Is an Online College Right For You?

Find out if you are a good candidate to become an online student after high school.

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By Erika Ward

Online education has expanded greatly over the last decade. In addition to adults returning to college, many high school students are beginning to consider online college as an option for post-secondary education as well.

One of the main benefits of attending online college is the convenience of taking courses from home, allowing greater flexibility in schedule.

Although online courses are more adaptable, they require just as much time and effort as on-campus classes. If you are planning on working, particularly a full-time job, be very cautious not to overload yourself.

Time Requirement of Online Classes

Just because you don’t have to sit in a classroom doesn’t mean you don’t need to invest a significant amount of time on coursework. Online college requires a strong sense of self-motivation, since you won’t have a professor or peers to encourage you.

Do your research. Not all online programs are created equal. Find one that meets not only your needs, but also your goals.

You’ll still have reading, assignments and projects to complete in an online learning environment.

Cost of Online Education

Another benefit cited for attending online college is affordability. If you apply to a state university’s online program, you may qualify for financial aid. On top of this, you save the cost of transportation and supplies.

However, it’s important to remember that online colleges charge tuition just as campus schools do. You’ll still pay for your education, so you want to make sure that the program you enroll in meets your goals.

One potential cost-saving tactic is to enroll in a single online class. Obviously, you’ll pay the fees for the class, but you may not have to pay general enrollment fees in an online program. This can be good if you need a class or two for a particular reason (possibly to transfer or become eligible for certain other programs) or just want to sample a given area of study without the full commitment of enrolling.

Credibility of Online Education

Credibility should be one of your main concerns if you are considering an online degree. Research a school extensively and confirm that the college meets accreditation requirements. Most schools are accredited with by federal government or a regional accrediting board. It’s quite a difficult process for a school to get accredited, including a review of the school’s academic curriculum, financial resources and facilities. While it’s not the final authority on the quality of a school, accreditation can be a good indicator of a school’s reputation in the academic community.

Benefits of Online Education

A recent study released by the US Department of Education in 2009 found that online students actually performed better than students who took on-campus courses. Some students find online courses more intimate and rewarding, and feel they are more interactive than a large classroom.

An online education may also help facilitate a more affordable transition into a four-year university. If you are considering studying online for two years before transferring to four-year school, be sure that the credits will be transferable to the universities you’re considering.

Quick Tips

  • Always keep your goals in mind when you're choosing a college, whether it be online or in person. Once you decide what you want to accomplish, weigh your goals against both online and in person programs.
  • Be honest with yourself. If you think you'll have difficult managing or motivating yourself for online classes, you probably will. But if you're academically disciplined and require affordability and flexibility in your education, an online degree may be a reasonable option for you.
  • Do your research. Not all online programs are created equal. Find one that meets not only your needs, but also your goals.

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