Recognized qualifications can open doors to career paths you might otherwise have been unable to access, and if you go on from a first degree to a Masters and even a Ph.D. you are likely to increase your earning potential significantly over your working life.
Hard work? Yes, but hard work reaps its rewards. Affordable? That, as Hamlet didn’t quite put it, is the question.
Many potential students are using online education for a number of reasons, an important one being that online courses can save you a lot of money. It’s not just about the fees either; there are many additional expenses that attending college will add to the course costs.
Unless you come from a wealthy family, you’re more than likely to have to take out a loan to meet your college costs, and even if you earn money working part-time through your college years, you’re still going to need a lot more than your earnings to support you and pay for everything.
So, it’s worth examining the benefits of getting an online education and also one or two of the possible downsides so you can make an informed decision when you come to make a choice.
Cutting your costs
When you are researching online courses and are comparing the costs of attending a college, you do need to take into account the money you will be saving from working at home. Your research should only include accredited colleges, and if you want your place of study to be relatively close to home, you should look for a regionally accredited college.
Studying from home means you don’t have to pay student accommodation fees, or the costs of supplies, such as hardback textbooks – online courses often use e-books instead. Also, if you don’t have to travel to college each day there are substantial savings on gas or public transport.
Online learning is ideal for mature students who are in a job and can fit a course around their work commitments. For parents, it can also be a boon in respect of saving the high costs of childcare.
You may need to seek a loan to meet the cost of the course fees or use some of your savings, but when you factor in the living expenses you would incur by going to college you’re likely to have much less debt at the conclusion of your online studies.
Flexibility with your schedule
Just because it’s an online course doesn’t mean that you won’t have any deadlines to meet. You and your instructors will want to ensure that you keep to them. But a significant benefit of this type of education is its flexibility.
It might not be possible for you to attend a college due to your circumstances. If you work and are paying off a mortgage or have a family to support, you do need to be at your home base. An online course enables you to be extremely flexible as to when you complete your assignments, so if you have a nine to five job you can study in the evenings and at weekends because the coursework will be available 24/7.
Even though your schedule can be flexible, you need to have self-discipline and the initiative to focus on what is required, submitting what you need to deliver to your instructors by a deadline. Naturally, your obligations at home are vitally important, but with excellent organizational skills, you should be able to manage the multi-tasking required.
Studying from home means you’ll never have to miss a class because a lecturer is ill, or the college is closed due to extreme weather. Everything is at your fingertips as lectures and assignments come to you electronically. The only danger is if your Wi-Fi drops out for a time, but you can easily get that sorted. All your class materials will also be available online, and you will have access to library resources to support your research.
Depending on the weather you may find you have some small additional heating or cooling costs when working from home, however, when compared to the costs of attending college they will be minimal.
Losing a social life?
You might consider that the lack of opportunities to mix with students on campus from all walks of life, to enjoy parties, sports, and arts events, to belong to societies and generally be with other people is a downside to studying online. That may be true, up to a point, if you are a sociable person who enjoys being with others. But if you are a person with family commitments that type of lifestyle may well not suit. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life. You’ll have one already, and with some planning, you will be able to work it around the studying you’ll be doing. Working online doesn’t mean you won’t meet other people.
Students from all over the US and abroad also enroll in online courses so you can connect with many people from a range of backgrounds through your shared interest in a course. You can form study and discussion groups, set up forums where topics can be mulled over and discussed, and learn from people who have had different experiences to your own. Networking and learning from each other will give you professional networking opportunities that are lasting.
It depends on the course and your time, but if you have the opportunity and ability to focus on your study, you could complete a course in as little as 20 months; a far cry from the three to four years in a regular college situation.
Concentrate and be the best you can
Making a success of your accredited college course is, of course, completely down to you. You’ll be given all the tools to help make the outcome successful and if you concentrate and be the best you can you’ll have a shiny new degree at the end.