A self-paced college course sounds like a good deal at first: You apply to a specific course, work on it on your own time, and take the exam when you are ready. The relief of not sticking to a strict schedule aside self-paced college courses come with both benefits and drawbacks. If you are considering going to a college with these types of flexibles courses, there’s a few things that you should know before making up your mind.


At first glance the primary benefit of self-paced college courses appears to be how flexible they are. No matter what your schedule, you can usually find time for the self-paced course. This is why such courses were designed – they are perfect for students who have full-time jobs or others with demands on their time. However, the timing issue also raises a lot of questions: How will the class be managed? How much student interactions will there be? What do assignments look like?


Do not confused self-paced college courses with distance learning. Distance learning and self-paces courses can both often be done from a far-away location. However, distance learning often requires regular class hours and interaction with lectures, other students, and similar issues – they are not self-paced. Likewise, self-paced courses may require real meetings with a professor. Examine the details!


Speaking of exams, one of the great advantages about self-paced classes is that you can take the exam exactly when you are ready. There’s no need to pressure yourself into studying through the night or to work on last-minute papers. Take however much time you need to prepare, and then take the exam when you are ready.


Independence is both a pro and con. On one hand, independence and setting your own schedule can be great! On the downside, not everyone can handle it. If you struggle with setting your own deadlines, getting your work done on time, and other issues, a self-paced class may not be the best option. Colleges may charge by the month for self-paced courses to help weed out the procrastinators.


You can’t just jump into any self-paced course that you want. First comes the approval process, in which the college will make sure that you have the necessary prerequisites and would make an ideal candidate for the process. Keep this approval step in mind when applying. Also note that most colleges limit the number of credit hours for self-paced courses.

Financial Aid

If you receive financial aid for college, understand its limitations. Many types of financial aid, scholarships in particular, must be applied to a specific length of time to count. They may not mix well with self-paced classes, depending on your own schedule.

Alternative Formats

Self-paced classes have made room for a lot of unique college options. Some colleges, like Western Governors University, are specializing in more unique classes that are not constrained by specific courses, program deadlines or grades. Other colleges are willing to offer hybrid arrangements for specific skills. As these alternative formats open up, you need to decide how much structure you want, and what the benefits and drawbacks of choose open-end systems might be.