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Should I study full-time or part-time? This was one of the hardest decision I had to make before starting University as a mature student. If you are thinking about returning to higher-education, this might be a very stressful thought to deal with. Hopefully this article will help you make a better decision.
The big question was, should I study full-time and work part-time or vice-versa? At the end, I went for the first option. Obviously, this might not be the most suited choice for everybody, but in my opinion studying full-time is the better option, MOSTLY for people who are going back to study. Now I’ll explain why so and what led me to that choice.
I had two main concerns that were ruining my sleep when thinking about studying full-time or part-time. I’m pretty sure you are dealing with them too right now. The first around “cognitive abilities”: Will I be able to get back to study full-time and be efficient at it? It had been a while since the last time I was on full-time education.
The second was around the financial situation that this choice would imply. “How will I cope financially from switching from working full-time to part-time in order to study?”. Hard times trying to find an answer for those questions. However, I believe I made the best decision possible.
Will I be able to study full-time and be efficient at it?
Having been out of full-time education for quite a few years, cognitive abilities were among my top concerns. I was going to University as a mature student, was I ready to do essays, presentations, exams, studying, group projects and so on? Given the fact that I wasn’t very “interested” in those back in the days at school, the situation did not look encouraging.
Moreover, looking at my first year course description was not helping at all, everything sounded so complicated. I wasn’t really sure of how I would perform compared to younger students. Going to university as a mature student has its unique set of psychological challenges!
As usual, I was overthinking it and getting stuck in my own head. None of that existed, I was more than ready to study. I am sure you are more than ready too! As a matter of fact, I even noticed that I wasn’t affected by anxiety related to exam or such. I believe that my life experience and being used to pressure from my workplace was the secret behind it.
Instead of those being disadvantages, they were the key drivers of my cognitive abilities. I was picking up concepts very quickly and managing my time effectively. I have talked about those advantages here: “Is it too late to start University?”. At the beginning it might take a while to get used to studying again, but once you get going nothing can stop you!
How will I cope financially working part-time and studying full-time?
This was another mountain to climb up in my head. I was working full time consistently for quite a few years before deciding to go back to education. Although I did not really like my job in hospitality, and I felt stuck in it, having a full-time salary every month was reassuring.
I was naively thinking: “part-time equals half of what I am earning now, which is already low and hardly enough to pay rent, bills and food”; “I will struggle even if I use my little savings”. Moreover, I had no intention whatsoever to take the student loan as an extra support, although I now regret it. At that time I did not want any further “debt”, it was a challenge with myself.
But was that true? Not at all! I ended up working part-time and almost not feeling the difference. Firstly, I was paying less taxes on my salary, none if I remember well (depends on how much you earn and if you stay below the threshold). Moreover, I was much more attentive on my spending, I learned so much about financial management during those years!
Need some motivation? In the image below you can find what I read to build good habits and a strong student mindset!
On top of that, student discounts were all over the place. Again less taxes (Council Tax exemption in the UK), and discounts everywhere for any categories, from groceries to clothing, from online to onsite shopping. Part-time working DOES NOT equal half of what you are earning now, at least for a student.
The final push.. study full time with ambitions!
What was the reason that was pushing me to start University as a mature student in the first place? I was not happy with my job, with my salary and career opportunities. I have discussed these feelings in another article, you can find it here: “I am stuck in a job in hospitality and I don’t see a way out“.
So I changed the way of thinking about this. If I decided to keep working full-time and study part-time instead, it would take a lot more time to reach my final goal of breaking free from feeling stuck in my job. Moreover, a part-time student status would have not came with all the benefits of a full-time one.
This is why I believe that studying full-time is a better option for people returning to education. It’s about having the right priorities! I decided that education was my priority, and I would fit everything else around that rather than the opposite. Again, you might find this useful: “Why you should quit your job and study”.
This was entirely based on my experience, it might be different for you or you might even completely disagree with that. There are lots of factors to account for. For example, I had the possibility to switch from full-time to part-time quite easily in my job (hospitality), you might not have that possibility in your job/industry.
My lifestyle was not “expensive”, I would say it was average. I was going out time to time, but certainly not every weekend, also because I was working most of them. If you have a high lifestyle, then working part-time might not be the best option for you.
Tips before you go
Start looking in more detail at your first year course description. That should give you an indication of what to expect. Moreover, you could look at the academic calendar for your course (if available) to have an idea of how many days a week you would need to dedicate to study.
In the meantime, I would really suggest to start preparing for University. There are various things you could do, and I wish I had done at that time, in order to be ready. I went through them in this article, I would encourage you to have a look at it: “How to prepare for University as a mature student”.
Talk to your manager/boss about your plan to go back to study, smart people want you to succeed! See if they can help you rearranging your work schedule to part-time or around that. I used to decrease my work hours around busy periods at Uni and vice versa, planning ahead is extremely important.
Also, start researching on your financial possibilities, look into student discounts, financial support from the Government and other Institutions. Applying for a student loan is another way you should consider, unfortunately I cannot advise you on that as I did not use it. Good luck on your studies!
“It’s not that we have little time, but more that we waste a good deal of it.” – Seneca