While online colleges only began popping up in the 80s and 90s, they have redefined higher education for many students. In fact, in 2012, 11% of U.S. undergraduates and 22% of U.S. graduate students were enrolled in online colleges. If you need further proof that they’re here to stay, turn on the radio or surf the web, and you will surely encounter advertisements for all kinds of online colleges. They offer degrees in all subjects, can fit into the tightest of schedules, and give students the flexibility to log on from anywhere. Because of their accessibility, online colleges may be a particularly good fit for certain students, particularly those who are parents, full-time employees, associated with the military, disabled, and/or suffering from a chronic or mental illness, like anxiety.
Despite the popularity of online colleges, however, some people have formed very strong opinions about them, and those opinions aren’t always positive. Because of this, online colleges may carry a negative stigma in some circles, but it’s important to realize that much of that stigma is not based on fact. If you’re considering an online education, sort through the myths about online colleges and get answers.
“Online colleges are scams; colleges with physical campuses are not.”
Some people may mistakenly believe the myth that online colleges want to swindle students out of money. This is largely untrue; there are numerous online colleges that offer legitimate, competitive educational experiences. Unfortunately, the negative assumption persists because a handful of scams have tarnished the reputation of online colleges as a whole. Over the years, several businesses have posed as colleges and taken advantage of the people who matriculate. These fake institutions issue fake degrees or fake certificates to students who complete minimal work or pay a certain fee. (It’s also important to realize that not all higher education scams are online; everyone should be wary, even students who plan to enroll in brick-and-mortar colleges.)
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these scams, be they online or run in person. No matter where you want to enroll in school, make sure the school is legitimate before you apply. The easiest way to do so is to check its accreditation status. You can learn everything you need to know about accreditation here.
“Online classes are easier than traditional classes.”
Online classes require hard work, so if you’re looking for an easy way to get your degree, keep searching. In fact, a study of 51,000 college students found that students who took an online course failed more often than those who took the same course in person. This could be due to the fact that many of these students assumed the course would be easier to take online than it actually was.
While one myth about online colleges may be that they’re easy, the truth is, to pass an online class, you’ll need to log in to the class dashboard, review the lessons, do the readings, pass the tests, and write the essays. Though you may never need to show up in person, online classes are still classes. Even if professors cannot grade you on your attendance, some do grade you on your participation in class forums or discussion boards. You have to put in the hard work if you want to excel in an online college. There’s simply no way around it.
“Degrees from online colleges don’t carry as much weight in the workforce as degrees from brick-and-mortar schools.”
Some students may worry that degrees earned online will be stigmatized in the workforce or by potential graduate schools. This may ring true for some subjects that require hands-on experience or labs to fully grasp the material (e.g., trades, culinary arts, medicine), but it is not true for all.
As long as your degree is from an accredited school, it will be widely accepted when you are applying to graduate schools or jobs later on. These days, online degrees are common, and their reputation is improving. A handful of people may be under the false impression that online programs are easier than traditional programs, but they have no reason to judge. Most people you encounter, including potential employers or graduate admission advisors, will be impressed by your degree, no matter which accredited school it is from. If you are still concerned about the reputation of your degree, you might decide to ask a professional or mentor in your potential field about how your degree might be perceived by future employers.
“Students with online degrees are less successful after graduation than students with traditional degrees.”
Students in online courses have gone on to enjoy huge successes after graduation. Many students in online classes are returning students who have already started their careers. To advance in their fields or to change career paths, they pursue their degrees. When they graduate, they often have a clear idea of what they want to do and how to get started.
While average people with hopes and goals make up the bulk of the students enrolled in online colleges, the rich and famous have also leveraged their education from an online college to become even more successful. Off the court, Shaquille O’Neal received his MBA from the University of Phoenix. He planned to put it to use when he retired from professional basketball. Kerrii Anderson, former CEO of Wendy’s, earned her business degree through online classes at Duke University. Her education helped her go from driving a bus to serving on four corporate boards.
Success, however, isn’t always so extreme. Every year, thousands of students graduate from online colleges and achieve their personal goals. They start careers in finance, health care, and information technology. They bulk up their résumés and make more money. Success is how you define it, and you may find that furthering your education online, or otherwise, helps you follow your dreams.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how anyone but prospective employers and grad schools perceive your education. To put it frankly, most of them won’t care if you completed your education online; they just want to see that you attended an accredited school and that you excelled in challenging classes that prepared you for the future. Your education is yours to define, and if an online education seems to be the best path for you, there’s no reason to let any myths about online colleges stand in your way.