Tips for Choosing an Online College

Aug 28, 2019 by

At a time when many people in the country are feeling the pressure of the student loan debt crisis, online college can seem more appealing than ever. There are a lot of advantages to attending college online, including:

  • Flexibility: When you attend school online, it requires dedication and good time management skills, but what you get in return is a high level of flexibility. You can keep working full- or part-time, you can manage family responsibilities, and you have more opportunities to learn in the ways that work well for you.
  • Cost: The cost of online college is almost always going to be less than the cost of attending school in a traditional setting. You also don’t have to pay associated costs such as transportation costs when you go online.
  • Access: If you live in an area where there isn’t a college or not one that offers what you’d like to study, online college can give you access you wouldn’t otherwise have to education.

While the benefits of going to an online school can be somewhat clear, how do you choose the right school?

That’s a bit more complex.

The following are factors to weigh if you’re considering an online school.

Accreditation

There are a lot of different accreditations that a school should have, but before you make a choice, check their accreditations to make sure they’re legitimate and also widely recognized by a third-party organization. Even if a school is touting certain accreditations, do some research and determine how valuable or viable that accreditation or organization really are.

You can use tools like the College Navigator, which is on the Department of Education website and verify school accreditation. You can also find other information like retention and graduation rates.

When you choose a properly accredited school, it’s important first because it can be a signifier of the quality of education you’re going to receive. Additionally, if you want to go on to other competitive programs in the future, you want an accredited school. Employers may also look into this as well.

Reputation

You can learn a lot about an online school by doing some research into their reputation. With anything, there may be some people you can find on message boards and other online resources that aren’t necessarily happy, but this shouldn’t seem like it’s the majority of students.

If there isn’t a lot of name recognition for the online school you choose, or it has a generally bad reputation, potential future employers are likely going to associate these things with you during the application process.

Compare the Financials

Some colleges might not necessarily put their financial information, such as the tuition and other costs, front and center. You may have to do some digging to find this information, but it’s important. You want to know how much you’re going to be paying not just for the classes themselves, but for everything else that you’ll have to pay for.

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for, get in touch with the school. If they aren’t forthcoming, you might want to reconsider.

Do the Offer the Program You’re Looking For?

A big way to narrow down your choices when you’re comparing online schools is to see if they offer the specific course of study you want or need. This can be especially important if you want to study a relatively rare niche not offered by many schools.

What Kind of Support Will You Have Access To?

When you’re attending an online degree program or education program, you will likely need a fair amount of support. This is the case when you go to a traditional school as well, but how much support do the schools you’re considering offer? For example, how much access do you have to the instructor if you have questions or need help? What format is that access?

What if you need additional help outside of what the instructor offers, such as tutoring? Can the school help you in that area?

Are there easy ways to receive administrative support when it’s needed?

Another area of support that may be important when you’re comparing online schools is career support. When you’re completing your program, are there services available that will help you connect with employers? Does the school have connections to employers? How many students go on to find careers in their field after completing a program at the school?

These aren’t the only considerations when you’re comparing online schools, but they are some of the major ones to keep in mind.

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