Part-Time to Full-Time Study
If you want to transition from part-time studying to full-time studying you need a plan. Planning is your friend. If you can’t make immediate change, plan for future change. Play the long game. Ask yourself a lot of questions and answer them slowly and realistically. Closer to the bottom of the article is a list of helpful questions I asked myself when planning. Hopefully they can help you too.
I started Launch School’s RB101 back in January 2021. At the time I had a goal of studying 15 hours a week while I worked full time as a manufacturing engineer. I found my job quite miserable and knew I wanted out of manufacturing just a year after graduating college. I felt stuck. I had determined, before finding Launch School, that I didn’t need a new job. I needed a new career.
Even though I wasn’t happy as a manufacturing engineer I wanted to take the time to figure out something I could enjoy for a longer term (thinking at least 10 years). I didn’t like the idea of bouncing around from job to job aimlessly hoping to land an amazing role. That felt more like a wish than a plan.
I eventually realized I liked writing code. I started trying to figure out how the heck I could switch from mechanical engineering to software engineering. I eventually found Launch School. I wrote an article about this part of my journey you can read here.
After kicking off my part-time studying, I quickly determined my full-time job drained time, brain power and emotional bandwidth I hoped to apply to Launch School. I knew I couldn’t just quit without draining my wife and I’s finances. We hadn’t even paid off our college debt yet! Time kept ticking and life wasn’t slowing down for me. Left with no immediate options to change my circumstances, I began to plan.
Planning for Reality
By February 2021 I knew that part-time studying plus full-time work wasn’t sustainable for me. Many weeks I struggled to squeeze out 10 hours of valuable study time. RB101 dragged on and I didn’t move into RB120 until August 2021. For anyone counting that’s seven months after starting the paid courses. That was a long time, but through it all I was planning for future change.
Planning for the future kept me afloat during those times. It was a light at the end of the part-time-student-on-top-of-full-time-work tunnel. Planning involved a lot of questions:
- Can I ever go full-time study?
- Could I be patient with my slower part-time progress?
- If I could go full-time, when?
Realistically answering questions like these took a while. I had to figure out our financial feasibility. I had to understand the impact on other priorities in my life. I had to be okay with going back to school only a couple years after college. Answering all the questions swirling around helped me realize something: What I wanted needed grounding in reality before a transition could take place.
Fast forward to December 2021. This was nearly a year after starting the paid courses, yet I was still studying part-time. 12 months of planning and preparing. 12 months of part-time study. Was I anywhere closer to full-time study? Yes I was.
At that time I understood how much we should need to take out of our savings each month to cover expenses that couldn’t be covered on just my wife’s income. With that number in mind I started to plan more explicitly. I could confidently say that with X dollars saved, I could study full-time for Y months.
The next question was then, “How long will it take for me to finish core and capstone?”. Fortunately, the duration of capstone and the average job hunt period are well communicated. Capstone ~ 4 months. Job hunt ~ 12 weeks. That left finishing core. At this point I was in LS170. Pretty far from the finish.
Up to this point I recorded my study hours for courses RB101 — RB139. Comparing my hours with students who were further ahead and hours posted in the How long did it take? forum post gave me a good idea of how many study hours I could expect to finish core.
With some rough study hour needs estimated, the next question was, “How much can I expect to study full-time?”. This answer is different for everyone, but my answer was 30 hours a week. 30 hours of studying typically takes me at least 45 hours of real time after factoring in breaks and other life happenings.
Putting It Together
Knowing things like this gave me a solid understanding of when I could transition to full-time studying:
- If we have X dollars saved up I can study full-time for Y months. This means you need an accurate understanding of your expenses. We’re talking real dollar amounts.
- Based on estimation from others’ work, I think I have roughly ___ hours of studying left to finish core. This is always an approximation so err on the side of some extra hours.
- I will aim to study __ hours a week if I study full-time. This is something you can set as an initial goal. Base it on your current study habits and what that looks like to expand them to full-time. Most students I’ve talked to study 25–35 hours when studying full-time.
- The __ hours of studying I think I have left, and aiming to study __ hours a week means I can hope to finish core by __?
- Am I going to do capstone? What capstone cohort do I want to make? The cohorts come at specific times in the year, so you can plan to join the closest one after your hopeful core completion date.
Do the puzzle pieces fit together? On the first go, probably not. I first thought I would go full-time in December 2021. The numbers told me I’d run out of money before I could finish capstone. That’s a no-go.
I then pushed my full-time date all the way out to May 2022. This time I realized that was overkill. I would be dragging my part-time studying well past when I would be free to transition to full-time studying.
My family met our full-time study savings goal after 14 months of careful planning & saving. I knew I wanted to aim for the Fall 2022 capstone cohort. In early March I had managed to reach JS210. I knew roughly how much work would be required to complete core. To make the cohort I knew I had to finish core by early July 2022. I figured I could study 30 hours a week full-time. Putting all of this together and talking with Chris Lee I landed on March 25th, 2022. I turned in my two weeks and took the full-time plunge.
Even after all this planning and number crunching I was nervous. Did I save enough? Did I severely underestimate the study hours required to finish core? Could I really focus for 30 hours every week?
Taking a step of faith always brings some uncertainty. The choice is yours. Wait for it to be safer, or trust your planning. Neither is a wrong decision, so make the one that is best for you and those you love.
That said, I think waiting too long can unnecessarily extend your current situation. Going to school is an investment. It’s a long term investment you make in yourself. If you think you can better make that investment by going full time try to trust your plan. Run your plan by others. Benjamin Perrault, is a student that was ahead of me in core. I brought him my plans and he helped me see an outside perspective. This strengthened both my plan and my resolve. That’s something good friends and good community does. Launch School has no shortage of good community. People will be happy to help you in many ways outside of just answering code questions. Be willing to reach out.