Getting It Right: Picking an Online College
People are recognizing the benefits of online school more than ever. A recent list by U.S. News & World Report named the top online degree programs and universities in the nation. However, there's a lot more that goes into picking the best school for an online education. You may not have considered all of your options or you may not have a plan for how to enroll in online school. For-profit institutions particularly often have a less stringent policy, which may cause problems for you when trying to transfer credits to get into a different program. There are ways to get around this process and still go to a good online school.
- 1. Look for an accreditation. Every school must be accredited. There are six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. If an online school hasn't been accredited by any one of these, you should think about why it hasn't earned the accreditation, whether it's the school's qualify or your ability to transfer credits if you want to go to another school. You can look at the database of accredited schools to find an online school that you can work with. You can also talk to the school about their credit transfer policies and find out if any of your previous credits will transfer to the online school. 2. Talk to former students and alumni of the online school. There's no better way to get a feel for a school than by talking to those who already attended. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter can give you a good idea, or you could reviews by students about the college that you are thinking of attending. You should ask about their experience, what they thought of the teachers and how the classes worked online. 3. Speak to employers about the school. There are some employers who prefer that you go to a traditional school no matter what the credentials or accreditation. You should check with your employer about the school, see if there are any partnerships or ways that the employer will pay for part of your education. Most people do pursue degrees online in order to fulfill a career goal or interest. You should always check with state, government, and corporate employers about education programs and if those include the school of your choice. 4. Seek some more research. You can also look at Department of Education loan default rates and loan repayment rates for every institution in the nation that also receives federal funding. You can check for-profit online schools to see which schools have better rates. A high default rate or low repayment rate indicates that students haven't been given the success after graduation that they needed to get a good job. 5. Ask about student services. Online education requires a good personal work ethic to keep you organized and on track. You should also make sure to find a school that gives you the experience of the virtual classroom. If a school can let you register and pay online, then it should also be able to give you academic advising, financial aid advising, career counseling, and video lectures to ensure that you get the most from your experience. Distance schools are well known for providing a good amount of student services. If a school charges fees for an online library, beware.
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