While there may not be a single "best" online college or online degree program for all students, some are better than others overall, and some are almost certainly a much better fit for you.
The question we hope to assist prospective online degree seekers with here is how you wind up in the college and degree program that will best meet your needs. If you follow the steps below, you are likely to make a wise college choice and earn a degree that will serve you well in your career.
1. Make a list of your reasons for pursuing an online degree and rank them by importance. Are you looking for personal growth, professional development and advancement, job security, increased income, a chance to pursue a new career, and/or other things? As you consider individual online colleges or universities, ask yourself how each will help you accomplish those goals. Establish a ranking system if you that that might be helpful in comparing your educational options.
2. Do a deep dive on accreditation. First, make certain the colleges you are considering are fully accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education. State accreditation is virtually useless, and there are several fraudulent organizations which are supported by degree mills out to trick prospective students. Do not be fooled.
3. Check out the individual online degree programs of interest to you. If your plans include working in a field which requires state or professional licensing, be sure your program qualifies you for licensure or certification. Among the professions that generally requiring a license are teaching, school administration, accounting, social work, counselling, and healthcare.
4. Learn what you can about the faculty members who will be teaching you. What degrees do they hold? How long have they been teaching? How much actual real world work experience do they have in their teaching area(s). How have they been rated by their prior students? Have they distinguished themselves in research or publishing?
5. Be certain about the delivery system of the academic major you select. Some certificates or degree programs require only online study, while others may include a few on-campus classes, internships, practicums, and/or brief residencies. Know what you are committing to.
6. Discuss tution costs, fees, and other academic expenses with a financial aid counsellor. Ask about financial aid options, scholarships, and payment plans for which you may qualify. And, don't forget to check into other sources of funding like local scholarships, scholarships offered by companies and organizations in your area, grants provided by individual religions, and free online financial aid "match" websites.
7. Unlike traditional college programs, most universities offering online study offer many possible starting dates. Do not allow yourself to be talked into beginning until all your questions are answered and all your concerns have been alleviated. Enrol only when you feel ready to ensure you'll complete your degree.
8. Ask your admissions representative about student support services, an area in which some online programs excel and others drop the ball. Can you easily reach an instructor if you encounter difficulty? Do you have easy access to a financial aid counsellor, transfer counsellor, or career center advisor? Is tutoring available? Who can help you if you wish to change majors?
9. Get data on job placement, credit acceptance by other colleges, and graduate school placement, even if those options are not in your current educational plans.
10. Inquire about completion rates. Federal regulations require all college and universities, traditional and online, to collect and share data about overall student completion rates and completion rates by degree program. Find best accredited online colleges with comparatively high percentages in both areas to give yourself the maximum chance of success.
If you do your due diligence, completion of an online degree at both the undergraduate and graduate level can make a huge difference in your life.
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