The best online college is the one that fits your needs. As you’re evaluating programs, consider how each school’s research, resources and reputation line up with your career interests and goals. An online program’s accreditation, tuition and flexibility are other factors that come into play.
Once you narrow down what colleges you’re interested in, make sure the programs are in your ideal format – whether that’s fully online or a hybrid model. Review admission requirements and application fees and compare the availability of financial aid.
Look into the school’s costs beyond tuition, including book, course material and online delivery fees, and research its student services and faculty.
1. Check the Accreditation Status of the School or Program
When choosing an online degree program, prospective students should ensure the school is accredited by an organization recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the nonprofit Council for Higher Education Accreditation. These organizations monitor programs and schools and renew their accreditation every few years
.Accreditation is a process that an outside authority conducts to ensure a school or degree program – either on campus, online or a combination of both – meets certain standards of quality and rigor. Accreditation is a voluntary process, though it has several benefits and essentially validates a program to employers and other institutions.
2. Choose a College Major
Choosing an undergraduate major can seem daunting. As you research options, think about what subjects you enjoy and what majors might prepare you for careers you’d want to pursue. Make sure you understand how salary may vary by field over the course of a career. The right major can set you up for success in college and beyond.
3. Determine Which Online Learning Option Works for You
The structure of online degree programs varies. That’s why prospective students must research a program thoroughly to ensure it meets their needs. In general, however, online courses require students to regularly log in to a learning management system, or LMS.
This is a virtual portal that serves as a classroom, where students can access relevant course materials and monitor their progress on lessons.Different formats require different levels of communication with fellow students.
Online students may interact with each other through a variety of channels, including discussion forums, social media, videoconferencing, by phone and through email.
How to Apply to Online College
- The admissions process for online college is usually similar to that of on-campus programs.
- To start, you’ll need to fill out the application. At the bachelor’s level, the Common Application is accepted by more than 900 schools, including some colleges outside the U.S. It’s likely that an online degree-seeking student will also need to complete this application. Because master’s degree applications are usually tied to a specific program in a school, what application students need to complete may vary.
- Applicants at both levels will likely have to submit an essay of some kind. Because many online students already have some work experience, experts recommend that they emphasize their professional skills as part of their application and explain how their experience has prepared them for online college.
- Undergraduate and graduate online programs often require letters of recommendation. These may come not only from teachers and school counselors but also current or previous employers who can speak to a student’s work ethic.
- At the graduate level, a recommendation letter will more likely come from an employer.
- Applicants may need to submit standardized test scores as part of their application. Many undergraduate online students already have some previously earned college credits and therefore may be able to forgo submitting an SAT or ACT entrance exam score if enough of their credits transfer.
- At the graduate level, whether the GMAT or GRE graduate school entry exam is required depends on the school and area of study. Some may not require any test scores. This information is typically available on a program’s website.
- Consult an admissions officer at schools of interest to determine the exact requirements. Students also may need to submit school transcripts and, depending on the program’s requirements, their prior work experience and previously earned credit hours.
- Note that just because a program is offered online doesn’t guarantee that getting admitted will be easier.
- Make sure you follow directions carefully and keep track of deadlines for the school’s admissions application, financial aid and test score submission.
- Prospective students can find deadline information on each school’s website. Because online program academic calendars may be structured differently from on-campus offerings, deadlines may differ for these applicants.
online education offers students the opportunity to study from anywhere in the world, many students still choose a program with a campus close to home. Cost is a big factor in staying local. Online programs at public universities and colleges often charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students.