This Insights article was contributed by Fabiola Kinney, Admissions and Advising Coordinator of North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Adult Studies Program in Wilmington.
“Can I work full-time while studying?”
I hear this question quite often while assisting working adults enrolling in college in planning a successful transition back into school life. What often prevents adults from enrolling in college courses are the fear of the time commitment involved and the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities with the demands of school.
In addition, they are afraid it will take “forever” to finish the degree. It is not unreasonable that they need to earn a degree quickly. Getting a bachelor’s degree is one of the best steps adults can take to improve their career prospects and earning potential.
The priorities for working students are largely different from what programs for traditional students offer. When I attended college, I was the typical 18-year-old traditional student – fresh out of high school, I lived with my parents, worked part-time, and had very few worries besides getting decent grades. Going to class two or three times a week and juggling a full course load of four courses at a time was very manageable. Today, as a mother and a nine-to-fiver, I can see how accessibility and convenience would be the main driving factors in my college search.
Luckily, students considering a bachelor’s degree program nowadays have many options. Over the years, schools have developed new course formats to better accommodate the needs of working students, which now represent almost 40 percent of the total college population in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
In fact, a quick search on the internet currently produces thousands of program options. There are full-time or part-time schedules, accelerated or self-paced courses, and face-to-face, online or hybrid programs offered at many institutions. Because this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, it is imperative that prospective students do their homework in finding the right match.
Finding the Right Format
Working adults enjoy accelerated bachelor’s degree programs, and for a good reason. They can earn their bachelor’s degree faster while focusing on fewer courses at a time. Accelerated programs consist of shorter classes. While a traditional college course lasts 16 weeks, an accelerated program compresses courses into five-, eight- or 10-week sessions.
Although accelerated courses are fast-paced, they are well suited for working students who wish to take 12 credits per semester and graduate quicker.
As an academic advisor at North Carolina Wesleyan College
, I assist students with choosing a schedule that better fits their lifestyles. They can choose between part-time (one course per eight-week session) and full-time (two courses per eight-week session) course loads. We offer two convenient eight-week sessions per semester year around.
This accelerated format allows an adult to become a full-time student while only having to concentrate on two subjects at a time. In addition, taking a full course load per semester allows students to qualify for more “free” financial aid
(federal and state grants and scholarships).
“Should I take my courses online or should I stick with face-to-face classes?”
When deciding on courses, students should always choose the course format that best fits their life and learning styles. Working adults can choose courses offered online, face-to-face or hybrid (courses that combine both face-to-face and online instruction).
offer flexibility, convenience and accessibility. Students can plan their study time around their schedules, instead of having to physically attend a class session. Assignments are completed electronically, so any student with a reliable internet connection can have access.
All of these benefits help students balance work and family commitments with their education. Students can take courses at their own pace. They can review the material, repeat exercises, and take the time they need to master concepts. Independent learners find online work more engaging, as they can learn when they are most productive.
On the other hand, online courses can be challenging for students who have a hard time monitoring deadlines. They work best for students who are mature, well-organized, and have good time-management skills.
Face-to-face learning is the traditional way and still has its strong foundations. Students physically attending a seated course can benefit from classroom discussions and networking opportunities and form strong study groups and support systems.
Peer-to-peer and student-faculty conversations allow students to receive immediate individual feedback and mentorship. In addition, if a problem arises when you are in a face-to-face course, you can simply ask the instructor to explain it again.
In order to accommodate working adults, colleges have developed differentiated schedules, like evening and weekend courses. In order to meet the needs of working professionals, NCWC
designed courses that meet only one night a week. The evening courses allow most working students with a regular 9-5 schedule to attend classes. Also, since courses meet only one night a week, physically attending a class is more manageable. Classes in Wilmington meet on Cape Fear Community College’s campuses.
Hybrid courses, ideally, combine the best of both worlds: they are both flexible and accessible while still providing personal interaction with instructors and classmates. At NCWC
, hybrid courses meet 50 percent online and 50 percent face-to-face (this ratio may vary at other institutions).
At first, it may seem overwhelming to go back to college to earn a bachelor’s degree, especially for working adults. However, with so many flexible options available, students, with a little help from an academic advisor, can put together a plan that fits their schedules and allows them to smoothly make the transition back into school.
Fabiola Kinney is the Admissions and Advising Coordinator of North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Adult Studies Program in Wilmington. She has extensive academic and administrative experience in education, including over 10 years working in private colleges in North Carolina. NCWC offers students the opportunity to earn a degree in a format designed especially for adult learners. Students can choose online, hybrid or one-night-a-week seated courses. For more information, visit https://ncwc.edu/adult/ or e-mail [email protected].
Dani Somers is the Assistant Director of Admissions for North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Adult & Professional Studies. She started her career with NC Wesleyan College in 2016. NCWC offers students the ability to obtain their degree in an affordable and conveniently formatted program. Please visit www.ncwc.edu/BelieveNow or email [email protected] for more information.