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Selecting an Online College; Do it Right

May 10, 2008
After you have made the decision to earn an online college degree, your first step is to find the "right" college or university. To do so requires some simple yet important research.

Your first priority should be to identify colleges and universities that are properly accredited. A school, college or university that is accredited by an approved accrediting body has successfully demonstrated that it maintains suitable academic standards. For that reason, employers will generally value a degree from an accredited college, whether earned via online or on-campus study. Degrees earned at unaccredited colleges are suspect because no independent body has ensured the worth of their educational offerings. That's why most companies and employers will not accept an online college degree from an institution school which does not have the appropriate accreditation.

Your second consideration when choosing which of the many online colleges in which you will enroll is which one(s) will best help you achieve your specific career goals. Which programs are designed to provide the skills and experiences you'll require?

Most online colleges, but not all, offer pretty good flexibility in terms of when you can work on your assignments and how quickly or slowly you can earn a degree. If you are interested in earning an online degree quickly, or if you need to move forward slowly because of the other demands of your life, find out how long each college will let you take to complete your degree requirements. Be sure to find a university where you are comfortable with your workload and the time to degree. And, you should find a university in which instant messaging, emailing, telephoning, and/or forums give you quick and easy access to faculty members and your fellow students.

Of course, cost is a consideration for most students. Most colleges and universities will inform you of their costs immediately, and costs are easy to compare objectively.

Remember that scholarships and financial aid can greatly impact your actual cost. In some instances, a college with higher tuition will wind up costing less than one with lower published costs.

Be sure that fully understand the financial application process. It is a good idea to start investigating financial aid and scholarship options as early as possible, as some opportunities are time sensitive. Nearly all online colleges and universities will explain the requirements to be met to be eligible for financial aid, and help you navigate through the actual application process.

If you don't choose the right online college for you, you may pay a high price for your mistake, including failing to complete the degree you seek to move your career forward. Similarly, if you do not vigorously investigate your financing options, your path to a degree may be more stressful and more difficult. So, investigate lots of options and do not make a final decision until you feel confident you have the information necessary to make a good one.
About the Author
Dr. Casper Poodel is a contributing editor for a leading educational organization which sponsors websites on subjects including online education and fully accredited accredited online degree programs.
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