A traditional college experience isn’t going to work for everyone. Some people need more than four years to graduate; some can only afford the time and money to go part time; and still others have to work full time or have families at home that prevent a full-time, traditional schedule. Luckily, distance learning programs have been around for awhile, and the internet has made them much more accessible.
Regardless of the field you’d like to go into, having a college degree can throw open countless doors of opportunity. Universities that offer online degrees make it possible for you to still get the best education they can provide without having to go massively into debt for the rest of your life because you can save on some costs associated with a traditional university experience. Now, more than ever, it’s possible to take courses online, with more than 30 percent of students in higher ed taking at least one class online.
While you’re doing research into which distance learning program may be best for you, there are a few benefits to make sure you’re taking the most advantage of. These can include saving on your budget while still getting access to an invaluable education, making sure you’re using all the resources available to you through your program, and remembering to engage with other students just like you. Here are just a few of the major reasons to consider distance learning for your education:
Your Life Can Continue as Scheduled
The traditional college experience is an entire lifestyle, in part because it’s generally geared at young people going through a specific life change. You uproot your life thus far, move to a new place with new people, and structure your entire day — every day — around your courses. For a lot of American college students, this just isn’t possible anymore.
More than 50 percent of college students today work either full-time or part-time jobs. This means college students can be working as much as 40 hours a week on top of attending lectures and doing their homework. That doesn’t exactly leave a lot of energy for performing to the best of their ability in their schoolwork.
Distance learning allows students to continue with their life as it is without having to move from home or quit their job. For students who already have established careers or may be returning to finish a degree, this can be especially important, because they don’t want to give up what they’ve established for themselves. They can do their coursework from the comfort of home, on their own time and at their own pace, regardless of the other demands in their life.
You Don’t Have to Deal With Dorm Life
One of the biggest benefits of distance learning is not having to deal with student housing. Sure, having to share a bunk bed and a bathroom with a stranger is annoying, but the cost of living in dorms can be especially prohibitive.
With an online degree, you don’t have to pay to live in the dorms or for a meal plan. Chances are, if you’re enrolling in distance learning, you already have your food and housing situation in a place where you can handle it. This also means getting to eat cereal on the couch whenever you want without having to figure out how to smuggle it out of a dining hall.
It’s worth noting, however, that choosing not to live on campus can affect the amount you’re granted through your FAFSA. The FAFSA is the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid, and even with online learning you have to complete the application once a year. FAFSA takes into account your housing costs, so do some research beforehand if you’re hoping to have that covered.
You’ll Save on Your End Cost
With online learning growing and expanding, it’s possible and beneficial for many traditionally hands-on educational institutions to offer distance learning options. Fields like nursing, fine arts, and education all offer ways to get a degree online that provide all the requirements and enrichments of an in-person experience. The added benefit, of course, is that instead of having to readjust your entire life, your education can fit within it.
At the end of the day, distance learning is one of the most affordable ways to honor that dedication to career fulfillment. You’ll save on the cost of housing, meal plans, traditional textbooks and all the other expensive miscellany generally required for college. Yet, you’ll still get the best education the university can offer, including lessons from professors, engagement with fellow students, and assignments and projects you can look back on and be proud of.
It’s worth noting that there are some considerations to make when deciding to pursue a course through distance learning. Some students may miss the feeling of being in a traditional classroom environment with their peers and may want that social interaction. It’s also possible some courses needed for your degree won’t be offered online, and so you may still need to seek out in-person lectures.
Regardless, at the end of your day, getting your degree isn’t about joining a Greek society or falling asleep in the back of a crowded lecture. It’s about learning how to best participate in the field you’re most passionate about. There’s no reason that learning should cost you everything — it should, in fact, provide you everything you need to make the best life possible for yourself.
Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn't frantically updating his news feeds, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the beach and read detective novels from the 1930s.