Online vs. In-Person Grad School

You’re already established in your career, but you’re ready to level up. Grad school can help you unlock opportunities in the future, but how can you balance your job, family, AND school? Discover the pros and cons of online grad school programs versus a traditional in-person educational experience while trying to balance everything going on in your adult life.

Should I Go to Grad School?

Deciding whether or not to further your education is a big decision, and if you’re in that situation, you’re not alone. The number of graduate students in the U.S. has tripled since the 1970s, and some estimates say that 27% of employers now require master’s degrees for roles in which undergraduate degrees used to be sufficient. And while that’s a significant motivating factor, it shouldn’t be the only one in your decision. Common reasons for attending grad school include:

  • Greater earning power
  • Advancing your career
  • Enhancing and updating your education
  • Participating in funded research
  • Exploring funded research opportunities

Once you’ve decided to go to grad school, you have another decision to make — in-person or online? It’s best to weigh the pros and cons of both situations before deciding what’s best for you and your current situation.

Pros of Online Grad School

According to research, more than 75% of academic leaders feel that online education is equal or superior to on-campus learning. And close to 70% of chief academic officers believe online learning is “a critical component of long-term educational strategies.” There are many benefits to online grad school, including:

Greater Flexibility

With online learning, you can cater your coursework and studies around your work schedule, your family life, and any other obligations. Rather than needing to attend a class three days a week at 9 AM, you can, for the most part, choose when you study. As long as you submit your work by the required deadlines, you’re free to complete coursework when it works the best for you.

While you might not have a three-hour block of time to study, you can do it throughout the day in shorter bursts, which has proven to be better than long study sessions. You can log onto message boards while having your morning coffee, listen to a lecture while driving to work, or take a practice test after the kids go to bed.

Access to More Schools — and No Commute

The school that offers the best program to meet your needs might not be in your neighborhood. But with online graduate school, there’s the potential to take a specialty program at a college thousands of miles away without the inconvenience of having to uproot your life completely. As a bonus, you don’t have to fight traffic and spend hours on the road, put miles on your car, and drive around looking for a parking spot because there is no required commute — except from your bedroom to your home office.

Potentially Lower Costs

According to a study, more than 45% of students cite cost as the main reason to further their education. While it’s not a hard and fast certainty that online school is cheaper than traditional in-person education, there aren’t the usual costs associated with on-campus learning — campus housing, parking, etc. Universities often offer lower fees for online classes because they don’t have to pay support staff and personnel or manage buildings or properties.

Cons of Online Grad School

Nothing is perfect, and there are downsides to pursuing your graduate degree online, including:

Requires Self-Discipline and Motivation

Long story short: you’re on your own, more or less! There’s no one there to remind you when an assignment is due or tell you what classes you must take next, and it’s up to you to log in to class message boards or do the assigned coursework.

You have to determine how to get things done amid the distractions of home life while keeping your educational goals in mind. Whereas on-campus students have reminders and safeguards to help keep them on track, it’s up to you to connect with advisors, professors, and classmates to make sure you’re getting the most out of your education.

Networking Challenges

On campus, people studying the same subject surround you, making it easy to talk with professors, faculty, other students, guest lecturers, etc. Those face-to-face networking opportunities — even if they’re brief — have the potential to lead to job offers in the future. When you’re entirely online and not on-site, you don’t have the same opportunities and have to get creative when networking.

Limited Course Options

While most course subjects lend themselves well to the online format, that’s not always the case. You may find yourself limited in the majors available for online study. For example, fields like biochemistry, physical therapy, or public speaking require hands-on experience and specialized equipment, meaning you will need to attend at least a few of your classes on campus.

Pros of In-Person Grad School

Online education isn’t for everyone, and there are many reasons grad students prefer in-person classes, including:

Social Interaction

Whereas you’re by yourself in an online environment, when you attend graduate school on campus, there are often myriad ways to socially interact with everyone from your professors to fellow students outside of class. Whether it’s athletics and academic clubs to hobby clubs and in-person study groups, a large part of attending classes on campus is social interaction.

Even while attending class, students are often encouraged to complete group work or discuss concepts with their peers. While video conferencing software helps, some people feel nothing replaces face-to-face interaction, whether in the classroom or during the time between classes.

Networking Opportunities

A major advantage of attending graduate school in-person is that you meet more people face-to-face while attending a traditional university, meaning you’re making more meaningful contacts that increase your opportunities for meaningful networking. This can lead to opportunities for internships, assistantships, scholarships, grants, and, eventually, meaningful employment. Whether it’s networking with professors, teaching assistants, or fellow students, you have a greater opportunity to build up your list of contacts that can help you advance your education and your career.

Opportunity to Move and Start Anew

Some people are looking for a fresh start, and moving to a new city with new people and new opportunities is just what they’re looking for as they continue their education. CORT offers a convenient way to outfit your new apartment or house with furniture packages specifically tailored to students, taking away the stress of furniture shopping so you can focus on more important things — like getting that graduate degree.

Cons of In-Person Grad School

While learning on campus can be advantageous, there are also some disadvantages to attending graduate school in-person, including:

Generally More Expensive

While costs will vary, admission into a traditional graduate school — especially if it’s out of state — is going to be much more expensive than taking classes on your laptop in your living room. First, there are housing expenses, which average around $12,000 per year in the United States. If you’re in a large city like New York, double it. Multiply that by two to four years, and it adds up.

Requires More Time and Travel

On that note, attending classes in person requires time to travel to and from school, time spent in classes, in between classes, and then the actual work itself. Getting to campus might involve a long commute, getting stuck in traffic, battling weather conditions, and wear and tear on the vehicle. On top of a full-time job, and taking care of a family, attending classes in person can feel overwhelming.

Strict Scheduling

Sometimes trying to take classes at a traditional university can present scheduling challenges, particularly for non-traditional students. If the course you need is only offered during the day, it’s hard for working adults to set aside their full-time job and family obligations to attend. And because competition is often fierce to attend M.S. and M.A. programs, you might have to withdraw after missing even a few classes. Having to be physically present forces you to commute each day to classes, be on time, and attend designated lectures.

Ready to Head Off to Grad School?

Deciding whether or not to attend graduate school online is a personal decision that will depend on your current situation and various personal factors. It’s a big decision that you shouldn’t take lightly, but it’s also an exciting step that can help you further your education and your professional aspirations.

When it comes to housing, CORT offers Student Furniture Subscription Packages that start at $99 per month! Whether you decide to attend school in your hometown, move for grad school, or complete your degree from the comfort of your own home, CORT provides the perfect solution for your temporary furniture needs.

If you’re planning on moving to go to school, you can furnish your entire apartment with CORT’s furniture rental subscription. Or if you decide to take the virtual grad school route, CORT offers furniture that can create the perfect at-home study space.

The best part? You can create your own furniture subscription package, designed to fit your space for as long — or as little — as you need. Get the furniture you need so you can get back to school with a peace of mind!

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