Work and the rest of life’s complexities can chew away chunks of your time each day of the week, but your education doesn’t have to suffer while your schedule prevents you from spending time in a classroom. By enrolling into an online college, you can fit your education into your busy lifestyle and work towards your degree without a drastic change in your lifestyle. But before pledging your time and finances to an online college, there are several factors you should research beforehand to ensure that you get the best education possible and make the most of your time.
Your degree will prove to future employers and co-workers that you’re an expert in the field you studied in college. Just as your degree grants you authority, your online college’s accreditation backs it’s credibility. Accreditation is done independently of by an accrediting agency to determine if a practices and curriculum of a school, or any other institution, meets the agency’s standards.
It can be heartbreaking to pour a significant amount of time, only to find that it lacks recognition due to a lack of accreditation. When selecting an online college, look for one that is accredited by a national accrediting agency so that your degree will demand respect in every corner of the country. Most colleges will wear their accreditation recognitions like a badge of honor on their websites. You can also visit the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited colleges to see if your prospective online college has received national or regional approval.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Compare the tuition rates and the availability of financial aid for the online colleges on your list of prospects. As with offline colleges, you’ll want to ensure that you’ll have the funds to purchase all of the course materials you require and eventually graduate. Government loans generally offer much better rates than those from private lenders, and that’s another reason why you want to ensure your selected online college is recognized by both a national accreditation agency and the U.S. Department of Education.
After you’ve sifted through all of the digital noise and narrowed your list down to a handful of online colleges, it’s time to determine which programs of study are available and which colleges exceed in your desired areas. Turn to feedback from students who’ve graduated from the online colleges on your list to determine how challenging they felt the coursework was. Also check out job placement percentages to get an idea of how long it took the average graduate of your desired program of study to graduate and find a job related to their degree or certificate. Job placement statistics are generally found on the college’s website and in their promotional material.
Access to your instructors can be the difference between you acing a class and just scraping by. Just about every online instructor will be available for correspondence via email, but count it as plus if an online college’s instructors are available through chat and over the phone. Also learn all you can about the times of the day the online instructors are available to live access and quickly they respond to email inquiries.
After you learn about stated the responsiveness of an online college’s professors, learn about their average class and student loads. While an online college may tout idealistic statistics on the availability of their instructors, learn how many class the professors teach and how many students are in those classes can give you the best idea of just how access you’ll have to your instructors.
Books and course materials can inflate the overall cost of any college education and, just as with a traditional college, you’ll want to check out your online college’s bookstore to gain an idea on how much you’ll have to shell out in order to succeed in your classes. Compare the books in your online college’s bookstore with online retailers to determine if you can find a healthy supply of used books for better prices elsewhere.