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Traditional vs. Online College

Updated on March 19, 2014

Age Factors

For young students, particularly those in the 18-21 year old range, college means a new taste of freedom and possibly living away from home for the first time. College campuses are filled with young, single people who attend traditional college not only for an education, but for the social life as well.

Older adults may want to further their education, yet have families and full time jobs, making traditional college classes difficult for those who can't afford to stop working full time. Adults found on traditional campuses are less likely to be into the social scene traditional colleges provide. Adults are also more disciplined and mature making them better candidates for online learning than students right out of high school.

Why Most 18-21 Year Olds Attend Traditional Colleges

  • To earn a college degree and plan for the future.
  • Pressure from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors.
  • To join fraternities & sororities and attend sporting events, and yes, parties!

Why Adults Return to School

  • To gain a salary increase at their current job.
  • To gain additional knowledge about a particular field of interest or hobby.
  • For career advancement. Some job opportunities are missed by deserving employees due to lack of education.

Successful Online Learning

To succeed at getting your education online, you must use self discipline and learn how to multi task online to utilize all needed sources of information. The best way to help get started is by setting up a regular schedule that you can stick to each day for completing any assignments. Set up a time each day that you spend doing any studying or homework assignments.

Regular campus classrooms are closed in without all the distractions of home. Home study can be a real test of self discipline. If possible, find your own private area in which you can do your studying and work. Make this area quiet, without the sounds of radio, television, background noises, and children.

One reason that adults are choosing, and graduating from, online universities is the flexibility this type of college offers to those who must work full time. A large majority of students enrolled in college online are working adults with a family, career, and all of the responsibilities that go along with being an adult out on your own.

Traditional College for the Young Adult

Traditional universities are a good experience for young adults. When out on their own they learn things like budgeting finances and maintaining a living space. They must also learn to be responsible enough to attend classes and complete assignments as required without anyone reminding them to do so.

Many young adults still rely on financial support from parents while in school, a good reason why many parents encourage their kids to attend college is so they can become responsible. Being away at college gives them the freedom to learn how to live on their own, but the security of having someone to send them money after they spend it all out partying with friends.

Social interaction is another reason young adults attend college on a campus vs. online. Many 18-21 year olds are single and not in a committed relationship. College living is a great way to meet other young singles they may have things in common with.

Students also may attend universities on sports or academic scholarships, helping financially support their education. Students may join fraternities or sororities as a way of socializing or carrying on a family tradition.

Online College Report from CNN

Jobs and Online Degrees

Although online degrees are more accepted than five years ago, their legitimacy is accepted in some areas of study more than in others. A degree from a well-established and accredited distance learning school is accepted by employers a lot quicker than one that is not well known.

Fields of study, such as medicine and law, are the least likely to accept online credentials, while IT, media, internet, and other high tech fields have up to 70% acceptance of online degrees. No matter what the job, sometimes the manager in charge of hiring new employees may refuse to hire someone who has not attended an accredited university or college. Six out of ten organizations prefer hiring new employees with traditional college degrees over those with online degrees.

Advantages of Online Universities

  • Online college courses are less expensive.
  • Flexibility to complete work at your own pace.
  • Degree requirements can be completed in a shorter amount of time.
  • Professors with online universities come with outstanding academic credentials.


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    • ecamper23 profile image

      ecamper23 6 years ago

      I have friends who take courses online during their break so they still have that college experience during the regular academic year.

    • mbaker2012 profile image

      mbaker2012 6 years ago

      Online colleges are great for those who can't afford traditional education.

    • bdouble28 profile image

      bdouble28 6 years ago

      Excellent hub! So many adults are worried about their job security and learning online is one of the few ways to get back to school without sacrificing your job.

    • agent007 profile image

      agent007 6 years ago from Florida

      Good checklist for those still on the fence. Thanks for putting this together!

    • marilnelanoon233 profile image

      marilnelanoon233 6 years ago

      I think all ages are great for online college. And it especially works for the elderly and those who work full time since it caters to their needs too.