Online Colleges and Universities
On-campus learning is the norm for many students just out of high school. Even students going back to school to obtain graduate degrees may attend classes on a normal campus. For many people though, going to a physical classroom multiple times each week can be nearly impossible.
This is true even of professionals who need to work, but still want to get an advanced degree. People looking to better themselves with certificates and undergraduate degrees are also looking online as a way to save time and get their desired education.
With many schools offering online programs, it’s not hard to find one that’s a good fit for you. Use this guide to learn more about what to look for when doing your homework on online colleges.
The History Of Online Colleges
Online colleges have become more and more popular over the last decade because internet access is so readily available. In the beginning, mostly trade and technical schools utilized online learning. Some private institutions also used online classes either alone or in conjunction with in-person learning.
Today, top universities and online-only schools can be hard to differentiate. Universities with storied histories have added online programs because more students want to get a degree this way. For a lot of students, online schooling offers a range of benefits that can’t be ignored.
Advantages Of An Online Education
Getting your education online can seem confusing. Most people can’t even imagine what the process looks like. There are a lot of advantages to an online education though. Here are some of the top benefits:
• You can work anywhere. From your office to your kitchen table, online course work can be completed anywhere you have an internet connection.
• You can work on your schedule. If you’re working a part-time or full-time job, you may not be able to attend class during the day or handle the commute to a college. Online courses typically allow you to work when it’s best for you as long as you complete the required assignments.
• You can work at your own pace to get a degree or take longer if you need more time to work. Most online colleges have flexible minimum course load requirements.
What Programs Do They Offer?
Not every online college offers a certificate or degree in every area of study. While some schools do offer a lot of different options, others may be more specialized.
If you’re looking for an undergraduate degree and you don’t know quite what to study, a school with more options may be helpful to you. Students that want a specific degree like in a nursing or business program may prefer a school with fewer options and a more focused study program.
You can also find a range of online schools that focus mostly on advanced degrees in a range of fields. These may be more beneficial for your needs and adept at scheduling high-level classes if you’re looking or a Master’s degree or Ph.D.
You’ll also want to make sure that the classes in the program you’re interested in are well-rated by students.
Consider Cost And Financial Aid Options
Online college classes can be costly. This is true even compared to regular courses at a physical campus. The good news is that there is a range of different online schools out there and their tuition costs do vary.
You can also get financial aid through the school or programs like FAFSA. Pell grants can also be helpful for students seeking higher education.
Take your time to weigh the cost of the schools you’re interested in versus the financial aid you may get. You’ll also want to factor in average costs like books and materials to make sure you don’t underestimate your expenses.
Pay Attention To Accreditation
Accredited distance learning colleges are common these days, and in most cases, schools you’re interested in will be accredited. However, you do need to check these credentials, particularly if you’re not dealing with a major university with a long history.
You’ll also want to make sure that any school you attend offers valid certificates that can help you get a job in your area if you choose one of these program types.
What’s The Graduation Rate Like?
Figuring the graduate rate of an online college can be difficult. After all, students can easily start with the best of intentions only to drop courses when life events happen that take up too much time. For students that need flexibility due to work and family, having to drop is unfortunately common.
However, a school with a higher graduation rate may help facilitate you earning your degree or certificate in a range of ways. While this should only be one factor, you should check the graduation rate of any school you’re thinking about attending online.
Ready to do some more research on online colleges and universities? Read our reviews of five top online colleges to help you get started.
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