Choosing an Online School

When you have your acceptances from the online schools you are interested in, you have to make a decision. Where are you going to invest your time, money, and energy? You want to have a school which supports your dreams and goals. You shouldn't just try to "get a degree". You want to gain skills which will help you move to new heights. You want to have a system which is easy to use, which smoothly helps you learn new skills. You want to have teachers who you can work with easily. You want to have tests you can actually take!

There are of course all sorts of "horror stories" out there, and I can tell a few. I once signed up for an online degree system which required you find a librarian to proctor every "final exam". When I went around to my local libraries, no librarian wanted to proctor for me. I tried to be gentle and pleasant and kind but they were simply overworked and not interested in extra tasks. So I could not pass my courses! I could not take the exams! Make sure you are VERY clear about how the exams will run, and what is required of you. You don't want to pay money for a course and then not be able to finish it.

Another scenario. I know someone who took a course at a cheap online college where the teachers were freelancers. The course was on American History. This teacher had an agenda, and he ruthlessly pushed down anyone who disagreed with his take on certain events. In "brick and mortar" schools this kind of activity would be moderated somewhat. In the online school situation, students could either toe the lie or quit.

You also hit the sitaution with teachers who just aren't quite meant for online situations. Some teachers have material full of typos, miss their own deadlines, don't quite figure out how to send back attachments, and have other problems. The more established your school is, and the more experienced the teachers are, the more likely they are to at least have tech support staff to help them with these sorts of problems.

This is not meant to scare you away. It is just being said to make you aware that problems might exist. Looking at the school's reputation online, and their track record of BEING online should factor into your decision. Is this their very first year of being online? It might be good to wait another year, to let them work out the kinks. You don't want to be their guinea pig.

When I was choosing between Penn State and Northeastern University, a key factor for me was how the courses would run. Both had awesome course material. I loved both sets of courses and actively wanted to take them. However, at Penn state I would have to take six courses all at the same time, for an entire semester. The thought of managing six different courses and taking six sets of final exams all at once we a bit staggering.

In comparison, Northeastern let you choose between four courses at a time for a semester, or two courses at a time for a half semester. So you could take just two subjects and focus on them for a half semester, take the final exams, and be done. Then move on to the next two. If you wanted more time to mull over a topic, you could take four courses at a time, for a full semester, and then finish them off. You could mix things up. All of these alternatives sounded MUCH better to me than manging six courses at a time for a full two semesters.

While online courses typically don't have "meeting times", they do tend to require weekly assignments and forum participation. Look into your schools' requirements and see what works best for your schedule.

After you list the pros and cons for each of the schools you were accepted to, it's time to say YES to one and NO to the rest! Concurrent to this, you probably want to be figuring out your financial aid situation.

Financial Aid

Online Degrees


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