Once you have made the decision to pursue a degree online, you should begin preparing your applications. The good news is that the process for admission to many online schools is relatively simple and straightforward, and you should be able to complete your application entirely via the Internet. Most programs have rolling admissions, which means you can submit your application at any time during the year. However, students should keep in mind that it could take several months to assemble all of the materials they need for their applications, so it is important to get started as early as possible.
For the most part, the application process for an online school is similar to that of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges. Students will need to check for enrollment deadlines at the specific schools to which they are applying. In addition, students should find out the exact materials they will need to submit as part of their application. These schools may require some or all of the following:
- Application Form – Students can download the application form for their chosen online degree program off of the school’s website. Make sure that you fill out all of the necessary information and that you proofread the form before you submit it. Students should keep a hardcopy of the form or print off a copy of the confirmation page to save for their records.
- School Transcripts – In order to show proof of your previous academic experience or degrees earned, students will need to submit official transcripts from all of the schools that they have attended. Students can request an official transcript from the registrar or guidance counselor office at their schools. Students should be aware that it can take awhile for schools to process their request, so do not wait until the last minute. Most schools require that you pay a fee for each transcript, and they will send them directly to the schools to which you are applying. Ask for a copy of each of your transcripts to keep for your records.
- Essays – Personal essays are an important part of the application process. Essays allow you an opportunity to showcase your personality to the admissions officers reviewing your application. In addition, essays demonstrate your writing abilities — skills that will play a major role in your success at any level of higher education (especially in an online environment).
- Letters of Recommendation – If you have weak grades or test scores, strong letters of recommendation can improve your chances of gaining admission to an online as well as traditional degree program. Just like essays, letters of recommendation allow admissions officers to gain a sense of who you are as a person and how you will perform as a student. Students should try to ask a former teacher or professor to write them a letter of recommendation. However, adult learners already in the workforce can also ask for references from their employer, manager or other professionals they have worked with in their field.
- Test Scores – In some cases, students may need to submit standardized test scores as part of their application. High school students in particular may need to include ACT and SAT scores when applying for online degrees programs. Students can check with their school for standardized test dates if they have not already taken these tests. Some schools also require prospective students to take a computer test to determine if they have the technological skills necessary in order to complete a degree program.
Online degree programs offer a flexible and convenient opportunity for students to advance their education; however, students should take the application process just as seriously as they would for a traditional college. It is important to do your research, plan ahead, and check deadlines before you actually apply. Different schools have different requirements, and a school will only process your application if it is complete, so make sure you are thorough and that you include all necessary materials. Once a school receives your complete application, it can take a couple weeks or a couple months before you receive a response. Be patient, and keep your options open. With so many online learning opportunities out there, you should have no problem finding an online program that is right for you.