Earning an online bachelor’s degree can be a life changing experience, but it’s definitely not the right choice for everyone. Here are ten of the most significant pros and cons to becoming an online student:
Pro: You can fit your online studies around your work and family schedule. If you have a family or a demanding full-time job (or plan to in the near future), online programs can let you choose where and when you get your work done. Studying late at night, during your lunch break, or while the kids nap can help you keep up your responsibilities without giving up your educational pursuits.
Pro: Many online colleges let students work at their own pace, taking more or less time to complete a course as needed. While some synchronous programs require you to log in during a certain time, the majority of online programs are more flexible. You may be able to complete assignments or even entire courses at your own pace, giving you flexibility to take the time you need according to your strengths and weaknesses.
Pro: You may be able to receive credit for previously completed courses, current knowledge, and life experience. Many fully online colleges are designed to let students get credit for what they’ve already done. By taking exams or creating portfolios, you may be able to earn an online degree in less time than you might imagine.
Pro: You’ll get to work with professors and peers from around the world. Forget going to a local college with the same faces from your home town. By enrolling in an online program you’ll have the chance to network with a diverse group of new friends. If you can break the digital barrier and create lasting relationships, you could end up with a network of connections within your field that could help you land a job just about anywhere.
Pro: You can take your courses from almost anywhere – making it easier for you to plan internships, vacations, and adventures that contribute to your education in intangible ways. The best time to explore the world and take risks may be while you’re in college, but strict schedules can make it difficult. Online learners can take their classes on the go, whether they are headed to help out with a political campaign in Washington D.C. or just want to sit on the beaches of Cabo.
Con: You won’t get the traditional “college experience.” Some online learners are disappointed when they don’t get the traditional experience of meeting roommates, joining in impromptu after-class discussions, and hanging out at the local coffee shop. If that’s what you’re looking for, online learning may not be the best choice.
Con: You may miss out on forming personal, face-to-face relationships with friends and mentors. While online education can expand your network, many people find it challenging to form lasting relationships with people they meet through discussion boards.
Con: You may miss out on extracurricular activities and programs. Going to job fairs, mix-and-mingles, sporting events, and pre-planned travel abroad adventures are likely out of the picture if you choose to learn online. Most happy online students already have full lives of their own.
Con: Studying independently can require a lot of self-discipline. Staying on track with your assignments is easier said than done, especially when you don’t have a pre-scheduled class to attend. Many online students drop out simply because they don’t have the dedication to keep up on their own. If you thrive in independent situations, online learning may be a good fit. If not, sticking to traditional classroom learning is probably your best bet.
Con: Depending on the school you choose and the field you are trying to enter, your degree may be considered less valuable than a traditional degree. Online degrees from legitimate, accredited colleges are continuing to gain credibility in academia and the workplace. However, some fields and professions are less likely to consider an online degree as the equivalent to a degree from a traditional college. Make sure you research your personal situation and career ambitions before making your decision.