It’s coming up to university application time, and you probably already have a lot of questions on your mind. What university do I want to go to? What do I want to study?
But here’s one you might not have considered yet: should I study on campus or online?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to both, and at the end of the day the decision comes down to what will best suit you. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
On Campus – Benefits
1. It’s easy to meet new friends
Studying on campus means you will have to meet a whole bunch of new people – whether you want to or not. But this is a great opportunity to make new friends, and even start a study group. It’s always nice to have people to talk to and study with to make life that little bit easier.
2. Easy access to resources
Being on campus gives you access to all of the resources the university has to offer: the library, student support, computer labs, study spaces, and most universities even have things like cafes and gym facilities. Everything you could possibly need is right there at your fingertips.
3. The schedule is done for you
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the best time management skills, because your class times are all set for you. All you have to do is show up!
On Campus – Downsides
1. The cost
Depending on how far away you live from your nearest campus, you might find yourself spending a lot of time (and money) commuting back and forth from campus. Some universities have on-campus accommodation, but this can also be costly. And if there is no university near you, you’ll have to spend a lot of money moving away from home.
2. The time commitment
Studying full-time on campus means that you will be spending most of your time at university. This doesn’t leave much time for other things like work. If you need to rely on your income, this might not be the best option.
3. The rigidity
Having your schedule set for you can be good, but you might find that certain classes can conflict with other activities you have planned, such as sports and social time. And in most circumstances, going to class will be the option that wins. Sometimes you might even have two classes that clash, meaning you will need to choose between one or the other.
Online – Benefits
1. The flexibility
When you study online, you can generally set your own pace. You can take as long – or as little – as you need on a certain topic. You can also choose when to study. If you’re an early riser, you can study in the morning, and if you’re more of a night owl, then you can study at night instead. It also gives you the flexibility to fit your study around other commitments, such as work.
2. Minimal disruption
Even if there is no university campus nearby, studying online means you don’t have to move away to access top-notch education. This could save you heaps of money in travel expenses and accommodation. And you don’t have to shift your whole life half way across the country.
3. Meet people from all over
Studying online isn’t necessarily lonely – you will often be able to chat to your other classmates and lecturers virtually, either by video or text. You can meet people from all over Australia, and even overseas, giving you a broader perspective during your studies.
Online – Downsides
1. Requires serious time management skills and discipline
Studying at your own pace can be a blessing – or it can be a curse. If you’re the kind of person who’s more likely to stay in bed and get distracted scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, online study might not be the best option.
2. Less access to resources
Depending on where you live, you might not have a great library in town. Or perhaps you still live at home with younger siblings and your house is often crowded and noisy, making it difficult to study. At times like these it’s nice to have certain facilities on hand at campus.
3. No face-to-face contact
Even though you will still chat regularly with your lecturers and other students, it can still be lonely for some people without proper face-to-face time with friends. Be careful not to get sucked into the trap of never leaving your house either! Having support and connections through other means (family, other friends, etc) is still important.
At the end of the day, which study option is best for you is a very personal decision. There are a lot of things you need to take into consideration, and what’s right for one person might not be right for you.
But here’s something else to consider: a lot of universities now offer flexible or blended study modes. This means you can combine both on campus and online study to suit your needs. And there’s nothing from stopping you trying one out – you can do your first semester online, and if you find it isn’t quite working for you then you can swap to on campus for the second, or vice versa.
Whatever path you choose, have fun with your studies and remember that you always have options.