“So, you go to school where?”
“Do you work in your pajamas?”
“Does your mom give you the answers to your tests?”
“Do you have any friends?”
As a homeschool student, it seemed people couldn’t wrap their mind around my receiving a quality education through non-traditional means. I will admit, I grew a bit tired of their questioning.
In fact, I couldn’t wait to begin my college studies so that the crazy barrage of questions would disappear.
The joke was on me.
As it turns out, I ended up choosing a non-traditional path for college, too—earning my degree online. Now my friends were confused twice over.
Well-meaning friends couldn’t understand how I could receive a quality education without daily sitting under a professor, living on a large campus, or joining a sorority.
An education without campuses, classrooms, and clubs can initially be a tough concept to grasp. While the details of distance education can be slightly confusing, it offers a flexible, in-depth education and allows for life (yes, even a social life) outside of the classroom.
If you’re considering online college, there are a few things you should know about taking this educational approach.
Here are 5 things everyone should know about doing college online:
1. Some people may not understand.
You’re going against centuries of tradition.
For thousands of years, education has been confined to the classroom. Online college is different.
You have the freedom to study whenever and wherever you like. You will spend more time reading and working on projects than listening to repetitive lectures. You may not join sororities or fraternities, but you can volunteer, intern, or even hold down a full-time job!
Your studies may occur more in coffee shops and libraries than classrooms, and traditional “dorm food” is replaced with home cooking (or Ramen noodles on busy days) from the comfort of your own home.
Don’t worry if you (or those around you) feel a bit confused by the process at first. Online college is a huge shift from the norm.
2. Distractions are everywhere.
You will need a lot of self-discipline.
A few years ago, a very embarrassing commercial surfaced. A spunky young woman dressed in pajamas announced: “Thousands of people work on their degree in their pajamas—every day!”
Naturally, this gave way to the impression that online college is a bit of a cop-out for those who find getting dressed in the morning too difficult a task.
The truth is—learning online requires organization, discipline, and determination.
You will need to keep up with registrations, deadlines, tests, and assignments. There are no professors standing in front of the class to constantly remind you of your next test.
Managing an online degree isn’t as simple as watching the occasional online class while lounging in a beanbag. It’s completely worthwhile, but it will require discipline and determination and is hardly a cop-out.
3. Beware of Non- (or Poorly) Accredited Schools
When it comes to learning online there are quite a few too-good-to-be-true options out there. While some programs may make intriguing promises, not all offer quality learning experiences or recognized degrees.
Many traditional schools, such as Penn State, Liberty University, and many state schools now offer online degree programs. Even Harvard University offers online classes.
To distinguish between a too-good-to-be-true and a legitimate degree program, the litmus test for a quality school is their level of accreditation. (Learn more about choosing a school with the right accreditation here.)
4. Be prepared to work hard!
When it comes to education, you get out what you put in.
If you choose online college for the pure appeal of “studying in your pajamas,” you probably won’t get a lot out of your education.
You may have the opportunity to learn and grow more as an online student than as a traditional one, but the how much is up to you.
5. You can still have a social life
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to settle for the life of a recluse when you begin working on your online degree.
In fact, online college frees you to meet more people (from more walks of life) than you otherwise may meet on a college campus.
Possibilities for activities and meeting people are endless. Even studying from a coffee shop can open opportunities to make new friends.
If you’re planning to take a nontraditional approach to your education, don’t be daunted by the idea of being “different.”
Earning a bachelor’s degree, whether distance or on site, requires an enormous amount of hard work, dedication and determination.
But the results are always worth it.
Interested in the most flexible and affordable way to earn your bachelor’s degree? Check out Unbound—a revolutionary approach to college, which can help you graduate college on your schedule and 100% debt free.
Rachel Novotny is a Paleo foodie who’s passionate about helping people achieve their potential. When she’s not writing or adventuring, she’s enjoying home life (and coffee) with her husband and their dogs.Read more by Rachel