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Funding Part-time Education
Being a part-time student has advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes it seems like every program is geared towards full-time students. How can you pay for your education and make both your budget and time work?
As a part-time student, you have some advantage over full-time students. You can work more hours during the school year to earn more money. However, you might be a part-time student so that you can take care of your children, or because you volunteer someplace. These are the times when it can be harder to fund part-time education.
Full-time students get a discount on tuition: generally, each of their courses is less expensive than each of yours. This means that you will be spending more money to go to school. Full-time students also have the advantage that they get more funding from scholarships, bursaries, and other sources. Itís disappointing to see ďfull-time statusĒ as a requirement on so many applications.
You can apply for loans designed specifically for part-time students. You want to find a loan that best matches your profile. If you are working, you might be able to begin paying the loan back right away. If you are not working, then you will want a loan that you donít have to pay back for at least a few years, and ideally until you have done your school. This isnít a problem if you will one be in school two or three years (taking a one-year diploma or certificate, for example). However, if you are doing an undergraduate degree that takes four years typically, on a part-time basis this will likely take you six to eight years.
One way to finish your degree faster and still be a part-time student is to take classes during the entire year. Many full-time students only take classes for two semesters a year, or eight months. If you take half the classes for the full year, you will have done 75% of the courses a full-time student takes. This means that you will be done school sooner, and increases your chances of getting a loan that you donít have to repay until you graduate.
The key to being a part-time student is time management. If you have kids at home, you will need to block out certain hours a week to work on school. If you are working full-time and taking courses on the side, it might seem like the reading is the least important thing for you to do. Keeping on top of your schoolwork now will make it easier when crunch time rolls around and you are doing exams, essays, and reports.
If you are going to school part-time to increase your skills for your job, you might be able to get your employer to pay for all or part of your education. Even if your education is not directly related to your job, you might be able to get special scholarships because of your association with your workplace. Ask your employer and ask your school about what is available.
Your schoolís office of student awards and financial aid will be able to help you discover certain awards that are only awarded to part-time students. The Organization of Part-time University Students (or OPUS) can help you find work, find scholarships, and discover new ways to pay for your education. If your school is not affiliated with OPUS, you can check them out on the web, and go to your schoolís equivalent department.
Time management skills will also increase your ability to earn money. This will help you pay for your education faster. And the skills that you develop in time management (organization, work ethic, planning) will also help you in your money management.
Manage your money wisely. It can be difficult when you are a part-time student and all of your friends are not in school. They might be out at the bars or shopping all the time, but you have to be realistic about what you can afford. Choose cheaper options, like having your friends over instead of going out, to help make your lifestyle fit your means.
Going to school part-time can be a lot of hard work, but the end result is ultimately rewarding. Explore your options with your school, with your bank, and with your employer to work out the best deal for you.
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