Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Marisa UpsonAmy Boyington
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Updated May 16, 2024
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Some schools let you start throughout the year instead of waiting months after applying to begin. Learn more about online colleges to start anytime.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

There’s a lot to consider when you apply for college. Should you enroll online or attend in person? How much can you reasonably afford to pay for school right now? When do you need to apply to start the following semester?

Online colleges that start anytime help you check the last question off your list. These schools have flexible start dates — often monthly or quarterly — so you have more control over when you apply and begin. For example, schools with monthly start dates may let you apply in January to start your first class in February.

Schools design their online programs for flexibility, and open enrollment is another way they give students more wiggle room to create their ideal educational environment. Explore this guide to learn what to expect from online colleges with start-anytime programs.

The Benefits of Flexible Start Dates

Imagine finding the college program of your dreams, only to find out that the deadline has passed to enroll for the fall semester. You’ll now need to wait to apply until enrollment opens for the spring semester — or possibly the following year.

An online college with start-anytime programs offers more start dates throughout the year, allowing you to apply and begin when you’re ready. Many of these colleges also offer open enrollment, creating a simpler and more accessible application process.

Below are a few top benefits of online colleges with start-anytime programs.

Control Over Your Schedule

Are you ready to attend college now and dive into your career faster? Start-anytime programs allow you to enroll outside of the traditional semester or quarter system to begin your degree on your own time.

Shorter Course Lengths

Although not always the case, programs with flexible start dates often have shorter term lengths than traditional courses, making courses 4-8 weeks long.

More Time to Finalize Financial Aid

A start-anytime college can give you time to budget for your degree or wait for your financial aid determination.

For example, say you apply in July to start the fall semester in August, but your school can only finalize your financial aid package in September. A program with monthly start dates lets you begin in September or October after receiving your financial aid instead of waiting until the spring semester.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

#1 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Miami Dade College

  • Location-markerMiami, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,987
  • Out-of-state$7,947
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled44,002
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment82%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Location-markerAdelphi, MD
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,344
  • Out-of-state$11,976
  • Retention Rate52%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled55,323
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment93%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • Location-markerWest Lafayette, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,080
  • Out-of-state$13,356
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled43,458
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Utah Valley University

  • Location-markerOrem, UT
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,368
  • Out-of-state$16,450
  • Retention Rate66%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled41,262
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment56%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Broward College

  • Location-markerFort Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,968
  • Out-of-state$1,968
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled30,947
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment67%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

St Petersburg College

  • Location-markerSt. Petersburg, FL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,943
  • Out-of-state$7,774
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled24,543
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment76%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

San Jacinto Community College

  • Location-markerPasadena, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$4,050
  • Out-of-state$6,300
  • Retention Rate57%
  • Acceptance Rate100%
  • Students Enrolled31,577
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment66%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Weber State University

  • Location-markerOgden, UT
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,090
  • Out-of-state$15,272
  • Retention Rate66%
  • Acceptance Rate100%
  • Students Enrolled29,914
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment48%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

College of Southern Nevada

  • Location-markerLas Vegas, NV
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,293
  • Out-of-state$10,979
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled29,942
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment63%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Colleges to Start Anytime

Austin Community College District

  • Location-markerAustin, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,010
  • Out-of-state$10,050
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled35,609
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment76%
  • AccreditationYes

Schedule Structures in Online Colleges

You may be wondering: When do online classes start? Well, you’re in luck — most online colleges offer flexible start dates. However, they do so within a clear scheduling structure. Some online schools use a traditional semester system, while others use quarter or trimester systems.

You can typically begin taking online courses at the start of any term. However, schools without start anytime programs may require you to start in the fall. Online Colleges with Start Anytime programs offer several options, such as monthly start dates and self-paced programs.

Multiple Start Dates

Many online college courses have multiple start dates. Individual departments or programs usually set these dates at various times within the academic year. Accelerated courses often use these start dates to accommodate the varying needs of busy learners, but some traditional and self-paced classes also offer them.

Online colleges with weekly start dates are rare — usually only for certificate or vocational degrees. It’s more common to see monthly or quarterly start dates.

Self-Paced Programs

Self-paced programs let you move through your coursework on your own schedule. Although there’s usually a completion deadline for each course or program, you can decide how fast you finish. You’ll have 24/7 access to your assignments, so you have complete control over when you study and flexibility to work around a busy schedule.

Online Courses vs Correspondence Courses

Online and correspondence courses offer lots of flexibility for students. Still, deciding which fits your scheduling needs and learning preferences better before enrolling in a program is important.

Compare each option below.

Online Courses

  • May require active online class participation with peers and the instructor
  • Take online exams on your own or require a proctor’s supervision
  • Receive incremental instruction, similar to an in-person class

Correspondence Courses

  • Self-paced, independent learning with little interaction between you and the teacher
  • Teachers may grade assignments and offer feedback on projects
  • Course materials sent via email or an online portal

The Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Courses

Online colleges that start anytime may offer synchronous or asynchronous courses. While asynchronous classes usually work best for learners with busy schedules, synchronous classes are often a better fit for students who want more structure.

Here’s what to consider.

Synchronous Courses

  • Requires scheduled online live attendance, much like an in-person class
  • May work collaboratively with fellow students outside of scheduled classes
  • Good choice for students that excel in a structured learning environment

Asynchronous Courses

  • Self-paced learning through pre-recorded lectures and assigned reading materials
  • Participate in discussion boards and schedule group work when convenient
  • Ideal learning format for working students or those with busy schedules

Frequently Asked Questions About Open Online Enrollment

Flexible start dates remove the enrollment barriers that a typical three-semester schedule creates. Students who want to start college when it works for their schedule can choose from more start dates throughout the year when they choose a start-anytime college.

Online colleges with flexible scheduling typically offer monthly or quarterly start dates. However, some schools have start dates outside the norm, like weekly or bimonthly.

Asynchronous online classes typically have some peer and instructor interaction through video recordings, emails, or online discussions, while self-paced courses are student-led. Learners in self-paced courses move through the material independently without assignment due dates, although they may still have deadlines for course or program completion.

Many online colleges with flexible start dates offer monthly enrollment options, but rolling enrollment is rare. However, rolling admissions is more common, allowing you to apply at any time for consideration for an upcoming enrollment period.

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