Many people are finding it harder to further their education in today’s society. Some people have families and work full-time. With our busy schedules, we barely have time for ourselves much less travel back and forth to school. Thus, online education makes it easier for people to pursue their education at a time that is convenient for them. Finding the right online degree program is a tedious process that requires much research. Fortunately, the internet has most of the information you need right at your fingertips. Below are 15 tips to consider when finding the right online degree program for you.
1. Decide what career you are interested in. You will find that many schools offer the same major yet some colleges have the major listed under a different name. For example, if you want to be a database administrator, you can choose from majors such as Computer Science, Business Information Systems, and Management Information Systems. Knowing the different names of your major of interest will help you in your search for the online degree program that is right for you.
2. Consider and examine other online degree programs the school offers in case you decide to change your major. Many times people have gone to college, and they find out the major they chose is not the best choice for them. If you choose a school that offers more than one major of interest, you could change majors without the hassle of researching and applying to another college.
3. Determine the online degree programs’ retention and graduation rates. This can usually be done by contacting an advisor over the program of interest. The rates are important because you will know how many people stayed in the program and how many people successfully completed the program. If a program has a low retention rate, it signifies a problem that you can avoid. There could have been issues with the program or its administration to cause people to drop out of the program.
4. Determine the type of college you would prefer to obtain your online degree from. Some examples are public universities, private colleges, community colleges, and specialized colleges. Public universities typically cost less and offer more variety of programs than private colleges. Though a private college has higher tuition, the classes are smaller and the teachers provide greater assistance and personalized attention. You might consider attending a community college if you desire an online associate’s degree. You can choose to take affordable courses that will serve as prerequisites before entering an online bachelor’s degree program. Some people prefer to receive an online degree from a college with a special interest such as a single-sex college, religiously affiliated college, historically black college, or Hispanic-serving institute. A specialized college prepares you for a specific career such as Business or Art. The type of college you choose to obtain your online degree depends on your goals and values.
5. Examine the curriculum, so you can make sure the program meets your needs. When choosing the perfect online degree program, you should know which classes you are required to take. You can usually find the curriculum in the school of interest’s online college catalog. If you are terrible in math, you do not want to be in an online program that requires you to take many advanced math courses. You want to choose a program with a curriculum that will make you feel most confident in taking the courses. Of course, you will be required to take a few courses that you will not like along the way. However, if you choose the right program, your overall courses should provide you with a great learning experience.
6. Determine the size of a typical online classroom. This factor helps you determine the accessibility of your teachers. The teacher-to-student ratio plays a big role in the type of assistance you will receive from your teacher. If you take that dreaded advanced math course, you will feel more confident if you knew the teacher will be able to give you personalized attention.
7. Make sure the college is accredited by a legitimate accreditation agency. Many times online users are scammed by people looking to make a quick buck, students spend their money and waste valuable time completing assignments. Once they complete the program, they find that potential employers do not recognize the college or the accreditation agency. Hence, your degree ends up being a worthless piece of paper.
8. If you do not want to travel, make sure you are not required to go on campus to take exams or attend classes. Some colleges offer online-hybrid programs which require you to meet on campus at least once per week. Many courses require you to take exams under a proctor. In some cases, you are required to take it in the teacher’s classroom or in the distance learning coordinator’s computer lab. In other cases, you can find a certified proctor in your hometown such as a principal, librarian, superintendent, or other individuals who are certified in educational administration.
9. If you have previously earned college-level academic courses, make sure the school will accept most if not all of your courses. There are many colleges that will not accept courses because the courses are not equivalent to any course in their curriculum. If your courses are not accepted, you may end up starting over which can be time consuming and a waste of resources.
10. Try to find a good college with affordable tuition. Most colleges charge regular tuition plus a distance learning fee and a technology fee. If you are thinking of entering an online degree program offered by a school located outside of your state, find out if you are required to pay out-of-state fees. Some schools waive the out-of-state fee since the online degree program is designed specifically for students from different locations.
11. Review the program’s internet and computer requirements. If you meet each requirement, you will be able to navigate the online courses with little or no technical difficulty. If you have a dial-up connection, you will find that it is difficult to take an online course. With a slow connection, you may not be able to view videos, listen to audio, and upload assignments.
12. Determine whether the program is a full 4-year program or a 2-year program. This step is important for individuals pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Some online degree programs only offer upper-division courses and require you to have already completed your second year of study. If you choose a 2-year program, remember you must meet all prerequisites before entering the program.
13. Determine payment options and financial aid availability for the program. Each school has a payment schedule that should be followed. Many schools will allow an online student to receive financial aid as long as you are a full-time student and meet other qualifications.
14. Examine the availability of courses in your desired online degree program. Some courses are not offered each semester which could possibly hinder you from finishing the program at the time you desire. For example, the required course, Business Law may be offered only in the spring. You would have to wait an entire year before you will be able to take this course.
15. Browse online forums to seek feedback from alumni. You will receive valuable information from people who have experienced the program. You get an inside scoop of the pros and cons of the program; they can also provide advice that will help you make your decision.
After you have followed the 15 tips to finding the right online degree program, you will find that your online learning experience will be much more meaningful. You can avoid many problems that arise when one is trying to pursue his education online. Remember to choose your online degree program based on your career goals, values, and interests. Once you examine the program’s curriculum, requirements, the alumni’s feedback, and retention and graduation rates, the answer will become clear as to which online degree program is right for you.
by John Sylo