Online college is a second chance for many learners. For students who have struggled in traditional educational settings, those working to overcome challenging personal circumstances, or those looking to make a career change, online education has a way of unlocking doors. Wherever you are on your educational or professional continuum, online college provides a uniquely flexible and accessible shot at a second chance for a first-rate education!
“For years, I tried doing traditional schooling by going on campus but I always failed.”
Brian, an Early Childhood Education major at Ashford University told us, “I did not know what I was doing wrong but I could not get a grasp while I was in class. Once I started at Ashford, where I can go at my own pace, and learn, and I can ask questions 24/7, it helped me get ahead in my schooling.”
Brian’s path to a degree and a career in his chosen field goes through online college. And based on his experience in traditional college, this was really the only path for Brian. Everybody learns differently. For some, the absence of support, and the streamlined pace of the on-campus experience can be difficult to acclimate to.
For learners like Brian, online college represents something greater than convenience and flexibility. For Brian, online college represents a shot at a second chance. And he’s not alone. Brian is one of thousands who applied for our $1000 Online College Scholarship Prize, and he is one of thousands with a worthy story. For countless adult learners like Brian, online colleges and full online degree programs are making possible educational opportunities that were never previously imagined.
In fact, says The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the number of adults 20 or older going back to school increased by 194.7% between 1970 and 2010. The Department also reports that, after a slight drop in adult student enrollment from 2010 to 2015 — when just over 16 million non-traditional students attended college — the trend is projected to turn upward again, with a new peak of 18.5 million adult learners anticipated by 2024.
The growing availability and accessibility of credible and quality online college programs may be one reason for this projection. Those who might have stowed away their educational or professional ambitions in favor of adulting are increasingly getting the chance to unpack those ambitions through the online medium. Indeed — just in case you’re feeling old — according to U.S. News & World Report, the average age of students in ranked online bachelor’s degree programs in 2016 was 32. Many of these students shared their stories with us as we sought the best candidates for our annual scholarship competition.
Read on to find out why so many adult learners and non-traditional students are seeking and finding second chances through education online. We’ll be highlighting and linking to degree programs throughout this article that are tailor-made for adult learners. One of these programs could be the second chance you’re looking for!
Before we dig in to the reasons that so many adult learners are choosing online college, let’s get this annoying detail out of the way right up front. If this is your second chance at an education, you may have credits to transfer into your new school. Make sure that you take every necessary step to facilitate this transfer. But we warn you, every school is different, every degree program is different, and bureaucracy lurks at every turn.
We have a few resources that you’ll want to check out as you consider your educational options, including information on accreditation, the transfer process, and a few ways that you might even be able to expand on your existing credits.
Before you jump into your online college search, check out these important resources:
- Online Colleges and Transferring Credits
- Will my college credits transfer? (From nationally accredited to regionally accredited)
- Transferring from Campus to Online College
- Guide to Nationally Accredited Colleges: What You Need to Know
- College Credit for Work Experience
- The Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs
Ok. Now that we’ve gotten that bureaucratic business out of the way, let’s get down to the real life stuff. Here are a few of the reasons that adult learners are pursuing their second chance at education through online college:
Starting Over as a Student With Children
We’re not going to lie. Going to college and raising kids is freakin’ hard! If you’re a parent in school, you know all about the challenge of balancing diapers and textbooks, naptime and study time, your kid’s homework and...well, your own homework. It’s not easy, which may be why you took a step away from your studies in the first place.
Of course, you wouldn’t trade your family for the world, but it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t love to get a second shot at completing your education. Online college is making that possible for a lot of parents, like Jaymi, a Bachelor in Social Work from Brandman University, who said “A year and a half ago I gave birth to a baby girl...who is nothing short of a miracle, having been conceived after 5 miscarriages and born 9 weeks early. She is happy and healthy now, but her father and I both agreed that it would be better for her development if one of us stayed home with her until she reached school age at least, and that lot fell to me.”
Jaymi told us that “Prior to her birth I worked in retail and studied anthropology, but if I want to support her and myself I am going to need a degree in a field with actual prospects for employment. Luckily, I have always wanted to be a social worker and as I have several years worth of time on my hands while my daughter grows up, going to school online seemed the best fit for our family.”
For Jaymi and her family, online college was a second chance at taking on a subject with promising career potential. And given her responsibilities at home, it was also the only realistic option. If you are considering the very same balancing act, we invite you to check out a few helpful resources for parenting and pursuing an online degree at the same time:
Gaining More Experience as a Working Professional
Many of us have been forced to make the difficult choice between work and school. Whether it’s because your career beckoned you to depart from college early or because you simply had to go out and make that money, your path led to employment over education. For many though, online college is providing a second chance, a chance to do both.
Aaron, a Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership at University of the Cumberlands explained that “Due to my current work schedule and life circumstances, it was not pragmatic for me to be able to take a traditional program. I actually started first looking at traditional programs years ago, and the more I explored those programs, the more I realized that it would be impossible to obtain a Ph.D. and provide myself flexibility in the case that I may have to move for a job, which was extremely disheartening.”
For Aaron, the demands of work and career were non-negotiable. He had to find an educational experience that could be built around these demands.
He explains that “I began to explore flexible options and some of the best options that I found happened to be online programs which were fully accredited and provided flexibility and great learning opportunities. I am extremely grateful for my online program and all the fantastic learning opportunities that I have been provided.”
Whether you’re just looking to build on your existing career or you’re hoping to shift professional gears altogether, check out these online college resources, geared toward busy, working professionals:
- Business Education for Accidental CEOs and Entrepreneurs
- Small Business Owners and Online College
- 9 Tips for Making a Mid-Career Change
Students Overcoming Geographical Obstacles
For some students, the biggest obstacles may be geographical. And these are some big obstacles — like, “mountains, desserts and plains” big. And historically, if you lived in a tiny rural town, or a remote river valley, or even a big city with terrible schools, your educational opportunities could be severely limited. Online college is changing the landscape though.
Students who have come face to face with geographical obstacles are getting a second chance at taking the next leap forward. This was the experience for Staci, a Master’s of Education at Southern New Hampshire University. Staci explained that “I began my online degree program after much consideration and thought about going back to school to earn my master’s degree. At the time I chose to begin my pursuits of this degree, I lived in rural Oklahoma unable to attend a traditional degree program that fit my desires and ambitions in my career as an educator.”
Without local access, Staci faced limitations not just in her education, but in her career prospects. A look toward online education changed these prospects. Staci explained that “I wanted to take my thirst of designing curriculum and using technology in the classroom to new levels — an online program proved to be the best solution for me to work on achieving this goal and hopefully one day leading and training teachers with technology and curriculum design.”
Capitalizing on Your Skills as a Self-Starter
For many, online college is simply a better option, one that makes education more attractive and more aligned with both personal learning style and lifestyle. In other words, it presents itself as a second chance at learning for those who would otherwise forego the traditional limitations of classroom learning.
This is the story for learners like Sarah, a Bachelor of History at Southern New Hampshire University. Sarah “chose to take an online degree program in lieu of a traditional degree program for several reasons. The main reason is because I am working full time as the Assistant Manager of a wholesale store, which demands a large part of my available time. Continuing my education online allows me the flexibility in time, while still providing a high-quality education.”
“In addition to the flexibility of the schedule, attending online allows me the freedom to learn at my own pace. I am a fast and eager learner, so attending my classes online allows me to move ahead if I want to while still being an active participant with my classmates. I also believe that pursuing an online degree is a practice in accountability for oneself.”
If you’re a self-starter like Sarah, online college could be a way to grow personally and professionally without sidetracking your work and life priorities. If that sounds like you, check out some of these uniquely flexible online college models. They may be especially well-suited to your disposition:
- The Fastest Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- Accelerated Bachelor’s Degree Programs Online
- The Best Online Dual Masters Degree Programs
- Online Colleges that Start Anytime
If you departed from your educational path for any reason — kids, work, three years of Phish Tour, whatever—online college may be your best shot at a second chance. Not sure where to start? Why not start from the top. Check out The Best Online Colleges and get started today!