When you’re thinking of investing time, energy, resources and money—not to mention hopes, dreams and aspirations—into something like an online college education, it’s natural to want to be sure it makes the grade.
And with online degree programs being a fairly recent education option, it’s wise to brush up on the subject before making your final decision.
Consider this your homework, then.
Weigh the pros and cons
There’s plenty of empirical and anecdotal evidence to support the viability and effectiveness of finishing your degree online. There’s equal evidence supporting the notion that pursuing an online bachelor’s degree program sets you up to face inherent drawbacks, too. The key is in understanding both—and preparing yourself to handle them.
Of course! The opportunities/obstacles for finishing your degree online are identical. The only difference is in how you handle them.
Take, for example, flexibility. If flexibility is required so you can work and go to school at the same time, then online education may be absolutely terrific for you. If, however, flexibility causes you to lose focus, become overwhelmed and mismanage your time, then maybe the structure of the classroom is better for you.
The overarching word here is “you.” What works for you. What doesn’t work for you. When considering whether to finish your degree online, don’t leave “you” out of the equation.
Regard the evidence
Remember that empirical and anecdotal evidence mentioned earlier?
Research shows that online education is not just a hip and fashionable trend. It’s actually at an all-time high—and climbing.
According to Babson Survey Research Group, one-third of higher education students are taking at least one online course. Calling the growth rate of online degrees “meteoric,” Babson says that year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs show growth across almost every discipline.
It isn’t surprising, then, that online education increased six-fold from 2002 when 1.6 million people took at least one online course to 2010 when 6.1 million did.
Deal with your fears
Finishing your degree—online or otherwise—takes dedication. But the payoff is rewarding, both personally and professionally.
Still, if you’ve been away from school for any length of time, it can be a little scary to think about what it’s going to take to go back to college.
First, acknowledge your fears. Then, move past them.
Here are some things you may be concerned with when it comes to thinking about going after your online bachelor’s degree:
- Class offerings
- Quality and value of an online degree
- Needing to work a full-time job
- Having a heavy workload
- Being overcommitted
- Studying on weekends, late at night, or on a lunch hour
- Disrupting your entire household
- Getting behind on anything/everything
Plenty of graduates ahead of you have faced the same issues. There isn’t anything on this list that can’t be overcome. Seek out others and ask to hear their stories. Find out how they dealt with your same fears. Then create an action plan to conquer yours.
Embrace best practices
Best practices are those things that are consistently proven to yield superior results. If you truly want to finish your degree online and succeed, then do what works.
- Seek out a professionally accredited college or university.
- Beware of diploma mills and substandard schools.
- Investigate program requirements, including whether on-campus time is required.
- Verify tuition and fee costs since every institution has its own criteria governing the cost of an online college education.
- Inquire about potential differences in scholarship and grant requirements if you’re seeking financial aid.
- Get real about your skills in these crucial areas: self-discipline, organization and time management.