Whether you left college before you earned your degree or you’ve never taken a college course in your life, returning to school is a great way to further your education— and most likely provide the opportunity to earn more money at work.
Online college has become incredibly common in recent years, and many working adults that want to go back to college (or start for the first time!) feel that taking classes online from the comfort of their own home is the easiest way to do so.
Although online colleges are convenient because they do not involve a lengthy commute or have a set-in-stone schedule, taking classes online requires just as much dedication and effort as attending courses in an actual classroom—if not more so, because you’re essentially doing things on your own.
I earned my degree on a “real” college campus, but I returned to school a couple of years later to take courses which corresponded with my job—and I took those classes online.
Now that I’ve experienced the best of both worlds, so to speak, I’m able to provide some insight on both types of college courses. If you’re wondering if online college classes are right for you, ask yourself the following 5 questions:
1. Are you comfortable using a computer and the internet regularly?
While it’s true that some students who began college immediately after their high school graduation take classes online, a large portion of people taking online college classes are non-traditional college students—adults with full-time jobs, spouses and families.
People in their thirties and forties did not grow up using computers the way that younger people did, and some are not as comfortable with technology as younger students are. There’s no need to be a computer engineer or technology expert, but in order to succeed with online college you have to know how to use a computer, basic computer programs, the internet, chat rooms and forums and email.
2. Do you have reliable internet access?
I once lived in an apartment community with one internet service provider. For that reason, every single family in the neighborhood had the same internet company, and 75% of the time the internet connection was so slow I could barely get online.
It didn’t matter how many times I called and complained about the service or how many times the company sent an employee out to “run tests,” the internet in that neighborhood was so slow I had to purchase an air card for mobile broadband access. If your internet connection isn’t totally reliable, it could possibly die out on you in the middle of a timed exam—which would be pretty frustrating.
3. Do you honestly have enough time to commit to taking online college classes?
Before taking a few online classes, I mistakenly had the assumption that they were a lot easier than classes which met on a physical college campus and I’m sure I’m not the only person with that false impression.
Most people decide to take online classes because they think it will save time, but online classes really do take time and dedication—often more time than you think they will. In order to receive financial aid for college, students must be enrolled for at least so many credit hours. Do you really have enough time in your schedule to fit in online classes?
4. Do you have great time management skills?
I’m sure that things vary from school to school, but when I took online classes, the weeks ran Monday through Sunday. As long as that week’s assignments were turned in and any quizzes / exams were taken by Sunday night, all was good. The cycle started again on Monday.
It’s easy to put things off, but if you’re taking two, three or four classes at a time—work can pile up on you easily. Do you have great time management skills which can keep you on track?
5. Can you motivate yourself to succeed?
Time management is one thing, but in order to truly succeed—at online college or at anything else in life—you need to motivate yourself to do so. Yes, your classes really do have professors and other students (even though you don’t see them in person) but they’re not going to hold your hand and walk you through things every single step of the way. Can you motivate yourself to get things done and succeed?
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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