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When it comes to pursuing an education after high school, there are a lot of options. You have trade schools, community colleges, and universities. As if that wasn’t enough, you now have the option to decide whether you want to go to class in person or take courses online.

But how can you tell what’s right for you? Well, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of online and traditional schools to help you decide!

Online School

Pros

Online school is great for students who are self-motivated, live far away from campus, or work full-time and can’t attend class in person. Some online classes allow you to learn at your own pace. The curriculum is posted online in advance, so you have plenty of time to complete everything by the due dates.

Some online classes also offer a more interactive approach. Students and professors engage through video chatrooms to give you some of that in-person experience you might miss out on had you been able to attend in person.

Cons

With online classes, many schools require you to interact online through their class discussion boards. This is because the schools need to show a certain level of attendance to acquire federal funding to help the school continue to run their programs. This does not always allow you to submit all of your assignments all at once. You have to stay on top of logging into your class discussion boards to meet your weekly “attendance” requirements.

Also, with online programs, you end up having to teach yourself a lot of the material. In online environments where the course is “at your own pace,” there’s not that level of interaction and classroom engagement for group activity. You are on your own to learn the material, and if you have questions, it could take a day or two to get a reply from your professor. This becomes challenging if you are in a hurry to meet a project deadline and waited too long to get started.

Traditional School

Pros

Attending school in-person offers several benefits. If you are going to a trade school, it’s almost a necessity because it’s tough to teach yourself a trade skill without the experience.

If you are pursuing a degree in person, chances are you live near or on-campus, so you have easy and convenient access to the school library. The library is a great resource when you have research assignments or a meeting place for group projects to work on for your courses.

Additionally, with in-person classes, there is more professor engagement as you go to lectures weekly. Depending on the class size, students will also engage in discussions on assignments and lecture topics.

Class size plays a big role in professor and student engagement because as you advance in your major, your classes are going to get smaller, and the workload becomes more refined to your course. This means you are essentially becoming a subject matter expert, and the expectations become higher.

 Don’t let this scare you away, this just means you are getting more and more prepared to enter the workforce after college.

Cons

Attending in person is not for everyone. In the early stages of your college years, you are going to have to take General Educational classes, which are often very large in class size. This means little time for professor engagement and a lot of dependency on yourself to make sure you pay attention in class and understand the course work. It can be hard to want to attend these classes just because of their sheer size but know that if you are absent, you could miss out on important information.

Another thing to consider is attending school in person can increase your costs, especially if you are living on campus. Now you have to make sure you have enough money to cover not just your tuition and books, but also your living expenses. This might cause you to need a part-time job to make sure you can not only afford school, but also your rent.

You are going to meet people from different paths of life, so if you are more of an introvert, it might be challenging at first to engage people and interact with them in group atmospheres. Just know that college is a way for people to break out of their shell and expose them to different people of different backgrounds.

This is what helps define who you are later in life and prepare you for the professional world where, ultimately, you are going to work with other people in some capacity.

Decision Time

Now that you have the pros and cons, it’s time to think about what kind of school you want to attend. If you know you are going to need to work or if you live far away from the university you want to attend, just know that online degrees are equal to university degrees. 

If you think you learn better in-person, being engaged in debates and open discussions, then you should consider attending in person.

As someone that has taken both in-person and online courses, I know I learn better in person because I can focus more. That’s not the case for everyone. 

The most important thing is getting your degree and setting yourself up for success after college, so make sure you choose wisely.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.