If you’ve been considering a return to school (or going for the first time!) to pursue a Christian degree, there’s never been a better time to do it. With so many online universities out there, the choices may seem overwhelming. Finding the right fit means choosing a program that fits with your life (work, family, finances) and values.
If you’re beginning your journey, there are five key areas to consider as you narrow down your options. From accreditation to financial aid, here’s everything you need to know about choosing an online Christian degree program.
Christian School Vs. Christian Degree
If you’re interested in pursuing a Christian degree, the first decision you’ll need to make is whether attending a secular or Christian school is right for you. Many secular universities offer online Christian degree programs, especially at the graduate level. If it’s an important part of your studies, though, to know that the administration and all faculty at the school have chosen to be part of a Christian university, look for an institution that is part of The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). Being a member of the CCCU is a good indication that the school is committed to celebrating scholarship and service in the context of Biblical teachings. If a particular denomination is important to you, this list can help narrow down your choices.
Accreditation and Diversity of Programs
For many students, attending an accredited institution is important; being accredited means there’s a unified plan for setting and meeting expectations among faculty, staff, and students. Since online universities are often newer, many are not accredited yet, so check to see what steps are in place for assessment and outcomes in your chosen degree program. Similarly, choosing a school that has multiple online Christian degree programs is to your benefit. Many entering students find that after exploring courses for the first semester or two, they are drawn to a specialization they hadn’t previously considered. Diversity of offerings will only improve the chances that you’ll end up doing something you truly love!
Undergraduate and Graduate Options
Whether you’re currently pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree, attending an online school that offers both can be advantageous. If you’re focusing on a BA/BS right now but are entertaining the idea of a Master’s degree in the future, set yourself up for success by choosing a school that has potential programs at both levels. You’ll get a chance to meet faculty and advisers during your undergraduate years who can help you seamlessly transition to graduate work down the line. And if you’re pursuing your graduate degree now? A program with undergraduates tends to offer more opportunities for student teaching, mentorship, and other co-curricular activities.
Although distance learning means that there aren’t campus events to attend, many online programs still require co-curricular experiences to supplement course material. For example, weekly church attendance or volunteer service may be part of the degree requirements. Check into the “student life” section of your potential school’s website to see what programs may be offered and/or required, or ask to speak with current/past students to get a feel for the requirements that come up during the year. You’ll want to choose a program that not only aligns with your Christian values but also expects students to demonstrate those values in the real world.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
One of the most important factors when choosing an online university is cost. While tuition varies some from school to school, the most significant component that can influence a school’s true cost is the opportunity for scholarships and financial aid. Some online universities offer scholarships for particular programs. Federal financial aid (application through the FAFSA) isn’t available for schools that don’t meet specific criteria, so check that your potential school meets the requirements (all eligible schools should have an information page to help guide you through the process).
It’s essential to find an online Christian degree program that fits into your life and honors your values; keep those criteria in mind, and you’ll be on your way to the career you’ve been dreaming of!