The reasons to prefer an online education program over its traditional on campus counterpart are numerous. Some enroll in online programs because they need a nudge in their careers but can’t quit their current job while studying. Others opt for online education for the diversity of courses and degree options that it offers unlike some on-campus programs near their home. Whatever the reasons may be, choosing the right online program is the most important step towards getting a quality education. And to choose the right program, there are certain factors you have to take into account.
Think About Your Degree Options
The first step is to start thinking about the potential degrees you can enroll in. This is a very important step since pursuing a degree is a substantial investment in terms of both time and money and getting this step right would make sure that your investment does not go to waste. If you are undecided, the following might help you select the right online degree programs:
Think about the courses you liked in high school: What interested you in school might help you get a valuable insight into what you want to do in the future. Make a list of the classes you loved, topics that bored you and topics that just made you curious. This list can help you narrow down your options.
Think about your hobbies: Make a list of your hobbies. This could include stuff like painting, playing the guitar, playing a particular sport, reading or cooking. This list will help you make a pattern in the kind of programs you should look into.
If you still cannot figure out what program would be best for you, take some time out to talk to your school’s career advisor regarding your potential options.
Once you have narrowed down a few universities or specific programs, you need to start comparing them. This will ensure that you choose the program that suits your requirements the best, in terms of financial investment, feasibility, duration of program, etc.
With such a huge number of courses and types of programs offered by universities across the United States, it becomes difficult to locate a school that offers the exact program you are looking for, within your preferred locality and with the faculty you want it with, etc. To make sure you get most of your requirements checked, you will have to compare and contrast various programs. After comparing, you should be able to narrow down your list of potential choices.
Reputation: This is an important factor to consider when comparing since it will eventually determine how your degree is looked upon by your potential employers. To gauge a school’s reputation and quality, consider student reviews and online college rankings.
Tuition and Financial Aid: One of the biggest deciding factors for most students is the cost and financial aid a university offers. The cost of college varies a lot and a higher cost does not necessarily mean a better education. Look closely at the cost of each program and how it compares to other colleges you are considering. In addition to the tuition fee, also take a look at the financial aid options that the university offers and the terms and conditions attached to them.
Dates and Deadlines: Among the first few things you should look for is the application deadline. There is obviously no point in narrowing down a college only to find out that the deadline to apply has passed.
Transferable Credits: If you’re a transfer student, make sure you check the university’s policy on transfer of credits. Check with the admissions office and the relevant university department to make sure you are aware of their guidelines regarding credits transferring.
Student Services: This is an important factor to compare when narrowing down your choices. Check which universities offers the best services for online students, such as tutorials, library and books access, career services, student-teacher interactions and peer groups, etc. In an online program, these services can make a lot of difference in how much you end up gaining from a program.
In addition to the above, there are some other things you should keep in mind too, before finalizing a college or program. Have a look:
Accreditation: Nothing is more important than selecting a school which is accredited. Accreditation is a process by which a school is recognized as a legitimate institution, not just a degree mill. Make sure you check for accreditation; you don’t want to end up in a sham university. While the U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutes, it does list a number of higher educational institutes which are accredited by non-governmental accrediting bodies.
Student Reviews: Getting feedback from previous students helps the most in making a decision about a particular university.
Potential Career Path: You should know your career trajectory. This will assist you in analyzing various degrees and programs according to their career and earning potential. If you are looking for an online degree to advance your career, you should know in detail the past employment trends for the university’s graduates with the same degree you intend to enroll in, the sort of jobs people with this major get and so on. Even though a lot of other factors also go into your career advancement, being on top of these matters will put you in a better position to secure your future.
Selecting an online program is not a one-day activity. It is a long process that requires careful planning. But once you have done all of this hard work, you can at least be sure that your education and eventually your career are headed in the right direction.