Should You Choose an Online College?

Written by Nicole Swanberg
Published on March 10, 2023 · Updated on March 23, 2023

Should You Choose an Online College?

Written by Nicole Swanberg
Published on March 10, 2023 · Updated on March 23, 2023

Online colleges have steadily risen in popularity in the last few years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost seven million students enrolled in distance education courses in 2018. Now that COVID has come to shake up the world, education included, we can only expect the number of students enrolled in online education to grow exponentially. 

Have you been considering going back to school but don’t have time (or just don’t want) to commute to and from campus? Or looking to finish an old degree you put on the back burner years ago that could now help you get a new and better job? An online education might be a good solution for you, so let’s take a look at some pros and cons of earning your degree at an online college to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Pros To Online College

One of the best things about online learning is that…it’s online! If your classes are asynchronous, you aren’t tied down to a specific class schedule. If they’re synchronous, at least you can do them from the comfort of your home, couch, coffee shop, or vacation.  You don’t have to worry about missing the first 10 minutes of classes because you were in traffic or driving around looking for parking on campus, and you can learn and work from anywhere.

Tuition prices for earning your college degree online can vary widely depending on the school and type of degree. According to U.S. News & World Report, for the 2019-2020 school year, the most expensive online tuition for a bachelor’s program was $1,034 per credit at the Rochester Institute of Technology, a private school in New York. The least expensive online tuition price was $53 per credit for in-state students at the University of North Carolina—Pembroke.

Going to college online doesn’t automatically mean it is going to be less expensive, although it could be. Look into whether or not the online college you’re looking into offers financial aid or scholarships (because many don’t).

The bright side of online college? You won’t be saddled with all those extra fees like from a traditional college: housing fees, parking stickers, student activity fees, and meal plans. That alone will save you hundreds each semester!

By taking classes at your own pace, you could finish your degree earlier than planned. This could be a good path for students, especially those who are looking to get into the workforce as quickly as possible! Some online colleges offer accelerated programs for certain degrees. These classes can be finished in five to ten weeks, instead of the traditional 15-18 weeks. 

Or if you can handle the extra workload, earning your degree online could allow you to take extra credits each semester to graduate a semester or even a year earlier.

If you have wifi, you have a classroom. From your bed or poolside at a resort in Mexico or in-between picking up shifts at your day job, going to college online means you can learn from anywhere you have a stable WiFi connection. Having the flexibility and discipline to successfully study and work from anywhere can also help you transition into a remote/work-from-home role after graduation too! And with COVID, this is more important than ever.
How does meeting people from all over without leaving your house sound? Online college can be a wonderful way to connect with peers you may not ever have met, learn about their cultures, and gain a more worldview in your education! You can gain a new appreciation for travel, living in a global society, and maybe have a new friend or future coworker to visit abroad once you graduate.

Cons of Online College

Although more and more majors are added to online colleges every year, your intended major may not be an option. English, finance, or business management degree? You can definitely earn those online, because a lot of the work will be reading, writing, group work, and presentations. 

But a degree in chemistry that requires the use of a laboratory or a BSN where you need to practice hands-on skills is a little trickier. You likely won’t be able to find a degree online for these types of majors. You may be able to do prerequisites online and only take certain classes in person, but you will likely have to go in at some point for in-person classes. 

If you’re looking forward to Friday night parties, football games, and late-night movie nights, online college may not be right for you. You probably won’t have as many study sessions at the library or group homework sessions in the dorms. 

However, social interaction is still possible at an online school. It just looks a little different. With Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other collaborative platforms, connecting and working with your professors and peers online is easier than ever. You just may miss the in-person interaction (or not!).

Online colleges are also making their courses interactive in a variety of ways, from virtual labs for science classes to creating animated videos to teach course materials. Online colleges, such as American Public University, even offer 100% online clubs.

Unlike on a physical college campus, you may not have professors hounding you about due dates and your thesis topic. If you’re a self-starter and organized, it may be easier to adapt to an online program. If your idea of staying organized is fishing out a crumpled up piece of paper from the bottom of your backpack and handing it to your parents, it may take a little while to get into a groove of staying on top of your learning and class schedule (or lack thereof). 

It’s important to keep a planner, either paper or electronic, to stay on top of due dates, group meetings, dates for finals, and Zoom meetings with your professor. There are also tons of organization apps and calendars you can utilize so as long as you have your phone, you have your schedule.

A Few Things To Consider Before Selecting An Online College Program

Does This College Offer 24/7 Technical Support?

Because of the nature of online programs, the college may have students taking classes and working on assignments during all hours of the day and night. Not having technical support when you need it most (like trying to submit your final paper or log onto a recorded lecture) would not be great!

Does This College Offer Career Counseling or Assistance Finding Internships? 

Most physical colleges have a career center where you can get help with your resume, conduct mock interviews, and help search for jobs you’re qualified for!

Is This College Accredited?

You may think that every online college that has a nice looking website is legitimate. But double-check to be sure! A college having accreditation means that the school has been verified for having met minimum academic standards. This also means if you want to transfer credits or earn certification or licensure from your degree program, then your degree will most likely need to be accredited. Finding a college’s accreditation status should be fairly easy: it may be under their “About” section on their website, or you can search for the college on the Council for High Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education website.

If you’re looking for other online colleges, check out the Find Your Perfect “U” tool. You can search over 6,000 colleges and universities with 11 different filters to find the perfect school for you!

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