Are Online Universities as Good as Traditional Colleges?

Strategies by School
March 24, 2020
Online Universities Offer Opportunities And Flexibility, But Is This Enough To Make Up For The Stability Of Traditional Colleges?

As technology advances and the working world relies more heavily on telecommuting and working from home, many students are interested in the idea of attending an online university. The flexibility offered by online universities also opens up many life paths for students that traditional colleges don’t; online students can work full-time jobs, take care of their families, or travel, all while earning their degree.

However, the perks of online learning also come with downsides.

Fortunately, students who take their education seriously, do their research, and get themselves in the right mindset can work around these downsides if they’re aware of them.

Signing up for an online university is a big step in your future and one that you should research and prepare for. To help you get started, we’ve done the research on the pros and cons of online universities, so you can go in with all of the information you need!

What You’ll Find In This Article

What Are Online Universities?

When someone discusses “online universities” there are two different types of schools they can be referring to:

  1. An online-only university with no traditional physical campus
  2. Or an online branch of a university with a traditional campus

Either way, an online university holds virtual classes, with each university having its own way of structuring student learning. Many of the most popular online courses are structured for students to work on at their own pace. This is one of the biggest selling points of an online university; the flexibility to get a college education at your own pace while studying from anywhere with an Internet connection.

While both types of online universities function the same way, a majority of the reputable degrees available online are extensions of traditional colleges. However, this doesn’t necessarily make these extension branches better than online-only schools. In the next section, we’ll discuss the difference between online-only and traditional physical colleges.

What's The Difference Between Online And Traditional Colleges?

Because so many traditional universities are now offering online courses and classes, the difference between traditional and online colleges is difficult to see at first glance. Still, these differences make a huge impact on how and where a student learns.

One of the most obvious differences is that online-only classes are taught in an entirely virtual setting. While many online universities offer plenty of resources and support for their students, in order to be successful students must be able to spark internal motivation and manage their time. With the flexibility of online universities comes the danger of procrastination, lack of motivation, and isolation.

Another large distinction between online and traditional universities is the cost. Online universities, in general, are a more affordable option. This isn’t just due to a difference in the price of tuition, but also additional expenses such as room and board, transportation, and fees related to the upkeep of a physical campus. Despite these factors, as with traditional colleges, the more prestigious or well-known a university is, the more likely it is to have higher costs.

However, one of the most critical differences between online universities and traditional universities is the type of accreditation the school has, not the cost of attendance. Regional accreditation is generally regarded as the best type of accreditation a school can have, and online universities with national accreditation are often regarded as not equivalent to a traditional college. Students should take care to research what type of accreditation a university has, especially if the university is private.

The Pros And Cons Of Online Universities

While each online college will have its own pros and cons, in general, many online-only schools share the same general structure. Students who take the time to prepare for the cons of an online only education can more easily adapt to this new way of learning. By learning how to research universities, you can better assess how the pros and cons of an online university would apply to you.


  • Flexible schedules, often structured for working at your own pace
  • Most degree programs are faster to complete
  • Students have access to a wide range of schools without needing to travel
  • Many courses are more affordable (but can get pricey with well-known universities)

Overall, online education offers students more control over how they complete their education. Students can choose to listen to lectures on their own time, complete coursework as their schedule allows, and create their own study schedules and online study groups.

In addition, online universities allow students who would normally be unable to attend college (due to finances or location) the chance to receive a high-quality education.


  • You lose out on many of the more social college experiences
  • With many “questionable” schools online, doing your research is paramount
  • There is little opportunity to network and a risk for social isolation
  • A smaller pool of degree options, with many degrees not offered online
  • Online education can be a struggle for students that lack self-motivation

The cons of online education are often a result of the technology that makes it all possible. Not only does technology limit the type of degrees that can be offered, but it also limits the social and collaborative aspects of college.

Face-to-face interaction with professors and fellow students is a large part of what makes the college experience memorable. While webcam meetings and emails can help keep students connected, they can’t replace physical learning experiences like labs and in-the-field activities.

Is An Online College Right For Me?

Remember that every student and university is different! One option isn’t necessarily “better” than the other. While traditional colleges may have a better track record with more students, the best option for you will depend on a variety of factors.

One way to gauge how well you may do in an online education setting is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well can you create your own schedule and follow through with it?
  • Do you have access to the necessary technology? Are you comfortable using it?
  • How important is face-to-face interaction in your learning experience?
  • Are you comfortable creating your own support groups and reaching out for help?
  • Would your personal situation make attending traditional college a burden?

These are just a handful of the questions that can help you determine whether an online education would be the right move for your future. You may have other reasons to be drawn toward an online university and the flexibility they offer.

If you’ve decided that attending online college is the right next step for you, please reach out to our WeAdmit counselors. We’re well-versed in the admissions process of both traditional and online universities; our expertise can help take some of the confusion out of the process, especially if you want to attend an online-branch of a traditional college. We’d love to help you navigate the process of getting your online education started, from nailing down admission requirements to helping you polish your application to perfection!

Remember: Don’t Let Prestige Deter You From Getting An Education In A Way That Works For You.



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