Online vs. Traditional College Education: Which Is the Better Choice?

by | Jul 28, 2021 | Planning for College

Things have changed when it comes to going to college. Thanks to the advancements of technology, students can now get a college degree online.

This is in addition to the traditional college education. You know the one, rush around on campus to classes, cram in study breaks, and somehow find the time to eat a meal.

Today, options in higher education have come a long way.

But, is one choice better than the other? And how do you know which one is right for you?

Let’s take a look at online vs. traditional and the trade-offs (and benefits) of both.

Online vs. Traditional College Education

According to Forbes, 77% of academic leaders thought online education was equal to or superior to learning in a physical classroom.

That’s a significant majority… and I don’t disagree.

I’ve completed two bachelor’s degrees. My first was in a traditional university. The second was an online school. I liked both opportunities and experiences.

Here we’ll review information on both online and traditional schools. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be able to determine which one is right for you. 

Is a Traditional College Education Better?

The most common way to go to school has always been the traditional way. Going to campus, taking a class with 100+ students, maybe even living on campus. 

I remember telling a cousin when I was applying to universities that I’d chosen a local university. I was fortunate and able to continue living with my parents, plus qualify for state scholarships. 

My cousin was sad that I wouldn’t experience the full traditional way by staying in the dorms.

To me, I didn’t miss a thing.

Should You Go to an Online College?

With the advancements in technology, online universities are becoming more and more popular. Many students are starting to work right after high school. 

Online schools have given them the ability to work while being able to learn and graduate at their own pace in school. 

So, what’s the difference between an online college and going to college the traditional way? Let’s break it down.

1. Online College vs. Traditional College Networking

A traditional college allows you to interact with other students. You have your classmates with who you can bounce ideas off of and form study groups. 

You’re able to easily interact with others. Not to mention you’ll be on campus to enjoy all the activities and events that are happening. 

Going to an online school makes this a bit harder. You’ll have to be smart about how you network with classmates. Some schools have created community groups to be able to communicate with other students. 

2. Online College vs. Traditional College Flexibility

Online schools give you more class flexibility. There’s no set schedule like traditional schools. You can set your own study schedule which offers a lot of freedom.

With traditional schools, you’re tied to a schedule. You select specific times for the classes you have to attend. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the time or class you are interested in since it is on a first come first serve. 

With flexibility, you need discipline and motivation. You have to have the mindset to stay focused and create your own schedule. 

Even though you are not tied to a schedule, you may be tied to something else. For example, at Western Governors University, you need to finish a certain amount of classes within their 6-month terms

3. Online College vs. Traditional College Travel

You have to deal with commuting to a traditional school. Once you arrive, you have to contend with parking. 

I remember it was always a hassle for me to find parking. My first class may have started at 10 am but I would have to arrive on campus by 7 am to be able to get a good parking spot. 

With online school, you don’t have to deal with commuting. Unless you are someone who likes to study at coffee shops or the library. 

4. Online College vs. Traditional College Majors

Online schools can be limited on what majors they offer. Classes that require hands-on equipment fall into that category.  

In my opinion, there are some classes that should not be taught online. I know I struggled with math. I took a math class online once in high school and it didn’t go so well. 

I never took a math class online again. 

5. Online College vs. Traditional College Hybrid Online Classes

Traditional schools do offer hybrid and online classes. Hybrid classes consist of in-person instruction with some online activities. You may consider this to see how you do with online schooling. 

Traditional schools also offer online courses and online degrees. Not all courses they offer on campus will be offered online. Like online schools, their online degrees will be limited. It is a limited list they offer. 

I started taking online courses towards the end of my degree. It allowed me to study from home instead of on campus. It also helped me determine if I did have the motivation and self-discipline to complete a degree online. 

Everyone has different needs and wants.

I started in a traditional school because I like structure. I was that student that enjoyed the first day getting all of the syllabi. I would go home after and start color-coding my planner by adding important class dates. I also was able to get a few in-state scholarships by going to a traditional school. 

That helped my family and me with paying for school. 

By the time I had finished my first degree, I had been working full time and had a mini family to take care of. Traditional school no longer worked for me. That is when I started going online for my second degree. 

The school I went to allowed me to be flexible and go at my own pace. My motivation to finish helped me push myself. In return, it helped me finish quicker than my anticipated graduation date. 

I was studying every moment I was able to. On my lunch breaks, study before or after work, while still making time to spend with my family. 

Over To You …

After reading through online vs. traditional college education choices, which one will you choose? 

  • Do you have the self discipline and motivation needed to go online? 
  • Do you need social interaction?
  • Will you thrive in a flexible and free environment?

The decision is yours!

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