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    Online vs. In-Person College: Which Is Right for You?

    By Varonika Ware

    Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: February 27th, 2024
    Online vs. In-Person College: Which Is Right for You?

    It’s no secret that online college is growing by leaps and bounds. You might be wondering what the difference is between online vs in-person classes, and luckily, we outline some of the pros and cons to each below. 

    Be sure to continue doing your research on your options, so you can make the best decision for your needs and goals. No matter the type of college experience that you choose, you’re still moving toward earning a worthwhile education. Keep reading to learn more about online vs in-person college below!

    Benefits of online college

    Ability to pace yourself

    Online college can be a great option for people with demanding schedules and hectic lifestyles. Depending on the major, students are able to set the pace for their education. 

    Some people might need more time to go over a specific subject while others might be able to finish several assignments for their classes at once. Keep in mind that some online classes, such as those in healthcare related fields, may require students to be online at certain times. 

    Either way, online classes aren’t necessarily forced to adhere to a semester-long curriculum like in-person colleges. This can also be a lot less stressful for students who want freedom to choose when to study and for how long. 

    Learning anywhere

    Going virtual with education means that students have the freedom to learn when and where they want. Students can pursue their education in bed, at their local library, or even while on vacation. 

    Students can even study in the comfort of their pajamas, which can save time and money that might’ve been spent on the commute to classes. This form of learning can also provide people with disabilities or illnesses a chance to get an education, even if they aren’t currently able to attend an in-person school. 

    Related: Top colleges for students with disabilities

    Benefits of in-person college

    Structured education

    While you’re attending college in-person, your schedule can be a lot more structured than an online format. Classes are usually at specific times throughout the week, and assignment deadlines can be less flexible than in an online atmosphere. 

    Students will also have more opportunities to speak directly with professors in class or during office hours. This can be especially helpful if you are struggling with a specific topic, or you want to go over previous exams or assignments.

    On-campus atmosphere

    University campuses can be your new home away from home! Living in dorms or apartments near your college can allow you to experience some of the biggest parts of campus life. There are events to meet other students or become friends with your roommates or floormates.

    College campuses also offer students the chance to get involved in clubs or sports. Participating in some of these activities can even offer a way to help pay for college with specialized scholarships like ones for student-athletes or students involved in STEM activities. 

    See also: On vs. off-campus living

    Networking opportunities

    Being on campus offers students access to networking events and allows them to foster connections in and outside of the classroom. These opportunities can be between peers, professors, and other professionals. 

    Getting to know people in a learning environment can help you secure internships and letters of recommendation as well as positions in your desired field upon graduation. It can also help build up your profile on networking sites like LinkedIn, Handshake, and Indeed. 

    Related: Top online colleges that accept the FAFSA

    Drawbacks of online college

    Limited engagement

    Being in a non-traditional environment for learning can be a lot different from what students are used to. As a result, online classes might seem limited in comparison to in-person engagement between students as well as with professors. However, you can be more engaged in classes by turning on your camera during Zoom meetings or actively participating in class discussion posts. 

    In this format, getting in touch with professors can be a little different as well. Classes might be asynchronous with limited meetings with teachers, or you might have a scheduled Zoom class. Either way, the class website and emails are a great way to reach out to your professors to get answers to any of the questions you might have. 

    Also see: Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning: What’s the difference?

    Keeping up with deadlines

    Since online learning has less structure, it’s important to set up a schedule for assignments and exams in order to stay on track. It can be easy to start procrastinating on work in the online atmosphere since you might not have to attend in-person classes. 

    Staying on top of deadlines can also be difficult if you have other commitments like work or children. Students need to utilize available support systems to empower themselves and be successful students.

    It’s also important to be self-motivating in order to stay on top of homework, projects, and tests. Setting up positive habits of studying can be especially helpful to make sure you get everything done, so you won’t have to stress later down the road when deadlines are approaching. 

    Drawbacks of in-person college

    Potentially high-priced education

    Generally, in-person colleges are more expensive than online alternatives because of additional fees and on-campus housing. Students also tend to take out student loans in order to afford their education, which can be a hefty price tag upon graduation. 

    Fortunately, there is federal student aid, in-state options as well as scholarships and grants that students can apply for to cut costs. In-person colleges also offer work-study and internship opportunities, which can help with everyday expenses while providing real-world experience before pursuing your career. 

    Related: Grants vs. Scholarships

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Online college offers students the chance to learn on the go while in-person universities give students a more structured college experience
    • Online classes for certain majors might require being online at specific times
    • Students living on campus are able to get involved in activities and make meaningful connections with their peers and professors
    • Online learning can be more cost-efficient than in-person colleges, but there are still resources out there for both options that can make your education affordable
    Key Takeaways

    Don’t miss: Top online scholarships

    Final tips for applicants

    After evaluating online or in-person college formats, the price tag might still play a factor in deciding to attend either of them. Fortunately, there are a lot of options to help make college affordable such as tuition reimbursement, FAFSA, and the CSS Profile. By using these resources, it’s possible to attend college for free or at a discounted rate. 

    Applicants should also keep in mind that some colleges require one or more supplemental essay responses as part of the admissions process. In preparation, try to speak with advisors, teachers, or family members about your essay draft and ways to improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice. When you have some choices, learn what to consider when choosing a college.

    While on your higher education journey, make sure you apply for all of the scholarships you qualify for while you are eligible!

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    Frequently asked questions about online vs. in-person college

     

    Is in-person college better than online college?

    Not necessarily. This is similar to asking if a four-year college is better than a community college or trade school, which isn’t the case. Learning is different for everyone, and it’s up to you to decide what form of schooling will help you the most in achieving your goals.

    How do you stay motivated in online school?

      Attending school online can make it difficult to stay focused, but it’s not impossible. Making a schedule for your school work can structure your learning. You can also reach out to some of your classmates by setting up class group chats or coordinating virtual study sessions.  

    Can I get my degree faster through online school?

    No matter the schooling format you choose, graduating early from in-person or online school largely depends on you. It can be easier to graduate early with online classes since you mostly set your own pace, but your lifestyle could also make it more difficult. Either way, you can do anything you set your mind to, so anything is possible!

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