Deciding Between Online and Traditional Colleges

As you come closer to graduating high school, the decision to choose a college becomes an increasingly important and weighty one.  Your counselors, parents, and friends all seem to have an opinion about it, and the pressure to choose the right school is high.

However, one decision that perhaps isn’t stressed enough is the decision between online and traditional colleges.  The educational track for most students is very straightforward: graduate high school, go to college, graduate college, and go into the world.  The order of that sequence is almost never challenged, except by those students who are unable to go to college right away.

And yet, the value of taking time after graduating high school to pursue personal or professional interests is seldom discussed.  There are some star students who seem to have a preternatural understanding of their interests and goals in life, but for the great majority of students, discovering passions and goals is a very long process that often extends even beyond college.

My argument is that choosing to go to an online college, at least while covering core curriculum classes, gives students the advantage of time and an opportunity to work in the real world before pursuing a higher education a specialized field.

Many students have at least the beginnings of a plan for their lives by the time they graduate high school.  While you are in high school you should be exploring clubs and activities that appeal to you and also volunteering whenever possible.  By doing so, you will start to form preferences and goals based on those preferences, which will act as a guide later in life.

For many students, though, the transition into college is so immediate that they are unable to take time to reflect on their interests and pursue them in a real way that might give them some insight into their field of choice.

For instance, if you join the debate team during high school and find that you love it, you might consider looking for basic work in a field that uses that skill.  A law firm, for example, would be a good choice.

Keep in mind that you won’t get a high paying job, and you will probably end up working in a receptionist or filing position.  Since you are probably still living with your parents, not making a lot of money shouldn’t be a problem.  A good strategy would be to meet with someone who works in the firm and express a genuine interest in the field, saying that you would love some exposure to the everyday tasks and routines of the industry.

Again, you won’t be working as a lawyer, or even a paralegal, right away, but you will have the opportunity to be close to the work itself, and get to see what exactly goes on during office hours.  You might find out that being a lawyer is nothing like what you thought it was, and decide that maybe law school isn’t really the best thing for you.  Or you might discover that you love everything about law firms, and validate your decision to go to law school.

While you are trying to find work or volunteer work, you can be taking online classes so that your education doesn’t stagnate.  This will reflect well on your resume when and if you apply to traditional schools, and will also give you a clearer idea of what you want to do once you get to school.

The moral of the story is to slow down a little bit before graduating high school to take some time to think about what you really want out of life, before you make a four year commitment to a university, only to find out in the fourth year that you really detest the field you’re in.

Alternatively, you can apply to traditional schools and test out career ideas in the summer before you enroll full time, while taking some classes online to get a head start on your degree plan.  Some universities also offer a deferred plan, where you can push back your enrollment until the spring or fall of the following year, which would also give you time to explore your passions and take classes online.

It may not be the most popular idea, but taking some time to figure out your interests after you graduate high school does give you a better chance at discovering your true passion, and can give you a concrete picture of what you need to do once you go to school.

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Nadia Jones

Nadia Jones

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online colleges about education, college, students, teachers, money saving, and movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.
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