Whether you’re considering online degree programs as a mid-career professional or first-time college student, finding the right fit is important. Online universities are popping up everywhere to meet new interest in distance learning, but not all programs will meet your needs. Read on to learn the six questions you should be asking to find the school that’s right for you.
Is the University Accredited?
It may be surprising to learn that not all universities and programs are “accredited.” This is important, because it means that the school has passed evaluations and proven that its programs meet high standards. Many online universities are not accredited since they’re relatively new. Choosing an accredited school means that you can count on everyone to work towards nationally or regionally set expectations. If your school is not accredited, you’ll want to ensure they have a way to evaluate their programs and stay on the right track.
Do the Degree Programs Meet My Goals?
Chances are, you’re considering an online degree because you have a career goal in mind. Browsing through degree options at various schools will help you narrow down what programs match with what careers. It’s also quite possible that you don’t have an exact endpoint in mind: interested in the tech sector, but aren’t quite sure what job you’d like? Finding an online school with multiple degree plans in the tech field will give you options as you move through your courses. Take some time to look through the degree options at several online schools to get familiar with the offerings in high demand sectors. It’s important to find an online program that’s designed to get you out the door and into a meaningful career.
Can I Find Student Support and Community?
Online universities offer many benefits, but often, student support and a feeling of community are lacking. Look into what resources your potential programs offer for their online students. Can you book a virtual tutor or meet for a video chat with an advisor? Are there easy ways to be a part of student communities outside of the classroom? Feeling supported and connected through your online courses can help you stay on track for graduation.
What Does the Program Really Cost?
Keep in mind that the true cost of a school goes beyond the tuition price tag. Scholarship opportunities vary widely, so finding a school that offers plenty of options is important. Look for scholarships that you’d qualify for based on degree, career goals, background, etc. Another key factor in how much an online program really costs is time to completion. Some degrees have plans that require you to pay for courses that you’ve already taken. Check whether a school will give you transfer credit for previous work – you may save a lot of money if you can eliminate paying for a few courses. Completing a degree in less time means a lower cost for you!
How Can the Faculty Help Me?
Faculty members don’t just teach classes – they can also offer other kinds of support! Investigate to see how involved they are – do they simply post video lectures and assignments, then send you a grade? Or are they available for virtual “office hours” (personalized help and mentorship) and contact even once their class is complete? You can also benefit from faculty connections in the workforce. Look through the biographies of teachers in your chosen program – once it’s time to look for a job, faculty contacts can make that process much easier. Ideally, the faculty in your department will come from varied backgrounds so that you’ll have a wide range of help available.
Does Enrollment Fit Into the Rest of My Life?
Fitting an online degree program into the rest of your life can be challenging, but universities can offer options that make things easier. Before you take any classes, find out whether the time and money required to apply are reasonable. Once you’ve been accepted, when do courses begin? Many universities offer rolling start dates, making it easy to begin achieving your goals right away.
Going back to school for training in high-demand fields is easier than ever with so many online colleges and universities! Before diving in, make sure that the school you choose matches up with your career goals, can work within your busy life, and provides support both in and out of the classroom.