Online Colleges vs. Traditional Colleges

Many students, having decided to pursue a degree, find themselves stumped about whether to attend an online college or a traditional college. If you’re in this position, you may not be sure where to turn for advice. Your family may tell you opt for an online college so that they can keep you close to home, and your friends may tell you that you’ll have a fuller college experience if you go to a traditional college and live on campus. 


The truth is that this decision is extremely personal. No two students or college experiences are alike and very often students find themselves stuck at an institution they chose to please their friends or relatives. 


Just like your degree will be yours and yours only, so is the decision you make regarding online college vs traditional college. When looking at online colleges versus traditional colleges you will find that you can get a quality education in a number of fields of study at either one.  So how do you make the choice?


I recommend that prospective students ask themselves these three questions when deciding about online college versus traditional college:


1. Where Do You Want (or Need) to Live?


Traditional colleges can be found across the country and in every city in the world. The same is true, with online colleges. After all, if you go to an online college you have your classroom with you everywhere you go (providing there’s wi-fi).


While traditional colleges can be found anywhere, you might find that the particular program that interests you is located far away. This can work out fine for some, but is problematic for others. If you’re a student with a family or a career, relocation may simply not be an option. Even if the college is relatively close, you may find that schlepping out to school on a cold night after a long day at work is an unwanted burden.


Studying from home with an online college is a great option if this sounds like you.  With an online college you can fit your education into your life with few disruptions, which is an appealing feature of distance learning for many students.


If, however, you’re able to relocate and are curious about campus life, it’s wise to schedule a few campus visits and see how it feels.


2. What Kind of Study/Learning Experience Will Work Best for You?


Online colleges offer a very different experience than a traditional college. An online college experience is well suited for self-motivated students, as well as students with busy schedules, due to the fact that you can set your own schedule rather than hustling to a classroom at a set time.


Online colleges offer students chances to work alone as well as to collaborate with teachers and classmates virtually (or in person if your classmates are located close by).  While you have guidance and assistance from your professors, there is less hand-holding which is why online learners tend to be very driven, self-motivated, and goal oriented individuals.


Traditional colleges will offer a different experience. Being on a campus, your college experience will be your world and you may have less of an opportunity to work or socialize off campus. Many students enjoy this immersive, in-person experience and find that the set schedule of classroom learning helps them focus and get their work done.


3. What Kind of Institution Do You Want to Attend?


Attending an institution with a recognizable name is important for some students as a matter of prestige. That said, it’s recommended that students make their choices based on quality rather than reputation.


Some worry that an online degree will be less universally recognized than a degree from a traditional college, but this is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As online colleges become a more common path to a degree, employers and academics increasingly recognize them by name and reputation. 


Because of this, it is far more important to focus on which institution you attend, not what kind. Whether you choose to study online or on campus, it’s crucial to choose an institution with values that you believe in, a dedication to educational quality, and accreditation. There are good and bad online colleges and traditional colleges, and it’s up to you to do your homework and make sure the institution you choose is of quality.




You might also be interested in: