Earning a college degree is challenging, no question. It’s supposed to be, because at the end you receive a certificate that speaks to your deeper understanding of a particular field of study.
Getting that degree online doesn’t make the learning part easier, but it does provide certain advantages that make the degree easier to pursue in the first place.
Traditional barriers that have made it difficult for some people to access higher education are starting to fall when it comes to online schooling. And in the end, your degree will be just as valuable as any other – it’s not like they engrave the word “online” onto your diploma.
Here’s why it might be easier than you think to earn your college degree online.
It has never been unusual for young people to hold a part time job while they attend college, but if you need to hold a full time job or have significant child care responsibilities, it becomes very difficult to commit to a college degree.
One of the great things about online college degrees is that many of them are self-paced. There may be rolling admission dates as well, so that you can both start and finish when you’re ready. Traditional on-campus education requires you to apply, enroll, and attend classes on a strict schedule that might not fit your circumstances.
However, you should still be prepared to commit a significant number of hours to your coursework each week. You can generally choose which hours to spend on your education, but may be required to attend a certain number of live online classes and to work together with classmates on a few group projects.
When it comes to traditional schooling, your choice is greatly impacted by geography. You have to live close to campus or being willing to move there. An online degree, however, can come from a school anywhere in the world with no need to move.
That opens up a world of choices. Online schooling allows you to pick the best program for your educational goals, regardless of where you live. You can choose the most advantageous financial aid package, course list, or whatever matters most to you – and do it from the comfort of your own home.
Of course, you don’t have to study at home. With online schooling, you can also choose the environment that feels most conducive to your style of learning.
One of the challenges of online education is that you have limited access to your professor and fellow students. You may not always be in a live classroom situation where questions can be asked in the moment. More often, you’ll be doing independent reading and viewing pre-recorded lectures.
But that doesn’t mean that you are without support. Your professors still maintain office hours and can be reached with questions. You may even be able to reach out to your classmates to discuss material presented in lectures.
Most programs provide an advisor to help online students navigate their course selection, just as they do in the traditional setting. You’ll also be able to speak with a librarian and financial advisor as needed. Granted, the communication will be via phone, email, or video chat, but support is available whenever you need guidance.
College is expensive, but online education offers many opportunities to learn for less. For starters, know that you can apply for need-based or performance-based scholarships and financial aid just as you would if you attended school in person. You might also find that your degree is cheaper if you choose an in-state school, even though you won’t be attending classes on campus.
However, many online programs are more affordable in general. Some charge only for the tests you need to take in order to earn your degree, not for the instruction. Colleges that are online-only are less costly because they don’t have to cover all of the expenses related to buying and maintaining land and buildings.
Skipping out on the cost of campus housing and food represents a huge savings, as well. It might allow you to stretch a little for that brand-name college. Just remember that cost and value aren’t necessarily connected when you pick your school.
The value of a degree for employers is often tied more to name recognition than anything you learned during your course of study. Of course, you need to have the knowledge to perform the job well, but knowledge alone won’t get you hired if your degree came from a school that’s hard to research and doesn’t hold appropriate certifications.
It is true that some online colleges do not hold themselves to high standards, which means that a degree earned there is less valuable. However, as digital technology has expanded, plenty of high end brand name colleges have begun offering online degrees. You can now become a graduate of top tier schools without ever setting foot on campus.
But even if you don’t choose one of the biggest names out there, your online degree is still considered as valuable as one earned on campus as long as you choose a school that is properly accredited. This can be tricky because there are many different accrediting agencies throughout the country, and only some of them are legitimate. Just take a little time before applying for an online course to make sure that the accrediting body is itself accredited by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education.
Education is an endeavor that’s always worthwhile because it helps you grow both professionally and personally. However, the promise of a college degree falls short when students are plunged into debt that takes decades to dispatch or when they simply cannot find the time to devote to higher education. Thankfully, there are choices in online education that can save students a ton of money, work with their busy schedules, and ultimately deliver a top notch degree.