Furthering your education may provide several benefits, including greater access to employment opportunities, an increased earning potential, a pathway to advancement, and better economic stability. You may also need to earn a degree to enter your desired field or to enter a specialty in your career.
While there is an abundance of education options to choose from, online classes have become far more mainstream in recent years. Today, you can earn an online associates degree or bachelor degrees online without the hassle of attending in-person courses.
Earning online degrees can reduce the amount of time it takes for you to earn your degree and provide a greater level of convenience, especially if you’re interested in a college that is located outside of your state. However, not all online colleges are the same, and it’s essential that you learn more about colleges that you are interested in, making sure they’re the best fit for you.
If you are searching for the best online colleges, here are the eight questions that you should be asking.
1. Is the college well-established?
Consider how well-established an online degree program is before you enroll. When was the college founded? What’s its reputation like? Earning a degree from a well-established online college will help boost your success in finding employment after graduation.
Some colleges, such as HFCC online, offer both in-person and online courses. In these cases, it’s essential to make sure that the degree program does not require you to attend in-person classes if you are looking for a program that is entirely online.
2. Is the online school accredited?
This may surprise you, but not all online schools are accredited. Accredited online colleges are schools that meet curriculum educational standards that are set by the National Educational Association (NEA). These standards are in place to ensure that colleges offer quality education.
It is vital that you choose an accredited school as degrees earned from colleges that do not meet these standards do not carry the same weight when it comes to employment opportunities. Higher education can be expensive, so it’s essential that you always check to make sure a school is accredited before enrolling in a degree program.
3. Does the college’s degree program meet your goals?
Before enrolling in online classes, make sure the degree program you are considering meets your career goals. Learn more about the course curriculum to ensure that you will be completing the type of coursework needed for your industry. Earning a degree that does not support your goals may ultimately waste your valuable time and finances.
4. Can you transfer credits?
While many of the best online colleges allow you to transfer credits that you have previously earned, that’s not always the case. If you have credits to transfer, you should choose an online college that will accept transferred credits so that you can save money and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete the online degree program.
5. Can you earn “life credits?”
Life credits are college credits earned for work experience that relate to your major or degree program. Not every online college course offers life credit options. If you have work experience that may help you save money or complete your education faster, it’s worth taking the time to speak with a guidance counselor to discuss your options.
If an online college does offer life credits, learn more about their requirements and the cap on how many life credits you will be allowed to earn. The online college you apply to may also require you to provide additional information about your work history, including:
- Your job title and description
- Samples of your work
- References from colleagues, supervisors, or others who are familiar with the work you perform
- Any awards or certificates that you have received
6. How much do the institution’s online college courses cost?
An important factor in choosing online college degrees is the price tag attached to them. Higher education can be expensive. While you may be able to pay for college with student loans, these loans must be repaid with interest. Like other degree programs, online colleges choose the amount that they charge students. In addition to tuition costs, you may be expected to purchase textbooks, software, or other online resources. Some colleges may also include other costs that quickly add up.
Luckily, you may be able to reduce your out-of-pocket costs if you qualify for federal or local grants and scholarship programs. Do research on these options to see which types of financial aid may be available to you based on your income, high school GPA, and other factors.
You may also want to consider free online college courses from accredited sources. Free online education is generally offered by non-profit organizations that may be able to help you earn a degree for free. These organizations may have additional requirements that you must meet or limited degree program options. Or, they may only take on a set amount of students at a time.
7. What kind of support does the online school offer?
Some of the best online colleges offer additional support and online resources to students. These resources can be a tremendous help when earning your online degree. Online colleges may offer resources such as:
- Online tutoring
- Virtual libraries
- Access to career support
- Access to student advisors and guidance counselors
- Support for work opportunities post-graduation
- Support for technology-based issues that arise when taking online classes
The amount of resources that a school offers varies between colleges and degree programs, so it’s essential that you review this information before you apply.
8. What is the online school’s on-time graduation rate?
The longer it takes you to earn online degrees, the more time and money you will need to spend on your degree program. That’s why it’s important to consider a college’s on-time graduation rate.
You can generally find this information on an online college’s website or by speaking with a guidance counselor from any online degree program that you are considering.