If you’re a working parent or you’ve just decided you want to go back to school but don’t have the time, what’s the next best thing? How about enrolling in an online college?
With the continued maturation of online college programs, it’s a great time to think about enrolling in an online course so you can start earning your degree as it works into your schedule, according to the website collegefactual.com
But what should you look for when trying to find the best online college programs? There are three main factors to consider: accreditation, a proven track record, and affordability, according to the website.
To have your degree be taken seriously after you graduate, you must find an accredited school. This ensures that some basic levels of quality and outcomes are being maintained.
However, the mere presence of an accreditation by itself is not enough to ensure quality. Accrediting agencies do not always uphold their standards, and in rare cases may be stripped of their authority, the website says.
Keep an eye out
Generally, regional accreditation is better than national accreditation. Regionally accredited schools must meet stricter standards and are usually more receptive of accepting credits from each other. A regionally accredited school, however, may not accept credits from a nationally accredited school, the website says.
In addition, some fields require a specialized accreditation. These include degrees in health, law, veterinary science, and some other subjects. It is important to find out what types of accreditation are required for the specific program you are interested in. for example, if you sign up for an online program in nursing but your school isn’t accredited by the appropriate agencies, you will not be able to get a job in your chosen field without additional schooling. So, do your homework beforehand, the website says.
A track record that counts
Does your online college have a proven track record for success in your specific program? Find out what the graduation rates are and more importantly, check out what the employment rates are after graduation. If the graduation rate is quite low, you may want to ask why the rates are low or consider a different college, the website says.
Be forthright when talking to colleges about your prospects after graduation. Ask how well the program is respected in the real working world. Some schools are well-known in specific areas, but not in others. Just because the school has a great nursing program, for example, doesn’t mean their engineering program is good. ask around and see whether the graduates of the specific program are doing well in their fields, the website suggests.
Bear in mind some fields require internships or time spent in the field. This is typical in medical subjects such as nursing. If the online program does not include field hours, it may not be considered credible by most employers.
Ask about what type of career services are provided. Will the college help you after graduation? Do they help you with finding a job? If the college doesn’t discuss in detail the support, you’ll receive after graduation this could be a red flag, the website adds.
One of the biggest misconceptions about online colleges is that they are less expensive than traditional colleges. Some online programs are less expensive, but some are not. Find out what financial aid is available that can make it affordable, and don’t sacrifice quality for lower prices, the website notes.
It’s safest to choose a school that accepts federal financial aid. Not only will this help you pay for school, it also ensures that they pass some sort of quality bar enforced by the government, website says.
Make sure you plan how long it will take you to complete your degree. Most online students take longer than the standard four years. Is the tuition still affordable when you consider your degree may take you 5-6 years or longer to complete? The website asks.
One of the greatest advantages of attending online college is the flexibility it can offer such as scheduling and attendance. Make sure the options the college gives you work with your schedule, including instruction times and that the overall length of the program works with your plans for graduation.
Do see if any credits you have earned previously can transfer to the online school. This may give you a head-start to earning your degree. See if the school accepts credit for classes taken on the job or in the military, website says.
If you think you may transfer at some point look into how easily your credits earned at this school will transfer to another school.
It may behoove you to attend an online school that also has a physical campus. These tend to be looked on more favorably by potential employers. However, this perception could change as online schools becomes more wide spread and programs become more propel, the website concludes.