Taking Your First Steps Towards Choosing an Online College

Most people go to school to better prepare themselves for future career. To help ensure your educational goals support your career goals, start by determining the type of degree you’re pursuing. Remember, you can earn the same types of degrees online that you can earn in a traditional learning environment including associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctorates, and certificates.

However, it’s important to note that not every online learning institution or program offers the specific discipline you seek. Student-teacher training and medical training, for example, require some amount of hands-on training which typically needs to be performed at traditional learning institutions.

In cases such as these, you’ll want to focus your search on online institutions offering blended programs; programs that accommodate both online coursework and in-person work.

Don’t worry if you’re confused right now. The guidelines below are designed to help your distance learning search stay on track.

  1. Determine the type of online degree you want to pursue.  Higher education is a costly investment in terms of both time and money. To protect against wasting time and money and ensure you reap the maximum return on your investment, it’s important to plan ahead. Start by choosing a degree program that supports your interests and your lifestyle.
  2. Focus on accreditation. Once you know the degree you want to pursue, it’s time to focus on the online learning institutions and programs that offer what you’re looking for. This is the fastest way to start narrowing your options. Narrow them even further by focusing on only those that are accredited. Accreditation is important because it usually means you’ll get a better quality education and more respect among future employers. Future employers are also more likely to honor an online degree from an accredited institution than one from an unaccredited institution.
  3. Determine eligibility. Educational institutions and programs all have specific eligibility requirements. Once you’ve chosen the ones you’re interested in pursuing, contact them to learn more about these requirements. Most will forward information packages designed to determine whether you meet the qualifications for application.
  4. Comparison shop.  This is the best way to save money on tuition and feel confident that you’re getting the best deal for your money. Lots of online learning programs sound similar and only upon closer examination will you know exactly what’s included in the cost.

Guidelines for determining eligibility

All educational institutions have eligibility requirements, and they typically involve a prospective student’s prior education. However, online learning programs may have additional eligibility requirements. The following section offers more advice on determining eligibility.

  • Before advancing to the next level of higher education, you’ll need to have completed the previous level. For example, you won’t be able to begin work on a master’s degree until you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree. If you are pursuing an associate’s degree, you will need to have already earned a high school diploma or GED.
  • You’ll also have to meet the particular online learning program’s eligibility requirements. As mentioned above, it’s easy to find out what these are by contacting the programs in which you’re interested in applying.
  • To participate in distance learning, you will need an updated computer. Since technology changes so rapidly, your computer shouldn’t be more than 3 years old. You’ll also need an internet connection since this is most often how you’ll connect with your classes, your assignments, your instructors, and with other students.