How Should I Choose an Online School?

Last updated on November 15, 2017

Online education has burgeoned to such a degree that the options can feel overwhelming. How can you narrow the selection to fit your needs?

Above all, ensure that the online college or university you choose is accredited. Many organizations offer accreditation, but only schools with worthwhile degrees are accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Distance Education and Training Council.

Some other factors to consider include:

Career services

Most online schools offer career services by telephone and online. If your school has a physical campus, you will also be welcome to visit their career center in person as a distance learner.

Find out what sort of career services are available at each school you’re considering. Also be sure to inquire about job placement rates and graduate school placement rates if applicable.

Curriculum

Different schools and professors take different approaches to teaching the same subject matter.

For example, some schools are religious and others are secular; some are left-leaning and others are conservative.

Ensure that your philosophy matches that of the school and that the curricula fit your learning style. Request a course syllabus or take a free sample class before committing to a program.

Technical support

As an online learner, you’ll want the security of a strong technical support team. If you intend to work at night, then it would be wise to choose a school that offers 24-hour support.

Tuition

Many online programs cost less than their on-campus counterparts. After all, an online class requires less physical space and the associated maintenance costs. However, some online colleges and universities are rather costly.

In any case, remember that the advertised tuition is not necessarily the price that you’ll be expected to pay.

Accredited schools offer federal financial aid and accept military education benefits. Scholarships may be available to you on a merit basis or a needs basis. When comparing the costs of online programs and on-campus programs, remember to factor in expenses that are unrelated to tuition.

For example, by earning your degree at home you might save a significant amount of money on books, child care, and travel.

Your employer

Talking with your employer could help shape your school search. Many of the larger firms have arrangements with certain online schools. Your employer might believe that a particular program will be most advantageous to you as a worker.

In many cases, employers offer tuition assistance to employees who pursue degrees through certain programs.