You’ve made the decision to head back to school online for more training or perhaps a different career path. Now what? The requirements for online university applications vary widely among schools, so taking the time to research what’s expected before you start filling out the forms will set you up for success. Read ahead for seven things that you should do to get application-ready!
Create a Master Spreadsheet
Applying to online universities involves careful planning and tracking many moving parts. Before you begin investigating potential schools and sending in applications, create a master spreadsheet that includes details such as school names and degrees you’re interested in. You’ll also be able to add other information as you collect it (including items below!) and track when you’ve completed important steps.
Track the Deadlines
Imagine putting time and effort into completing applications for several universities, only to be denied admittance because your materials arrived too late. Don’t let that happen to you! Before you begin filling out application materials, check to make sure you know about all of the deadlines involved. Often, an application itself is due before supporting materials (such as references or financial statements). Write down any deadlines associated with your prospective schools, and look out for “rolling” deadlines - this means that decisions are made throughout the year rather than at one time. It’s still a good idea to get your materials in as early as possible, but you won’t be held to a firm date.
Research Cost and Scholarships
Going into the application process with a clear idea of cost and available financial aid is crucial. Often, scholarships require their own applications, complete with different due dates and requirements. Note especially whether or not you have to be admitted before you’re allowed to apply for a scholarship. If that’s the case, try to apply to the school as early as possible, giving yourself plenty of time for scholarship applications later. Some programs also offer financial aid for applicants from certain backgrounds (military, first-generation college, etc.); knowing about these possible opportunities is important so that you include any relevant information in your application. You can also check with your local bank or credit union to see if you’d be eligible for any private loans - applications for this assistance are often lengthy, so planning ahead will give you plenty of time to complete the process.
Most universities require references along with your application, and they vary depending on the program and school. Often, references should speak to your academic ability and character, but if you’re applying for a mid-career degree, for example, references may need to come from an employer. Find out what references (and in what form) will be required before you begin your application. Reaching out to your preferred letter-writers early will ensure that everything gets to the school on time.
Higher education programs will require proof that you’ve completed previous schooling (whether high school, Associate’s Degree, or previous Bachelor’s/Master’s work). Requesting transcripts from your old schools can be a long process, especially if previous institutions require that you collect your transcripts in person. Be prepared to pay a small fee for “official transcripts” to be sent - you can always check to see if the program you’re applying to will accept an “unofficial transcript” that you can print yourself for free.
Learn About Faculty
The faculty teaching in a program is just as important as the course content itself. Before you apply, take the time to look through faculty pages and browse their research and teaching backgrounds. By knowing more about your potential instructors, you’ll be able to mention particular areas of interest in your application essay or interview. Make a note of any people or ideas that you’d like to include in your application.
Note Special Program Features
In addition to learning about your potential program’s faculty, take the time to investigate any special program features offered at each school. Does the healthcare program involve clinical work at a local hospital? Has the IT program partnered with businesses that offer internship opportunities? These special features are points of pride for their institutions, so mentioning them in an application essay or interview will show you’ve done your homework and really value what the school has to offer.
Applying to an online university can seem like a daunting task, but if you’re organized from the start and collect necessary information ahead of time, filling out that application will feel empowering.