If you’re considering furthering your education, you may have heard that online college is a good choice for nontraditional students and part-time students. However, if you are a first-generation college student – the first in your family to attend college – you may wonder if online college is really the right choice for you. There are certainly some challenges that you may face in your pursuit of a degree, regardless of whether you choose to learn at an online or traditional school. However, earning your degree online is possible, even if you don’t have the benefit of knowing what to expect in college from family members who have already graduated.

Why First-Generation Students Choose Online College

You might be surprised to learn that online college is a popular choice for first-generation college students. In fact, 37 percent – more than one-third – of all online college students are also the first in their families to attend college, according to EdTech magazine. Perhaps one reason first-generation students choose online colleges so frequently is because they may also be more likely to work more and study less than other students. While online courses require just as much study as traditional courses, the flexibility of earning a college degree online means that working first-generation students don’t have to compromise their work schedule just so they can get the education they need.

Challenges for First-Generation Students

From the start, college can be a confusing new world. Students struggle with paperwork and application deadlines. They often have to write essays to gain admission, a task which can be seen as high pressure. Students have to research schools, fill out financial aid forms and choose their courses. For students whose families have no prior experience with these tasks, they can be especially challenging.

The work, too, can be difficult. College coursework can be far more demanding than high school studies are, and students sometimes find it hard to make the transition to working independently, without the constant guidance and supervision they have from kindergarten through high school. For online students, this change can be especially pronounced, because there is no face-to-face contact with an instructor or fellow students. This sense of isolation can be one of the biggest challenges that all students – including first-generation students – face when taking online courses, according to The New York Times.

There are plenty of ways you can overcome the obstacles to getting your degree. If you’re worried about developing the confidence and independence to complete college online, try taking a free non-credit course, like a MOOC, just for the experience of seeing what an online class will be like. College costs are an issue for many students, but you can seek out grants specifically for first-generation students to help you afford your studies. You can also look for informational resources and support from organizations like I’m First. With dedication and hard work, you can achieve success in college and make yourself and your family proud.