Do Your Homework before Enrolling in School Online
Going back to college is a big decision and online education can often be a great option for students who must balance school with work and family obligations; however, finding the right school and online degree program can be a confusing process if you aren’t sure what questions to ask or things to be aware of. Below are questions to ask and red flags to keep in mind as you research and compare schools.
Questions to Ask
1) For the online degree program(s) you are considering, what percentage of graduates work within their field of study and how long did it take them to find a job?
2) What resources would be available to you while you are in school? Tutoring? Online library? Support staff? Other resources that you can use to help you be successful?
3) Are they accredited and what type of accreditation do they have? What review process have they gone through in order to ensure they have a quality program? There unfortunately are online schools that could be classified as “diploma mills”, which essentially means your degree program will be worthless.
4) What are the faculty members’ qualifications in the program you are interested in?
5) What is the average class size? The student to instructor ratio can give you a sense of how much personal attention and interaction you can expect.
1) If an online program seems too short it is probably too good to be true: An associate’s degree program usually takes about two years to complete as a full-time student.
2) Be cautious if a school will not let you see your financial aid package before you enroll into classes – there may be hidden fees you were not initially aware of.
3) Beware if a school says you cannot withdraw before classes start – anytime before classes begin you should be able to withdraw. Additionally, you should have a window to “drop add,” where you’re able to drop or switch your classes without being financially responsible.
4) If you are told you can only receive financial aid if you attend full-time, that’s not true. As long as you are at least a part-time, matriculating student you can use financial aid to help you pay for school. A school that tells you otherwise may be trying to convince you to enroll in more classes.
5) In addition to regional or national accreditation, check with any professional accrediting bodies to make sure the school’s online program is recognized. You may not be able to get hired in your field of study if it isn’t.
After considering these questions and red flags, take your time to decide what school and program to enroll in. Do not let anyone – admissions counselors, friends, family, etc. – rush you into enrolling. Online education should not be an impulse purchase and is something you must do for yourself. You are committing hours and years of your life to earn a degree and must be positive and confident in your selection. Do not settle on a decision and investment this important. A degree can give you a competitive edge in today’s job market and help you secure a sustainable career; however, online education is hard work and you should not start if you are not prepared to put the time and effort in to make sure you finish. Do you homework in advance so that you can be successful in the future.