Resources › For Students and Parents What Does It Mean to Be a Full-Time Student? The definition varies by school Share Flipboard Email Print Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty Images For Students and Parents College Life Academics Before You Arrive Health, Safety, and Nutrition Living On Campus Outside The Classroom Roommates Dating Graduation & Beyond Homework Help Private School Test Prep College Admissions Graduate School Business School Law School Distance Learning View More By Kelci Lynn Lucier Education Expert M.Ed., Higher Education Administration, Harvard University B.A., English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College Kelci Lynn Lucier has worked in higher education for over a decade. She is the author of "College Stress Solutions" and features on many media outlets. our editorial process Kelci Lynn Lucier Updated July 03, 2019 You've probably heard the terms "full-time student" and "part-time student" in reference to college enrollment. Obviously, full-time students go to school more than part-time students, but what distinguishes the two often varies by institution. No matter what qualifies as a full-time student at your school, it's important that you know the requirements because your enrollment status can affect your taxes and other obligations. What Is Full-Time Enrollment? In a very general sense, a full-time student is usually a student who takes 12 units, credits, or hours per term at an institution where the standard course load is 16 units, credits, or hours. This, of course, is a very general description. Each institution calculates credits differently, and what counts as full-time at a school that uses a semester system will be different from what counts as full-time at a school that uses a quarter system. Full-time students are often classified as such, as long as they are taking more than half of a traditional course load. To learn if you are considered a full-time student, you should check with your college or university. The registrar's office will likely have their institution-specific definition posted online. If not, however, a quick phone call, email, or visit might be in order. Additionally, if you are a student who, for example, has some learning differences, what counts as a full-time course load for you might be different from what it is for other students. Some institutions will have their own definition of what it means to be a full-time student; others will use the definition provided by your college or university. The IRS, for example, classifies you as a full-time student if "you are enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time." Put simply, you need to ask the appropriate authority to learn your full-time enrollment requirements. It's crucial that you know whether or not you are a full-time student, as your enrollment status can affect your graduation timeline, among other things. Why Your Enrollment Status Matters Your enrollment status — whether or not you are classified as a full-time student — may affect different aspects of your education. For example, you may qualify for certain tax credits and deductions as a full-time student that you would not be eligible for as a part-time student. For this reason, you'll want to check with your academic advisor or the registrar's office before taking any action (such as dropping a class) that could potentially affect your enrollment status. If you're a student-athlete, you should know that you may not be eligible to compete if you fall below half-time enrollment. Your car insurance premiums and taxes are also related to your enrollment status. Perhaps most importantly, your financial aid and student loans are affected by whether you are a full-time or part-time student. For example, many student loans do not have to be repaid until you drop below full-time status. Be aware that reducing your course load may mean you have to start making student loan payments, which is something you don't want to be blindsided by.