Finding The Right Education Option For You

There are education opportunities for everybody, from people who want to earn a certification for a trade to those who want to go back to college – or go there for the first time – to earn a college degree. Several kinds of educational institutions are available; the traditional college is not for everyone. In addition, schools deliver content and conduct tests in a variety of ways. For example, students do not have to be in a classroom to hear their professors lecture or even to take exams. Students can watch recorded lectures in the comfort of their own homes and on their own schedules. We'll now take a look at the major options we see veterans choose.

###Full-time, on-campus learning at a college or university.
The most traditional route, this option enables the student to get the full college experience. He or she attends most, if not all, classes in a traditional classroom, and may even live on or near the campus. Many people call this option a four-year program, but an increasing number of students are taking longer than four years because they are working jobs on the side or are pursuing double majors.

The advantages of this option are the availability of professors and classroom learning. There is also more social interaction; and in some academic tracks, group work is encouraged, if not necessary. The social aspect extends beyond the classroom as well. The traditional campus usually offers a lot of activities for students: attending football and basketball games, joining fraternities, sororities and clubs, etc.

This is the best option for students who want the more traditional experience and students whose academic pursuits require a lot of lab time. For example, people who are studying science and engineering will spend much of their time in labs. On the downside, this is usually the most expensive option and may put students into a level debt they would rather avoid.

###Part-time/evening on-campus learning at a college or university.
This option lets students take on their academic load in smaller bites, financially and time-wise. It is popular with students who have obligations beyond school – part-time and/or full-time jobs, families, etc. Instead of taking a full academic load each semester, students can take one or two classes in the classroom on their own schedules.

Many colleges and universities offer these classes at night so that students who also work 9-to-5 jobs can take the classes they need. Some schools also offer Saturday classes. The path to graduation is longer, but it is easier for older students who have extensive obligations.

One option in this context is distance learning. The professor and a group of students are in one classroom; other students watch the professor lecture on screens in other classrooms. This option helps students who have longer commutes to the main campus save time and money by going to a closer location.

The main plus to this option is flexibility. The downside is that it usually takes longer to complete academic requirements.

###Online learning via a college or university that also offers online learning.
Some institutions that have on-campus classrooms have extended their reach in recent years. To be more flexible for today’s students, they have started to include online classes. These classes enable the students to view lectures and even take exams in their own homes or anywhere there is an Internet connection. Not every class has this option, and some classes are offered with both the online option and the more typical in-classroom option.

Online learning is no longer a one-way process. In many cases, the schools require that the students mount cameras on their computers so that the professors can observe the students during exams and can see the students when they ask questions. Skype and other technologies make communicating visually over the Internet much easier.

The advantage of this approach is that it offers a lot of flexibility: a student can take classes online when possible and in the classroom when necessary. However, it usually requires much self-discipline on the part of the student. And even with the modern technology, there is not a lot of student-professor interaction.

###Learning at a trade or technical institution.
This is the ideal approach for those students who are less interested in historically academic pursuits, but instead would prefer to focus on a trade they can master and then develop into a career. There is still classroom work, and some trade or technical institutions have basic academics such as English and history, but the focus is on the trade.

The schools start with the basics before moving on to the more detailed course work, enabling the students to progress at their individual rates. In many of their courses, the schools do not measure the progress of a student by means of classes such as freshman, sophomore, etc. Instead, the schools issue certifications – the student must pass certain qualifying tests for each level of certification.

Many schools offer the latest technology. In fact, their technology may surpass the technology at the student’s eventual work site – requiring him/her to learn to work with older technology on the job. But he or she will be ready when the employer “catches up” technologically.

These programs also have flexible schedules because many of the students are also working full-time jobs on top of going to school.

###Union apprenticeship program.
This is a good career choice for students who like to work with their hands and are willing to serve an apprenticeship for up to five years, depending on the trade. Students are encouraged to have good problem-solving skills and the ability to work collaboratively with a team. The apprenticeships are usually paid, so students earn while they learn. After completing the apprenticeship, the student usually has the option of taking a job where he or she served as an apprentice.