application process

Easy Guide to Switching From Online to In-Person College

Online learning boomed in popularity in the late 1990s. Statistics show that over 30% of US students took at least one online course. It’s safe to assume that the number is higher now than before. Whether you are planning to become an online college student or already enrolled at an online college, you may be wondering if you can go from being an online student to being a traditional student.

In general, switching from an online college to an in-person college is possible. This is true if the school offers its courses via the internet and traditionally, too. If the online college is accredited, credits earned through distance learning can be easily transferred to another accredited physical school.

Some people enroll online to get associate degrees and then transfer to traditional schools to earn their bachelor’s degrees. Others enroll online to earn bachelor’s degrees but, for some reason, decide to transfer to brick-and-mortar schools to continue getting their bachelor’s degrees.

But then there are also those who get their degrees online and in-person via blended learning.

This article will talk about moving from being an online student to an in-person student. We will discuss some of the most important things you need to know about this matter, thus allowing you to plan very well before enrolling at an online school or leaving your current online college to give traditional learning a try.

Before anything else, let’s get this application-related question answered…

Is it easier to apply to online schools than physical schools?

Like traditional colleges and universities, some online schools are selective, too. While some of them, especially less popular ones, have high acceptance rates, others have acceptance rates close to 50%. To earn a college degree from a reputable online school, it’s a must to meet requirements.

Refrain from assuming that just because you want to earn a college degree via the web means you can earn it from just about any online school that you can find.

In many instances, applying to online schools is just like applying to Harvard, UCLA, or any other reputable college — you will still have to impress the admissions officers with your SAT or ACT scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, etc.

Otherwise, you may end up getting a rejection letter from an online college or university.

Let’s take a look at a list of high-ranking schools offering online programs and their acceptance rates:

SCHOOLACCEPTANCE RATE
Arizona State University88%
California Baptist University62.10%
California University of Pennsylvania71.70%
Embry – Riddle Aeronautical University64.90%
Oregon State University51.60%
Temple University74.40%
University of Florida60%
University of Oklahoma89.20%
Washington State University70.60%
Western Kentucky University73.40%
West Texas A&M University78.30%

If you are still in the process of looking for an online school to apply to and open to the idea that you might transfer to a physical school one day, it’s a must that you choose a school wisely. Checking that the online college is accredited is one of the most important steps you need to take beforehand.

And this brings us to a pressing question…

Why apply to an accredited online school?

Applying to an accredited online school guarantees high-quality education and a college degree that’s legitimate and respected by employers. It also makes it possible for online students to enjoy transfer of earned credits to other accredited online or physical colleges and universities.

There are legit online schools with accreditation. Then there are also diploma mills.

Like the name suggests, diploma mills are institutions that grant diplomas that are either fraudulent or worthless.

Needless to say, they are not accredited schools.

While some of them will claim that they are accredited, their accreditation is from an accreditation body that they made up themselves.

One of the best ways to determine whether the online school you are about to apply to is a respected school or a diploma mill is by ensuring that it’s accredited by an accreditation body recognized by the US Department of Education. Otherwise, it’s not just your money that is on the line but your future career, too.

By the way, it’s a good idea to choose a school with regional accreditation. Compared to national accreditation, regional accreditation allows credits earned from a school to be more widely accepted and easily transferable.

And this leads us to this question many online students are too shy to ask…

Why do some online students transfer to traditional schools?

In total, online students transfer to in-person learning for two main reasons: some are unsatisfied with their majors, while others are unhappy with the online learning experience itself. Sometimes, reasons for transferring are outside of academia, such as changes in residence or family or work obligations.

No matter the reason, there are instances in which going from an online school to a brick-and-mortar college or university is the smartest step to take for the sake of earning a college degree.

Because things that can cause you to switch from online to traditional learning can happen while earning your degree, it’s of utmost importance that the transfer to a physical school will go as smoothly as possible. The goal is to have a transition with very little to no disruption in your learning.

And this brings us to the crux of this article…

How to switch from online college to in-person schooling?

One must make sure that the online college is regionally accredited to increase the chances that the traditional school will allow transfer credits. It’s also a good idea to complete the current program, like an associate degree, before transferring to a physical school to get a bachelor’s degree.

Many students are tempted to go to online schools because of the availability of many associate degrees.

Besides choosing from among an assortment of associate degrees, students also like the fact that it’s possible to earn associate degrees so much faster online.

As a matter of fact, some of them can be finished in one year or less instead of the usual two years when attending a brick-and-mortar college or university.

Some examples of associate degrees that you can complete in one year or less are:

  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Computer programming
  • Computer science
  • Criminology
  • Early childhood education
  • Graphic design
  • Health information technology
  • Legal studies
  • Liberal arts
  • Mechanical engineering technology
  • Public safety administration
  • Web programming

Some students use online colleges to earn their associate degrees as quickly as possible. Then they use the credits they have earned in the process to convert their associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees, either from online schools or traditional colleges and universities that honor the earned credits.

For instance, Regis College, a Massachusetts-based school that offers both online and on-campus learning, has a variety of bachelor’s degree completion programs, such as nursing, nuclear medicine, marketing, and communications.

Although online schools are regionally accredited, some physical schools may have strict conditions when it comes to accepting credits from online counterparts. For instance, they may allow credit transfer only if the course earned online is similar to the course at the new school.

Needless to say, you must carefully research transfer policies before deciding to apply to a traditional school.

By the way, some of the things you will have to provide when moving from an online school to a physical one include the official transcript of records, proof of accreditation from the online institution, and a letter from the school.

Just before you switch to an in-person school

There are many reasons why students prefer to go to college online. Similarly, there are many reasons why students undergoing online learning or who have earned online degrees decide to transfer to in-person learning.

If you are about to enroll at an online school and open to the idea of transferring to a physical college or university one day, ensure that you apply to a regionally accredited school. This will make it easier to transfer sooner or later, although completing your associate degree is a good idea before getting your bachelor’s degree elsewhere.

Besides, going to a regionally accredited school can help ensure your degree won’t come from a diploma mill.

Related Post: Is Strayer University Respected By Employers?

Related Questions

Does transferring to a different college look bad?

Transferring to another college won’t make you look bad. This is especially true if the reason for transferring is to attend a better school or further your education. However, it’s a different story if the reason is that the college decided to revoke your admission.

Can I transfer from a traditional school to an online school?

You can transfer from a brick-and-mortar school to an online school if both schools are accredited on the same level (e.g., both are regionally accredited). To transfer to an online school from a traditional school, the course earned traditionally should be similar to the online course.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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