Should You Go to School Online or in Person?

Filed in Articles by on January 22, 2024

These days, the traditional on-campus college experience isn’t the only game in town. Some students may wish to go to college without leaving home, or while working, and online classes can facilitate that. But there’s still nothing like the traditional college experience – living in the dorms, studying in the library with classmates, and going to parties. Which experience should you choose?

Well, it really depends on what you hope to get out of your college experience. If you’re thinking of going to school online, you’re really going to need a lot of self-discipline to adhere to your course deadlines without the external pressure of in-person classes.

Online classes may be easier to fit into your schedule, and you can still get financial aid to study online, but in-person learning offers more opportunities to learn hands-on and connect face-to-face with mentors and peers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t network with peers and professors in an online program, too.

Going to School Online Requires More Self-Discipline

Going to school requires discipline no matter what format you choose for your classes – even in a brick-and-mortar program, you still need the self-discipline to pull yourself out of bed for those 8:00 a.m. classes and sit down to complete your assignments.

But online degrees require even more self-discipline than in-person degrees. You won’t have the external pressure of in-person classes with a professor you have to look in the eye and classmates who will help you stay on track.

It’ll be up to you to make time to sit down with your coursework and then actually do it. If you’re someone who needs more external support to reach your goals, an in-person program would be best for you, but if you’re a self-starter, an online program should work.

In-Person School Offers More External Structure

Going to school in person means you’ll be physically present in a community of like-minded students. You’ll have face-to-face access to your professors during their office hours.

You’ll have scheduled classes that happen at the same time of day every day all semester.

You’ll be able to join face-to-face study groups, which can help you stay on task, and you’ll have face-to-face support from tutors and career counselors as needed.

Of course, resources like the writing center or academic advising are available to online students, too. You’ll just have to organize them from where you are and engage using online tools instead of face-to-face. Many students feel more supported in the rigid model of brick-and-mortar schooling.

You Can Fit Online Classes into Your Schedule

Should You Go to School Online or in Person?

However, the inflexible schedule you have to adhere to for an in-person degree can be prohibitive. You have to be ready to do nothing but go to school for at least a few years, and that’s not possible for many people.

It’s one thing to go to school full time in person when you’re young, don’t have any responsibilities, and are just beginning to build a career.

When you’re older and you’ve been working for a while and have more responsibilities, it makes more sense to choose an option that allows you to maintain your full-time work and family responsibilities.

You can take your classes when your schedule allows, instead of letting your classes dictate your schedule. You can even do advanced degrees like a PhD in psychology online this way.

Financial Aid Is Available to Both Online and In-Person Students

Tuition for online school might be about the same as for an in-person program, although you won’t have to pay room and board.

However, you can get financial aid, like scholarships, grants, and loans, for any kind of accredited degree program.  Students of all ages can apply for financial aid by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

You can also talk to your school’s financial aid office to see if you qualify for any grants or scholarships funded by the school. Use FastWeb to find outside scholarships you might qualify for.

In-Person Learning Provides More Opportunities to Get Hands-On

Of course, in-person learning is the only way to get hands-on experience in most fields. There are some online degrees that nevertheless require students to do in-person work to complete the degree.

And, of course, if you’re a person who prefers to learn hands-on, an in-person degree may be the best choice for you.

Networking Can Be Easier in an In-Person Program, but It’s Possible Online Too

Going to a traditional program gives you plenty of opportunities to forge connections with other young professionals in your field as well as with mentors like professors and tutors.

The network you build at college is going to be just as important to your professional and personal development as the degree you earn.

In an online program, you can still build those connections, but you have to be more intentional about it and put in the work to engage people online.

Going to school online can be a great choice for some, while others will do better in a brick-and-mortar program.

It’s important to consider your own needs and aptitudes when deciding whether to go back to school in person or online.

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