In last week’s blog, I mentioned taking your time to get through school, and one way to do that is attend school part-time. At some point, adult learners become frustrated with academic life. The late night study sessions, multiple paper assignments, and the tedious group projects finally take its toll on an already busy, chaotic life. When students reach this point, they often wonder if this is a sign that they’ve reached the breaking point. A common question is: Should I continue with my college studies? The answer is yes. This is a perfectly normal part of the academic journey, and it simply means that you have settled into your new normal. You have a new routine that you’re comfortable with, and you know what each semester brings. It’s not pretty, but it’s not terrible either. This isn’t a time to quit. Now, a more reasonable question is: Should I pursue my studies full-time (for current part-timers), or should I scale back to part-time study (for full-timers)? Part-time study is great for the work-life balance, but let’s face it: full-time study gets you finished quicker, or so it seems. So, let’s look at both options.
This option is great for the student who wants to dip their toe in their studies and continue at a consistent pace. If you’re getting a Bachelor’s degree, part-time usually means taking two courses per semester. For most adult students, taking two courses, plus family obligations (immediate or extended family), work, and community obligations, etc. is manageable. They’re even more manageable if one of the courses is online or a hybrid, simply because it incorporates less travel and in-class time. (If you’re not familiar with hybrid courses, they are courses that are taught part face-to-face and part online.) However, the part-time option can extend one’s academic journey if not planned carefully. For example, if four years of full-time study is needed to complete a degree, then the part-time option will make this close to eight years of study.
Now, there are ways around this timeframe that works well for students. Most adult learners do not want to take a summer break, for fear that they’ll lose their academic rhythm. Ten to twelve weeks of no school is great for the 18-22 year old who may want a full summer break, but for the adult student, that long of a break can be scary considering how much work it took to get back into academic mode. In that case, consider taking courses over the summer: one course during the first summer session and another during the second summer session. That way, you’re completing six to eight courses in one full year and cutting down on the amount of time it takes to complete your degree. If your college offers a winter course option, look into this as well.
Then there’s full-time study . . .
Full-time study normally is four to five courses in one semester. Earlier, I advised against going full-time as an adult student, however, there are times when this is extremely necessary. Being a full-time student is a daunting task, but it can be done, given the right circumstances. For most adult students who have tried this, they have usually worked part-time and used every human resource they had to make non-academic life work: friends, grandparents, work friends, church friends, and community resources all helped students make the rest of their lives easier. I recommend that those who choose full-time study take the summer off from college. In this case, it would be good (even necessary) to let your brain rest and allow yourself time to recuperate. Trying to do too much at once will cause burnout.
On a positive note, careful planning of courses, study time, and at least one hobby for yourself (you’ve still got to enjoy life) will make school easier to move through. Your choice of full-time or part-time study all depends on what your life will be like each semester. Therefore, don’t make a decision and think that you have to stick to it. If next semester will be more flexible for you in your professional and personal life, try full-time study. If the semester after that seems more challenging in your professional and personal life, choose part-time study.
Keep moving forward!