The popularity of and accessibility to higher education is paving the way for more and more people to gain a formal education or a higher-level degree than ever before. The benefits are many including increased potential for getting hired with a quality company, specialized industry training, better positioning for on the job promotions, and the ability to start a company of your own on a solid foundation.
Keeping these benefits in mind, here are five things to consider when getting an online degree from home:
Schools that are accredited help ensure that specific standards in education are met. While many institutions make these claims, be sure to do your homework despite their assertions. Your best bet is to search the Department of Education’s website to confirm that the school is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
In addition to meeting educational standards, accredited schools further assure employers that graduates are prepared for the workforce and/or a promotion. An accreditation gives credibility to the quality of the education you have received.
Study Their Statistics
Before committing to your institution, research the statistics regarding numbers of graduates vs. applicants, postgraduate placements, and course retention rates. Confirm that these are suitable for your program needs and professional desires.
For example, if the university has a low number of graduates it could mean that the rigors of the system are high, or it could mean that they are low quality. Either way, this is valuable information for your decision-making process.
Research testimonials and reviews for the degree you are considering. If you can interview graduates, ask them about their experiences and satisfaction with the program you are interested in pursuing. Listen to them and heed the input they provide.
Educational and Professional Support
Just because you are studying online does not mean you won’t need support, either regarding your education or in how it applies to your profession. In fact, the need for advice may increase.
As you prepare to begin your chosen education track, you may have questions regarding the materials needed and covered, timelines, and financial aid/payments. You may also have questions about future job placement, applying your education practically to your current position or a new position, or perhaps, starting a business practice of your own.
Good support from the online educator can be a great resource and must be considered when choosing the program or institution. Ask many questions and the hard questions. These questions can include statistics about placement and promotions after graduation or if there are academic advisors available to help you further your professional endeavors. Ask if the advisor goes above and beyond basic guidance both during your education and beyond. Ask if they are current in their knowledge and understanding of the industry or market for your career. Ask if they are open to assist with creative angles for leveraging your education in a new way.
Then, take full advantage of the advisor and their advice.
Curriculum and Credits
When considering an online school, carefully research the curriculum and how any credits earned will count toward your education goals or transfer to other institutions.
Generally speaking, if the online program is accredited, the credits will transfer to other accredited entities.
That being said, there is a chance that they won’t. Be sure to ask and confirm with the registrar. Are they up to other university’s standards? Are the courses comparable to others outside of this online program?
Also, ask if previous credits attained can be transferred into the online instruction course. If you have studied at other schools in the past, they may be counted toward your online degree and further speed up your graduation time frame.
Finances and Scholarships
Online degree institutions all charge tuition, however, they do not all charge the same thing or in the same way. There is no standard amount or method. Some ask for a lump sum up front while others may charge per credit hour. Knowing the difference may be determining factors when making your decision, so do your homework and make your financial plans accordingly.
Fees may be added for a variety of reasons or classes. Make certain you are paying only for the services or materials you use. Ask questions of everyone before you sign up for classes, books, or extracurricular activities or groups. Be careful to calculate these fees for the duration of the program when applying for any loans.
If you are currently employed, ask the human resources department if the company will match funds or fully fund your education before you select a degree plan. They may have specific schools for you to choose from or you may need to apply in advance or they may have specific class recommendations that will improve your chances of getting a raise or promotion. Consider these first and if you meet those criteria, you may very well be on your way to that degree you seek.
While there may not be as many options available to online learners as compared to traditional students, but that does not mean scholarships do not exist. They are available, but you will need to search them out. Check into Pell grants and FAFSA grants to start.
Pro Tip: Experts recommend applying for all federal loans before turning to private loans. Planning carefully so that you don’t borrow more than you need.
Keeping these things in mind doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to get straight As, but at the least, you will have what you need to start your online degree pursuit and fulfilling your professional potential.