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Online education can be an excellent way for busy parents or working professionals to earn their degree. But before you dive into that online application, take a moment to consider all the factors that go into online learning, and decide whether or not the virtual classroom is really right for you.
What to think about when applying to online college
Choosing to go to college requires a great deal of consideration. Are you choosing the right institution? Can you afford it? When applying to online schools, there are many other questions: How flexible is the schedule? How long will it take? Can you really juggle it all?
Before you take the plunge into online learning, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the school up to par? Employers often prefer applicants who have graduated from accredited schools, and many colleges will only accept transfers of courses that are accredited. In addition, look for the signs of a great program: How long has the program been offered? How many graduate? What is the reputation of the school? You want to see glowing reviews, especially from independent sources.
- What about tuition and fees? Some online schools aren't eligible for student financial aid, which means you might wind up with loans. Employer programs might not pay the tuition either. Look for a school that has tuition comparable to that of a brick-and-mortar institution, and don't forget to look for scholarships. Finally, keep in mind that fees can add several thousand dollars over the cost of tuition, so make certain you know exactly what you will pay before you make your final choice.
- What is the time commitment? Consider the amount of time an online program will require. Do you have the space in your schedule to take on that commitment? Will you need to juggle a bit and shift things around? If you want to get the courses done as soon as possible and have the free time in your schedule, look into accelerated programs.
- What support services does the program offer? Look at the support in place for both current students and alumni. You want to see a program that offers email and message boards to get in touch with classmates and teachers. You also want to see a program that has a good track record of alumni landing in great positions after graduation.
- What about your computer? Your computer is at the heart of your online learning program. Before you embark on an online program, make sure you have a reliable Internet connection and an up to date computer that can handle the workload.
Online learning requires a commitment of time and energy. Take your time and do serious research when choosing the program that can fit your schedule and help you reach your higher education goals.
Military.com, "Ten Questions to Ask Before Selecting an Online University," http://www.military.com/education/finding-a-school/10-questions-to-ask-before-selecting-an-online-university.html
US News and World Report, "Consider This Before You Pay for an Online Degree," January 10, 2012, Katy Hopkins, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2012/01/10/consider-this-before-you-pay-for-an-online-degree?page=2
Shannon Dauphin Lee has been writing professionally for almost two decades on a wide variety of topics, including medical and health issues, education, home repair and relationships. She is the author of several published novels.