earning a college degree while on active duty. 

Part-time enrollment status is for any student that already has responsibilities and obligations that would preclude them from participating in a college degree full-time.

The downsides of part-time enrollment at online college

Students must keep in mind the potential downsides of part-time enrollment. It may seem obvious, but the biggest downside to part-time enrollment is that it can lengthen the amount of time it takes to complete a degree, especially when it comes to undergraduate degrees. Most undergraduate degree programs take about four years to meet at a full-time rate. If pursuing an undergraduate degree part-time, students may end up lengthening that time out to 5-6 years. That’s a long time.

That’s why part-time enrollment is sometimes suited better for Master’s degrees. Master’s degrees can be completed in 1-2 years full-time. By pursuing that type of degree part-time, you can still easily earn that degree in a little over three years.

Can I attend an online college part-time?

The short answer is yes! You absolutely can enroll in an online college part-time. Enrolling in an online college part-time can be pretty advantageous to certain types of students. Many working professionals just don’t have the available time in a day to sink into a full-time online college enrollment. Part-time college enrollment allows aspiring students to pursue their dream of earning a college degree no matter how much or how little extra time their schedule allows. 

So don’t let the specter of full-time enrollment keep you from earning a college degree. Find an online college that suits your needs and work on your degree at your own pace, part-time. 

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