All of the ads make distance higher education seem like a dream come true—you can pursue a degree while in the confinements of your own home and can still tend to your other obligations, whether that be your family and/or your full-time job. While an online platform does give access to a slew of students who wouldn’t otherwise have it, online programs may not be exactly what you’re imaging. There are a lot of misconceptions that are typically associated with earning an online degree. That said, to make sure that online education is the right route for you before you enroll, brush up on some common myths.

Distance Education Programs are “Easier.” It may make education more accessible to you, but that does not mean that the course work will be an easier than its traditional counterpart. In fact, if you’ve never done well with independent study, you might want to consider traditional night classes instead. That’s because online professors’ don’t really take a hands-on approach when teaching their students. Yes they’re available for questions via email and chat, but they won’t be there to remind you when assignments are due and you can’t rely on your peers for help as much as you would in a traditional setting. That’s not to say that online programs are ineffective, but it is designed for an independent, responsible learner. If you feel like that is you, you shouldn’t have a problem.

All Programs are Reputable. This couldn’t be further than the truth. Not all online programs are the same and you should do heavy research before you decide which school you want to apply to. In fact, some online institutions are illegitimate altogether so you always want to check and verify the institution’s accreditation—this will help solidify that your online college-of-choice is valid at the very least. Various sources can help you verify the accreditation information that is listed on the school’s website, but by far the best one to use is The U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. To check for online school facts such as retention rate and tuition cost, you might want to check out College Navigator. Just click “Distance Learning” under the Extended Learning Opportunities tab on the left panel to see your options.

Tuition is Cheaper. You definitely can save money by pursuing a degree online—you don’t to use as much money on transportation costs, you don’t need to pay for campus housing, you can order discounted online textbooks and you don’t have to pay nearly as much for “additional” fees for sport teams and campus electricity for example—but don’t be fooled: tuition is not cheaper. In fact, it can cost a little more if you decide to enroll in a for-profit institution. It also takes the same length to earn your degree—four years for a bachelor’s degree (full time) and two years for a master’s (full time).

It’s Easy to Juggle School Life, Work Life, Family Life. Lastly, the ads may make it seem like it’s so easy to juggle it all, but I know from first-hand experience that it can be difficult. Of course it’s “do-able”—many have juggled and achieved their goals, but it’s not a walk in the park. Work and your children can get in the way of much needed study time. Near test days especially, it’s recommended to find a sitter so that you can have a day or two to just sit down and absorb the information.

Earning a degree when you’re a mom has its challenges, but many have done it before you. Just make sure that online is truly the method you want to take.

Maria Rainier is a freelance education writer who runs an online degrees blog.  She welcomes your questions.

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