The Ups and Downs of Studying PART-TIME: A Student’s Story

Part-timers are often the envy of many full-time students. We dream of time… to write our essays, focus on our work, and just think things through. But does part-time study really fit the full-timers’ dream?

We spoke with Stuart Boyd, a current part-time student here at the University, who revealed they are probably just as envious of you as you are of them, just as stressed and probably even busier!

Stuart is in his second year (as a part-timer this means he’s still in his first academic year) studying for an undergraduate degree in Counselling Psychology. The 36 year-old is “married, a homeowner and a reluctant landlord.” He also hit the fifteen-year milestone with his current employer this January.

Stuart shares the ups and downs of studying part time, that “the best things about being a part time student, is just simply being a student”. There are some great aspects of it – however, balancing study with a full-time job and other hefty commitments certainly “has a flip side” that you might not guess.

Why did you choose to study part time at Uni?

“It wasn’t so much a choice as a necessity. When my wife finally gave me the kick up the back-side I needed to get my UCAS points up to speed through the Access course, I was already 32, and had accumulated the kind of life and financial commitments that aren’t easy to put to one side (giving up work for three years simply wasn’t an option). It was kind of a case of ‘now or never’.”

To both maintain my established life and improve my future, part-time study really was the only choice. As much as I’d love to fast-track the changes, the fact that there’s a University with a strong faculty in my chosen field, that is easily accessible from my home and work and offers the option of part-time study that makes this possible.”

Part-time students are the envy of many full-timers… is it really as great as it sounds?

“The feeling is very much mutual.”

“At the risk of sounding like a clichéd sound bite from your dad (note: wait until your 30s, when you realise that everything he ever told you was bang on), I absolutely lap up every second at University, because I live the alternative the other four days of the week. I’d really love my days to be allocated the other way around.”

“Maybe I’d feel differently if Psychology were coming at me at twice the pace it is now, but I like to think not. In concession, it was nice to have just the one exam last year!”

Is there anything about full-time students that you envy?

“Plenty! I’ve come to realise that time is the most precious commodity on the planet; where you spend it and who with. You can always earn more money, but once time has elapsed, it’s gone for good. I envision more time around University equalling more time to immerse yourself in the subject you’ve chosen; more time for utilising the facilities, but also time for cultivating relationships.”

“I’m respectfully envious of the young people especially, who are free to study full-time. Many I speak to appear to have a clear idea of where they want this to take them, and those who aren’t quite sure yet are going to have a lot of options at an early juncture in life, both of which are fantastic places to be.”

“This experience and resource would have been wasted on me in my late teens or early twenties. I simply wasn’t ready. I had no idea where I wanted to be in the future. And I have friends pushing 40 who are still that way.”

What are the best things about being a part-time student?

“There’s definitely more time to absorb new things – sometimes a rush of new information can be overwhelming. However, there is a flip side to that coin, which we’ll cover later…”

“It’s easier to streamline focus into assignments, projects, and reading – where there aren’t so many modules competing for time in your calendar, and with space in your head – at once.”

“Part of my day job involves auditing historical financial information. On occasion, you need to put that stuff down, and come back to it later with a fresh pair of eyes. When you do, you often wonder why you were finding it so challenging in the first place. Studying part-time gives you the leeway to do this with University work – a luxury that full timers might not share.”

“Ultimately, though, the best thing about being a part-time student, is just simply being a student.”

How does it impact your experience of University life?

“It does have its pitfalls. For one thing, I sometimes have to go the extra mile to obtain information about how certain things will affect me. With the vast majority of students being full-time, a lot of the information is geared up specifically for how things will pan out for them... sometimes it feels like staff can forget that there are part-timers out there too.”

“For students in full-time employment, or with family commitments, something as simple as a late timetable change for the semester, or a supporting workshop or seminar added on a different day of the week, can be a massive stress. Managers with rotas, childminders with limited slots, and elderly parents aren’t the easiest hurdles to negotiate at short notice, and often don’t appreciate the significance of the commitment you’ve made to study. Logistics can be a struggle in these instances – it’d be so much easier if I lived in halls and could just walk ten minutes to lectures.”

“Here’s the flip-side to that earlier coin… One module I’m studying this semester covers a lot of things that go hand-in-hand with a module I did in the first semester last year and found challenging at times. Elements of last year’s module would have been much easier had I been studying this one alongside it (which of course would’ve been the case if I were full-time), but as lectures for each fell on different days, that was never a possibility.”

“Peer support is also an important part of so many aspects of life, and re-integrating with a new peer group every two years is going to be challenging. I made friends last year who have moved on together, and left me behind (so to speak). That isn’t an easy thought to process when you’ve had a difficult day at work, and think about how far away your end goal still is, time-wise.”


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