Is Online College Right for You?
There are plenty of benefits to attending college online. Distance learners can stay at home while they pursue a degree, work at their own pace, take classes when it’s convenient and oftentimes, pay less in tuition. They may even graduate faster than students taking classes on campus.
But online education isn’t for everyone. Some students struggle to manage their time effectively, and many distance learners fall into the bad habit of saving all of their lecture and homework time for the last minute. Others just find the format too impersonal.
If you’re evaluating whether or not an online program makes sense for you, ask yourself the four questions below. Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of the kind of work required to succeed in an online program and can assess whether it’s the right format for you.
Can you manage your time?
Managing time effectively is critical for all students, but particularly distance learners, who have a lot of flexibility in when they watch lectures and complete assignments. Most distance courses are offered asynchronously—meaning students watch archived lectures—and it’s easy to put classes on the backburner if you’re working full time or raising children.
If you’re the kind of person who needs constant reminders and tends to let dates slip your mind, you may need to come up with a strategy to ensure you get all of your work done. If you’re forgetful and a poor planner, online school might not be the best fit for you.
How calm is your home environment?
A busy or noisy environment is a difficult place to study. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pursue an online degree if you have kids: plenty of students turn to distance programs precisely so they can stay at home with their children while they study. Still, you’ll need some peace and quiet at least occasionally, and if you can’t get that at home, you’ll either need to find another place where you can study or consider other college options.
Are your computer and Internet reliable?
The no-brainer of the list. Studying online requires a computer and a stable internet connection. If you don’t have a computer, you can rent one or apply to schools that provide laptops for their distance students. But if you can’t ensure a reliable internet connection, an online program won’t work for you.
Will you miss the on-campus environment?
If you always hated having to sit in class for hours, making small talk with strangers and listening to professors ramble when you’d rather be elsewhere, online classes could be perfect for you.
On the other hand, if you love the feeling of walking around campus and engaging with teachers and classmates on a daily basis, you might have a hard time re-creating that experience online. Plenty of distance learners do build lasting and rewarding relationships with faculty members and peers in an online format, but for many, doing so is much easier in-person than on the internet. If you value the campus experience, you may not be able to replicate that environment in a distance program.