Is Self-Education Good? 20 Pros and Cons

With the rising cost of tuition and the lack of employment opportunities, getting a decent formal education is out of reach for many people. Not having an education will hold you back from getting a good-paying job to lift you out of abject poverty. What if you were to have the benefits of a good education, but without paying for it?

Self-education can get you to where you want to be for less money than traditional colleges while being able to go at your own pace. But it won’t work without self-discipline, and you won’t have much instructor input. While you have no deadline to meet, your learning may go slower than normal.

 Should you go to the self-education route? Let’s dive in to find out more!

You Can Go at Your Own Pace

When you are in charge of your education and have full control over your schedule, you can go at your own pace. If the subject matter is easy, you can breeze through it without any issues. But if it is difficult, you can take as long as you need to master the material. 

When studying in a formal institution, you may not be able to get the help you need because of deadlines that need to be met due to the length of the semesters. Or, you may find the material extremely easy, and you want to zip through the material. But because you’re in a formal class, you need to go at the pace of the rest of the class.

Self-education removes these issues.

It Won’t Work Without Self-Discipline

Despite all the benefits of self-education, it will not work if you don’t have the discipline to do the work. A formal education keeps you motivated because if you don’t study, you still need to take the exam or hand in the papers. If you’re constantly playing games on your phone or going out instead of studying, you won’t complete the work, and you’ll be back to where you started. 

A formal class forces you to study and stay on track because you have classes to go to that keeps you learning and assignments to do to keep you going. With no self-discipline, you will not succeed in your self-led studies.

You Can Choose Your Learning Materials

Self-education imposes no restrictions on what learning materials you use, or how you obtain them. You can access free courses online from famous universities or download free or public domain books to use in your studies. The sky is the limit to the materials you can use, but the same cannot be said for formal learning institutions. 

When you go to college in-person, you have no choice over what materials you need, including the expensive books that colleges often require you to buy. 

There Is No In-Person Teaching

A drawback of learning on your own is that no one is available to answer any questions or give you extra insights into the material you’re learning. You’re on your own to find the answers you need, but it will help you become a better learner, as it will show you to research and assimilate the information that you may not understand. 

In a formal school, if you don’t understand things, you can go to the professor or assistant for help. 

If You Fail, No One Sees It but You

The best part about learning on your own is that if you fail a self-quiz, no one knows about it but you. No other classmates will see how you’re failing, or no instructor will be there to look down on you. But you’re on your own to figure out how to proceed, or if you want to continue learning the topic.

On the flip side, if you fail in college, there will be someone there to help you understand the material better, and you won’t be stuck in your studies. 

You Get No Instructor Input

Another drawback to self-education is that you have no instructor input and no one to share your knowledge with you in addition to what you’re studying. Self-education is good up to a point, especially when you have a good mastery of the topic already. But if you don’t understand your material, there’s usually no one available to get help.

At a traditional college, you will always have someone to help you should you need an instructor. 

Tuition-Free Learning Benefits Everyone Willing to Learn

One of the pros of self-education is that everything you want to learn about can be found for free online or at your public library. Anyone willing to learn can access materials for free, and even chart out a learning course through the many free courses available today. In fact, there is a learning platform that allows you to access over 2,900 free courses from leading universities.

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC, is a site that connects you with many courses, which can help you chart a learning path to get you to your goals if you’re willing to put in the work to learn. You need to remember that if you want a certified certificate of completion, you will need to pay some money. But it’s not as expensive as a formal school.

But with traditional schools, the high cost of education prohibits many people from getting a decent education.

Your Learning May Go Slower Than With Structured Classes

Structured classes offer consistent lessons, and so your rate of learning is consistent. But when you are completing lessons at your own pace, you may not be learning at the same speed you would with structured classes. Now, if you have no deadline and are learning for fun, you won’t need to worry about how slow or fast you’re progressing.

However, if you are taking the courses for job advancement or getting a different career, then going slower than normal may somewhat slow down your plans. 

You Have No Deadline to Meet

Learning at your own pace offers you a benefit that a structured class cannot—no deadlines for finishing the material. Deadlines that come with exams, papers, and daily quizzes in structured classes are not present when you’re studying on your own. Not having deadlines can be good if you’re suddenly called away for work or have a family tragedy. 

On the other side of that, you don’t have the structure to keep you on track or keep you motivated to press on with your learning. 

E-Learning Can Be Challenging

If you’re not technologically savvy, trying to learn how to use technology while you’re learning your chosen topic can be challenging, if not downright difficult. Fortunately, if you’re taking a degree program online, you will have courses designed to walk you through the technology before continuing your studies. But if you’re going alone, you may want to find a course in basic learning technology before continuing your studies.

When you go to an in-person college, you will be able to take classes to get through any technology needed for graduation. However, most people today are adept at technology, so this point may not apply to you.

You Can Study Anywhere, Anytime

While you can study anytime, anywhere, when you’re going to a structured school, you cannot access the classes online anywhere, unless during a pandemic. In that case, the rules change for all learning avenues, including in-person learning.

But normally, self-education allows you to access your learning materials anywhere you happen to be, without the need to commute to a building or classroom. And you can access it at 3 AM if you are up and want to study at that time.

You Have No One to Bounce Ideas Off Of

Learning is usually a collaborative process where you bounce ideas off your classmates and gain more insights into the material than you would by yourself. Yes, you can get additional insights into what you’re studying by reading additional material. But sometimes you just need another person to talk about what you’re learning. You don’t get that in self-study.

You Can Dive Deeper Into Any Topic That Interests You

The one thing that you can do more in self-education than you could with formal education is to dig deeper into the topic you’re studying. Although you can dig deeper when going to school in person, you have more opportunities to go deeper into the topic when you’re studying on your own. Because you don’t have deadlines, you can go down the rabbit hole of new information.

Distractions Can Derail Your Learning Progress

The phone rings, there is someone at the door, and your kids have dropped an expensive vase on the floor, and it shattered into a million pieces. But you’re trying to study and progress through your lessons. Self-education depends on you being able to progress without distractions, but it is flexible enough to accommodate some distractions. 

Going to a structured school with consistent classes, you won’t have the constant distractions that you would if you’re taking classes at home. 

You Can Become an Expert in Your Chosen Field

There are a lot of materials about any field available online today. If you know where to look, you could become an expert in your field without the added expense of a formal degree program. As mentioned earlier, you can dig deep into your topic, which can make you an expert in your field. In-person schools may or may not let you do that.

There Is No Networking Available to You

Going it alone with your education has its benefits, but when you need to network, there is no one available. Sure, you might be able to network with co-workers or fellow students online. But when you’re starting a new career, you won’t get the same networking possibilities that you would from an in-person school where you know who your classmates are.

You Don’t Need to Take Tests if You Don’t Want To

While some online degree programs require you to take tests to advance further, other programs just require you to read the material. A benefit of studying on your own is that you can either read to learn for fun or learn for a purpose. When you learn for a purpose, tests are usually a way to evaluate how much you’ve learned. 

If you go to a college or university, you are required to take tests whether you want to or not. 

If You Need Guidance, You Need to Fend for Yourself

When you have a question when going to a formal school and don’t know where to go for the answers, you can ask your guidance counselor or get answers from the administration office. But when studying on your own, you need to know how to find the answers on your own. 

An online school will have numbers or email addresses listed on the site or in your account dashboard. But if you’re charting your path on your own, you need to fend for yourself to find the answers. 

The More You Study, the Better You Get

“A body in motion stays in motion.” That adage applies, of course, to having the motivation to start exercising and not studying. But it can be applied to studying in a self-education course. If you start studying, enjoy your materials, then you will continue to study. And the more you study and understand, the better you will get in your understanding and performance. 

You May or May Not Earn an Accredited Degree

If you’re going your own way with MOOC courses online, you will likely not get an accredited degree. Even with online colleges, you may not earn an accredited degree like you would with an established college. Before spending any money, make sure your degree will be accredited and accepted with employers. 

But if you don’t need to earn a degree with your self-education activities, this disadvantage won’t matter.

Five Tips to Get Started With Self-Education

You want to get started with a self-education course, but you have no idea if it is for you or succeed. Before you get settled in a program you don’t like, follow these five tips to see you if you’re on the right path. 

Take One Online Course for Free

Many places offer free courses, like Alison, but if you want a certificate, you will need to pay for only the certificate. You can sign up for free, take a course, and see how it feels studying online. If you find it easy and can see yourself doing well with an online program, evaluate whether you have the motivation to stick with a longer program.

Evaluate Your Abilities to Stick With a Program

Do you need the structure of a formal class? Or can you stay motivated to stick with a program? Before you jump into a new program, you need to see if you have the motivation to keep going, even when it gets difficult. 

Seek Out a Low-Cost Educational Program Online

When you’re ready to start a program, and it is accredited, seek out a low-cost program online that offers the best of a self-study program and a formal school, complete with advisors and administrators. Once you find a school you can afford, seek out their accreditation credentials. If they match the long-distance education accreditation credentials, then feel free to register. 

Once You Enroll in a Program, Stick to a Schedule

After you register with your preferred program, you’ll want to set up a study schedule to know when and where you’ll be studying. Doing this will help you stay on track, and it will help your friends and family know when not to bother you or ask you for things. 

Take Online Field Trips and Extra Learning Opportunities

Many sites are now set up to give virtual field trips where you can explore museums and public parks and other tourism sites while online. Before the COVID pandemic, there were a few that were just getting started, but since the pandemic hit, there are many more virtual field trip sites that you can take advantage of during your studies.

Many online courses will include extra learning opportunities as part of their curriculum. These are meant to further your learning and to help you understand the material you’re learning. You are not required to follow these links, but they will help further your education. 


As you can see, there are many perks and disadvantages to self-education or self-study programs. If you don’t have the money for the traditional college route, yet you want to improve your lot in life, a self-study program might be right for you.

Busy professionals can also benefit from a self-education program that they can do on their own and at their own pace. Many people do take advantage of online learning programs because of the ease of use and low entry costs that come with them. 

But if you can’t get yourself motivated to study consistently, it might be best if you looked at a traditional school for your future education.


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