Who Is A Non-Degree Seeking Student And What Are The Options?

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What is a non-degree seeking student, and what are the reasons for becoming one? In this article we answer all your questions and more. Find out what makes these students unique, what classes they take, and what their options are. We’ve also weighed the pros and cons of being a non-degree student, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s the right path for you and your education.


What is a Non-Degree Student?

A non-degree seeking student is a student who audits or takes courses without working toward a degree or attending the institution’s program full time. The non-degree student attends classes for their own interests, to fulfill certain prerequisite or introductory classes necessary for another program, or to gain specific skills in their field without having to take a full degree program.


Can they get course credit?


A non-degree student does not generally receive course credits at the institution. If a student opts to be a non-degree student, this usually means that they forego earning credits or a degree, in order to take specific classes that interest them or are required for a different program (where they will receive the credits or fulfill certain necessary requirements for admission).

However, it is sometimes possible to get credits retroactively. For example, it is possible to take free courses online, and only pay if you wish to receive a certificate of completion.


What classes do they take?


Unlike degree students who take around 120 credits within their major, prerequisites, and electives, non-degree students take only the classes that are specific for their interests or needs. Since non-degree students don’t need to take a specific amount of credits, or fulfill certain prerequisite requirements, they can go straight to the classes they want.


Do they get graded?


Most non-degree students do not get a grade if they are just auditing a class for their own interests. In cases where the student may need proof of completion, they may receive a pass or fail instead of a grade.


What type of financial aid is available?


Financial aid is generally harder to find as a non-degree student, because most aid is geared toward degree students in need. Student loans may be a necessary option for non-degree seeking students.


non-degree seeking students attend classes without receiving credits:


Reasons For Being A Non-Degree Seeking Student

Experience or knowledge


Some students attend classes in order to gain specific experiences or knowledge that can help them get ahead in their career or field. This may be topics that were not covered in their degree, new information that may be updated in a dynamic field of research, and other such cases. They may also seek skills or knowledge for a job that doesn’t require a degree.


Audit for fun


Other non-degree seeking students may choose to take courses based on interest. Some colleges, universities, and online education programs offer auditing options with the ability to pay retroactively in order to receive certification. This opens up the possibility to take courses for free, or otherwise pay for a class or two, for the purpose of personal or professional interest.


Fulfill academic requirements


Some non-degree seeking students may take courses as part of the requirements for a different academic program. For example, a student may need a specific class that is only offered every few years on her campus, and so will opt to take it at a different or associated institution in order to graduate. In this case, the credits are not being given from the institution where she is taking the class, but rather her original degree program.


Auditing a class is a great way to gain skills and knowledge to advance your career:


Pros of Being a Non-Degree Seeking Student


As a non-degree student, you have the freedom to choose just the classes that interest you, without having to take unrelated electives or prerequisites. This also means that you do not have to complete a full 4-year program. If your intended career does not require a degree, then being a non-degree student allows you to take just the relevant classes, and not waste time or money earning a full degree.


Additionally, non-degree students have the ability to advance and develop their career by earning relevant skills and knowledge for their field, so this means that you can earn practical knowledge for career advancement without going back to school fully.


Cons of Being a Non-Degree Seeking Student


One con of being a non-degree student is the last-minute enrollment. Many institutions only accept non-degree students on a last-minute basis — once they’ve accepted their degree seeking students. This may make it difficult to plan your semester courses in advance.


Another con is that it may be difficult to earn credits retroactively, if you do decide to earn a degree or go to school full time. In these cases, it could be frustrating to take a full course and not be able receive the credits that come in handy later.


Lastly, the cons of being a non-degree student include the difficulty of receiving financial aid. If you are weighing the option of non-degree courses for financial reasons, you may be disappointed to find out that these courses may still be expensive, even if you’re not earning credits.


If time or money is a factor for your education, consider an institution such as University of the People that offers tuition-free degrees completely online. University of the People offers affordable education to students worldwide, so that students from all backgrounds have equal access to quality education. Our online degrees include business administration, computer science, health science, and education, as well as program advising and career development. The university also offers some potential undergraduate certificate programs that can give one’s career the right boost. 


Earning a degree at University of the People is affordable and practical:



On one hand, non-degree seeking students have a lot of freedom and flexibility in their education, and that’s a big plus. On the other hand, classes can still be expensive, and admission and financial aid may be more limited than degree seeking students.


There are many reasons for being a non-degree seeking student. Whether it’s to advance your career, fulfill personal interests, or fulfill requirements for other programs, becoming a non-degree student may be just the right path for you.