Online degree programs are a great option for students who can’t or don’t want to make the trip to campus every time they need to attend class. Students need to be driven to succeed on their own, though, as the entirety of the course occurs online. Students may have to log in at a certain time each week or complete all of their assignments on their own time by a given deadline. If you are motivated and need scheduling flexibility, consider an online program!

Online programs are offered at both online-only and brick-and-mortar colleges. While some online courses at a brick-and-mortar institution may require you to come to campus every once in a while, online-only colleges may not have a campus for you to visit. Interaction with your professors and your peers takes place online in chat rooms and forums and over email. Your grades are based on your online participation, on-time submissions, and how well you perform on tests.

There is a negative stigma surrounding online degree programs. Namely, that they’re not as good as traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. This isn’t true, but the programs are new and haven’t yet withstood the test of time. They do, however, give students the ability to work from home, on their own time, for an affordable price. If your prospective field is offered by an online college, it’s worth looking into.

Both online and traditional programs are going to offer you some of the same things: challenging coursework, knowledgeable professors, and a degree upon completion. They differ in scheduling flexibility, teaching style, and cost. Attending an online college gives you the freedom to live where you want, but your social network is unlikely to expand drastically. Knowing what you want from your college experience will help you make an appropriate decision.

Anyone with internet access and a working knowledge of computers can be an online student. Online classes are often full of individuals from diverse backgrounds, from the veteran to the working parent to the 18-year-old college student. What they have in common is a drive to succeed, good time-management skills, patience, and resourcefulness. A student who fully commits to doing well in online classes is the ideal online student.

When choosing an online degree program, first find one that is accredited. Then you should consider whether the school is nonprofit or for-profit, as this determines where your tuition money is routed. The rest comes down to personal preference: Does one school have a better alumni network than another? Does one cost more? Is the school well known for any programs in particular?

Finding a program that won’t cause too much financial strain will help set your mind at ease. Attending a nonprofit institution is one way to initially lower costs, as is comparing multiple schools to find the most cost-effective option. From there, you can apply for federal financial aid by filling out the FAFSA and apply for state, institutional, and private scholarships. Don’t take out any more loans than you have to, and when you have the choice, take federal loans over private ones.