Is it possible to start earning a college degree at any time? Like, could you literally enroll in college tomorrow, and begin taking classes this month? Actually, yes. Yes, you can. Thanks to the continued proliferation of online education and significant advances in the administration of self-paced learning, there are more options than ever before to begin earning your college degree right away…and we mean, right away!
This is particularly positive news for the significant population of adult learners who are pursuing online degrees today. According to EdSurge, students over the age of 25 now represent a full 40% of all enrollees in American higher education. With some 8 million working adults in schools today, online degree options have become increasingly popular for their flexibility and accessibility.
But the value of online education is greater than mere convenience. For many, online education is something that can be molded and managed around the complex demands of everyday life. From asynchronous learning models and pre-recorded lectures to live remote classes on weekends and in the evenings, many online learning experiences are tailored to the needs of working adults. Indeed, this flexibility is helping to make the college or graduate degree a possibility for those who might otherwise have no practical way of earning one. And this speaks to the value of college degrees that start anytime.
The traditional college degree program revolves on a two-semester format. Fall and Spring semesters are composed of roughly 15-17 weeks each. This means that most students will only have the option of beginning classes in either September or January. In lieu of this two-semester format, many online degree programs offer multiple start dates throughout the course of a year. This makes it possible for prospective students to both enroll at any time and begin courses at most points throughout the year. For adult learners who have the goal of getting in, getting out, and getting on with their careers, there is a particular benefit in finding an online college that you can start anytime.
Many of the Best Online Colleges will offer a wide range of flexible enrollment and scheduling options. Inquire further with the admissions office at any of these fully accredited online colleges to find out what your options are.
Or, read on to learn more about self-paced learning and online colleges that start anytime...
Yes, there are indeed some online college degree programs that you can start anytime. There are also many online programs that you can start at multiple points throughout the year. In other words, while you may not be able to start certain online degree programs at literally any date, there are enough start dates throughout the year to match the needs of most schedules. For instance, some “start anytime” programs will offer a monthly start date (as opposed to the biannual start dates available in traditional two-semester formats).
At the top end of the flexibility spectrum are schools like the University of North Dakota, which employs a “flex” approach to the more than two-dozen online bachelor’s degree programs offered. This flex approach means that you can begin your degree program at literally any point throughout the calendar year. The same is true of the University of Illinois Online, which provides 16-week self-paced programs entirely based on this flex format.
Other schools, like Upper Iowa University, offer a smaller selection of degree programs which can be started at any time. Upper Iowa’s two “start-anytime” degrees are referred to as self-paced programs and allow for the asynchronous completion of undergraduate studies. It is noteworthy though that Upper Iowa also offers a variety of individual self-paced courses that can be taken anytime and that are designed to be compatible with a broader and more traditional degree program.
There are also numerous online college degree programs that offer multiple designated start dates throughout the year, making it easy for students to begin at practically anytime. For instance, Colorado State University offers as many as 12 start dates in the year, which is about as close to flex scheduling as you can get. The University of Maryland Global Campus has 11 start dates, and Columbia College has 6 start dates.
For adult learners, or students at any stage of their education who are hoping to get started on a degree right away, the programs above are just a few examples of how you could avoid the waiting period.
Online degrees that start anytime are particularly valuable for working professionals. Many of us aspire to advance our credentials and professional opportunities but work in highly seasonal fields. Online programs that start anytime make it infinitely more possible for an accounting professional to schedule courses after tax season is over. Flex degree programs make it a lot easier for teachers to take graduate courses in the summer months. Rolling start dates make it a lot easier for military personnel to schedule courses around tours of duty.
In short, the growing availability of online programs starting anytime means that a wider array of prospective learners can access educational opportunities without disrupting work or personal responsibilities.
Self-paced learning models have played a major role in the wider availability or start-anytime programs. Though there are a number of different ways to implement self-paced learning, most programs are characterized by the flexibility availed to students. Self-paced learning usually employs asynchronous methods of education—that is, learning opportunities that can be accessed at any time, regardless of time and place. Students may be able to view pre-recorded lectures online, complete online educational units and testing modules on their own schedule, participate in classroom discussions through online message boards, and more. In most cases, students will be expected to complete their self-paced courses or full degree programs within a specified duration of time. However, within that duration, the time that you use to “attend” classes, complete assignments, and take exams may be largely up to you.
In some cases, self-paced online education may indeed be more affordable. Because many of these models rely less heavily on live instruction, they may employ fewer educators. Indeed, pre-recorded classes and lectures can certainly amplify the impact of a single instructor, creating access for countless enrollees. The savings, in this case, may be passed along to you, the student.
Another reason that self-paced online programs may be more affordable is because many are offered through community colleges. Community colleges are typically more affordable than traditional four-year colleges to begin with. Those that provide self-paced learning opportunities are in a position to extend further savings to their students. While the typical four-year public college or university will charge between $300 and $1100 per credit, you may be able to pursue a self-paced degree at an accredited two-year college for as little as $100-$150 per credit.
Yes, you can enroll in a fully accredited online program starting anytime. As noted in the first section above, a number of public four-year colleges and universities offer various start-anytime, flex, and multiple-start-date formats, particularly through the online component of their respective programs.
There are, however, even more options for fully accredited self-paced online programs at the community college level. While the primary drawback here is that you would only be able to earn an associate degree through a two-year institution, this would provide an extremely flexible and accessible way to initiate your education. Depending on your professional goals, you might be prepared to enter or advance within your profession immediately upon earning a two-year degree. However, in most professions, your earning potential and opportunities for advancement go up significantly upon earning a bachelor’s degree.
The good news is that any credits or credentials you earn through an accredited self-paced online associate degree program can usually be transferred to most public colleges or universities, especially those affiliated with the same state as your community college. In other words, even if you do plan to eventually earn a full undergraduate degree, you might be able to begin your pursuit of this degree through a self-paced online program beginning at virtually any point throughout the year.
If you’re considering getting an online degree, you may still want to visit campus before choosing a degree program. Find out why.
There are also many benefits to attending a community college. To learn more about them, find out Why You Should Go to Community College.