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Striving to earn a degree is a noble desire, whether you attend a traditional four-year university or an online college. An education can greatly improve a life, with an opportunity for a better career and future growth, a greater income, and a chance to create valuable relationships. But attending college is challenging, no matter what degree or program you are pursuing and no matter what college you attend.

However, when attending an online college, there are unique challenges to this format and there is a greater opportunity for students to make certain mistakes. At Pathways College in Pasadena, we are passionate about providing students with an environment where they can succeed. Our administrative staff and instructors are proud to provide a large range of online courses and programs that provide students with an opportunity to pursue a career that they can be passionate about. We understand that attending an online college has its challenges, but we will always make ourselves available to students with questions or who need specific guidance and support. After years of experience seeing students study and graduate, we have come to recognize certain mistakes that hinder a student’s success.

Mistakes to Avoid When Attending an Online College

Choosing the Wrong Program

It’s not an easy thing to decide what you want to do for a living and create a path that will get you there. But when you are investing in your education, putting both time and money into the process, it’s essential that you put some thought into what you want to do before you commit. If possible, take a few classes at a community college or volunteer at a few organizations until you have an idea of what you like doing. When you’re able to have a clear goal in mind, you can better choose programs and courses that align with your goals.

Underestimating the Time Commitment

Some students tend to believe that attending an online college doesn’t require the same time commitment as attending a traditional in-person college. Because there isn’t always a set time and date for the classes, students believe that work can be completed whenever they have time for it, that assignments can be turned in at any point. However, even though classes aren’t in-person it doesn’t mean that the work is easier or that it doesn’t require a time commitment. Classes do still require participation and involvement, time to study, time to complete homework, and complete finals. While there is some flexibility, students should expect to spend around 15 hours per week for a three-credit class.

Not Understanding the Costs

Earning a degree at an online college is often an affordable option but there is still a significant cost, especially depending on the program you are pursuing. Before you register for courses, be sure you look at the full cost of the program, including tuition, fees, books, and other materials that may be necessary for the specific class. Books and materials required for STEM programs are often significant. Another factor to consider is the time cost. If you are currently working either a full-time or part-time job, be sure that you have the time for both the job and the coursework.

Not Asking For Help

Just because other students and the instructor aren’t physically available, doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help. When attending an online college, it is often more important to ask for help when necessary so that the issue doesn’t become worse. Help doesn’t only need to come from the instructor, either. A high-quality online college should have support services available that students can utilize when they are having trouble with the course or other issues. Students should also feel comfortable with creating or joining an online study group in order to get additional help when needed. Attending an online college can feel isolating, but help is there when you need it.

Not Understanding Technical Requirements

Attending an online college obviously requires students to be familiar with using technology, or at least have the ability to become familiar. Do some research into what technical requirements the college demands before registering for courses. Requirements typically include a quality computer or laptop, a web camera, microphone and speakers, a high-speed Wi-Fi connection, Adobe Flash, note-taking software, and possibly a printer. Having a reliable setup before classes start will ensure that you don’t miss out on any important lessons and that you can fully participate in the class.

Not Attending an Accredited Online College

Getting a degree or a certification from an online college that is not accredited could have serious repercussions when it comes time to find employment. Employers may not accept a degree that is earned from a non-accredited college. Before registering for classes, contact the school to ensure that they are accredited and which region accredits the school. It’s fairly easy for online colleges to get set up, but a quality school will take the time to complete the accreditation process before accepting students.

Not Researching the Instructor

Students’ success at college is often directly related to the quality of the instructor. Take some time to research the instructor’s education and academic accomplishments, how long they have been teaching, if they participate in continuing education, and if possible, research what other students are saying about the instructor as well. If there isn’t a blurb about the instructor’s experience on the school’s website, try to connect with them and ask them a few questions about their qualifications. If they don’t have a solid background in education, you probably don’t want them teaching you.


You are only cheating yourself when you plagiarise a paper or cheat on assignments and finals. Because the instructor isn’t there physically to see how you complete the work, it may seem like it’s easier to cheat, but online colleges have various resources to prevent this from occurring and to check the validity of completed work. In the end, in order to truly learn the material and to be successful in any career, you need to put in the work yourself.

Not Interacting With Students and Instructors

Interacting and communicating with fellow students and instructors can be challenging in an online platform, but the discussion of the material is an essential part of engaging in the class and learning in an effective way. Most online colleges provide some method for participation and interaction with students, and some even require participation. Students should go into the program expecting to interact and engage with the students and material.

Failing to Create a Study Space

It will be much easier to be successful at an online college when you have a dedicated space for your work. Find an area where you can limit distractions, where you feel comfortable, and where you can easily access the resources and tools necessary to complete your work. When you have a space you can retreat to, you’ll be more likely to commit the time necessary for success.

Pathways College is dedicated to helping students achieve success with their education and career goals. We have developed business administration and liberal studies courses and programs that will provide students the education they need to have a successful career. Our staff and instructors all have extensive backgrounds in education and are passionate about making themselves available for students. Whatever degree you intend to pursue at our online college, you can expect an encouraging and supportive environment.