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Guide to Financial Aid for Part-Time Students

Enrolling part-time in school allows students to balance their studies with other priorities, which can include parenting, working a job, or pursuing a hobby. Financial aid works differently for part-time students, so whether you are filling out the FAFSA, talking with your school’s financial aid office, or applying for scholarships, it’s important to know how your part-time status affects your opportunities. Our guide to financial aid for part-time students is the perfect place to start.

How many credit hours is considered part-time?

Colleges and universities vary widely in their definitions of part-time enrollment. Private scholarships also have inconsistent sets of rules regarding enrollment, and often use the terms “part-time” and “half-time” interchangeably. Federal aid follows a stricter set of rules, which we outline later in this article. You should check with your school’s financial aid office to confirm whether or not you qualify as a part-time student in the eyes of your school.

For example, Brigham Young University’s credit hour requirements are below:

  • Part-time is 0.5 to 8.5 credit hours 
  • Three-quarter time is 9 to 11.5 credit hours
  • Full time is 12 credit hours

Some colleges mandate a minimum of 6 credit hours for students to qualify as part-time, and others divide all students between part-time and full-time, eliminating the three-quarter status entirely.

Need-based financial aid and scholarships and part-time status

Part-time students are typically offered the same need-based financial aid opportunities as full-time students. The per-semester award amount typically decreases proportionally with the number of enrolled hours, but your overall award throughout your education should remain the same.

Some merit-based scholarships require full-time enrollment, but you should research the available scholarships at your school to determine if you could be eligible. You can also try reaching out to the financial aid or admission office to ask if there are additional financial aid opportunities for part-time students.

Recommended: How to write a financial aid appeal letter

Federal Aid and the FAFSA

When it comes to filling out the FAFSA, the process for part-time students is the same as for full-time students. You’ll need to fill out the FAFSA before the deadline to qualify for federal aid. Remember, you should fill it out earlier if your school has an earlier deadline.

Part-time students are eligible for all of the same federal aid opportunities as full-time students, although the amounts they qualify for decrease proportionally with the number of hours they enroll in. These opportunities include the:

Your federal aid should end up awarding you the same amount at the end of your studies as if you had enrolled full-time. Although it awards less per semester, part-time students remain enrolled for a higher number of semesters. Therefore, they usually will receive the same amount of aid.

See also: How to apply for student loans: federal and private

Work study

As a part-time student, you may have additional time that you could spend working to help pay for your education. Most colleges offer work-study opportunities for eligible students. These opportunities often come with the added benefit of providing valuable work experience, and potentially building relationships with professors. If you are curious about work study, reach out to your financial aid office about opportunities!

Student loans

An estimated 29% of undergraduate students borrow student loans to pay for college. Part-time students are eligible for many of the same student loans as full-time students. Although your total eligible amount may vary, you can take advantage of many federal programs. These include:

Although their interest rates and repayment options are generally less favorable than federal programs, they can bridge your financial aid gap and make college a reality for you.

Private scholarships

Part-time students should also look for private scholarships. Your life story will make you stand out from others so look for scholarships that cater to your specific situation. Check out our scholarship lists that may be relevant to you: Moms, online, non-traditional, and adults. Make sure that you are always on the lookout and apply for all the scholarships that you qualify for!

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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Just because you are a part-time/half-time student does not mean that you are ineligible for many of the same benefits as full-time students
  • Part-time/half-time students should fill out the FAFSA just like they would if they were full time students
  • Each college or university may have different standards for what qualifies as full-time and part-time/half-time
  • Don’t forget to explore scholarships as well, there are plenty of scholarships available for part-time/half-time students
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about financial aid for part-time students

Can I still get financial aid if I apply late to go to college part-time/half-time?

  Part-time/half-time students may be last minute enrollees and therefore have missed the school’s priority deadline for FAFSA completion. Students can typically still complete the FAFSA, however, their financial aid money might not be there by the start of classes. They’ll need to think of how they’ll pay their bill up front to attend and have their aid reimbursed at some point in the semester.

What disqualifies you from FAFSA?

Things that may affect your FAFSA application are criminal history, citizenship status and intellectual disabilities. However, it is not that these things will necessarily immediately disqualify you. If any of these factors apply to you, you should simply read a little closer into the eligibility requirements, as they may be more complicated.

Does FAFSA actually check income?

FAFSA won’t necessarily check each individual bank account that you have. However, they do ask for your tax returns and other information regarding your financial assets. Just because your exact bank accounts will not be checked though, does not mean that you should not report accurate information. You still need to be one hundred percent honest about everything that the FAFSA asks.

What is part-time/half-time enrollment for FAFSA?

Part-time/half-time enrollment means that you are only taking half of a full course load at your institution. FAFSA does not have their own standards for what is part/half and what is full time, but rather will abide by each individual institution’s standards. How many credit hours you are enrolled in will affect your total cost of attendance (COA), which is one of the biggest determining factors in the amount of aid you’ll receive.