My college matriculation is best summed up by the famous line from Robert Frost’s The Road Not Traveled, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” I guess you could say I got a well-rounded education, because I bounced around three different schools and several majors before finally finishing up the process online. My only regret from the whole experience was that I didn’t pursue online degree programs earlier.
Pre-Medicine Requires Too Much Chemistry
For as long as I could remember I wanted to be a doctor. It seemed natural, and I had a genuine desire to want to help people. So, I enrolled my freshman year declaring pre-medicine as my intended path of study and away I went. Two years into the program, and six chemistry courses later, it all became rather overwhelming. I had officially reached burnout with several years of school, medical school, and residency to go. Being the practical personal I am, I realized I wasn’t going to stay motivated all the way through, and accepted the change of heart.
After a short stint as a physical therapy major, and after seeking out an athletic training internship, I decided my heart just wasn’t in medicine anymore. Good thing I recognized this when I did–just imagine the money I could have wasted pursuing something my heart was no longer in. A death in the family brought me back home about half way through my third year. I decided to go to work, and eventually married my college sweetheart, and less than two years later we had our first child.
School, Family, and a Full Time Job
The birth of my daughter inspired me to get back in school and finish my education. I recognized my career opportunities and earnings potential were somewhat limited by the fact that I had not finished my undergraduate degree. I enrolled at a nearby college, and thanks to a change in majors, transferring from the quarter system to the semester system, and going to school in different states, I practically had to start over. And so I began a long, painful process of attending school at night from 6:00pm-10:00pm, Monday through Thursday, while working full time 8:00am-5:00pm and missing my newborn daughter and my wife terribly. It was an exhausting time.
I kept up the pace for a couple years before a job relocation took me away from that local university, just a couple semesters shy of graduation. A friend recommended I check out an online program offered by another local school. He knew I was sick of being a “traditional,” in-class student because it kept me away from my family. At the time online degree programs were relatively new on the scene, and I was a little skeptical. I decided to look into it and I am sure glad I did.
The Benefits of an Online Education
There are many reason to finish your degree online. For a husband and father of two working full-time I needed something with maximum flexibility. Online education provided the ability to work around my job and family schedules while pursuing the exact same degree as those poor souls stuck in a classroom until 10:00pm. The online degree program also forced me to upgrade technology, and stay on top of new web-based applications (something that later helped in my career).
Is an Online Degree Right For You?
Continuing your education online requires a greater degree of discipline than attending school in a traditional setting. All interaction with professors and classmates will be done virtually, usually via online chats, forums and email exchanges. One of the main complaints about online degree programs is that you miss that social interaction sometimes required to fully grasp a new concept. Professors will not be able to spoon-feed you information for exams.
When I attended a university full time professors made a point of emphasizing which areas of the text were most important, and often repeated contents of their lecture (a signal to write it down, because it would likely be on the test). In an online environment you are often told to read pages 145-227 and expect any material contained to appear on the midterm. It was up to you to figure out what was most important, and what would most likely appear on the exams. It was an adjustment, but a good lesson in ignoring fluff and focusing in on what was most important.
I’d be interested to hear some of your experiences with an online degree. Please feel free to share your story in the comments section below.