Selecting an Online SchoolIt used to be that online and distance schools were completely separate from traditional brick and mortar schools. If you wanted to get a degree from home, you had to search around to find a school which fit those parameters.
Now many top schools like Harvard, MIT, Yale, and others offer online courses and degrees. Your question no longer is how to find a program that you want to take. Your question now is WHICH of the hundreds of online programs best fits your needs. This is of course fantastic for the student. It means the range of teachers and skills available are mind boggling.
So first, figure out what it is you really want to learn. After all, you are paying money for these courses. Don't just "get a degree". Build a skill set which will help you through life. Do you want to learn financial skills? Do you want to learn how to write well and become a published author? Is it politics which draws you in? Go through goal setting exercises and get the help of your family and friends. Figure out what would make you most happy in life. Don't say money. Money is a quick-fix drug which cannot sustain you long term. Countless people would tell you that they'd rather make less money and be more happy with what they do. Find something you ADORE.
Once you have that goal in mind, seek out schools which fit your goal, and which are accredited. Don't worry about the finances yet - we'll hit that next. You'd be amazed at how many grants and scholarships are out there. For now, make your dream list. Choose the schools whose programs will teach you great skills. Focus on the skills, not the degree. Focus on schools which have courses you are eager to take.
In my example, I run several large websites and serve as mentor to hundreds of people. I actively wanted to do a better job at mentoring those people. My desired skills were in communication, leadership, healthy management, and mentoring. I found awesome programs both at Penn State and Northeastern specifically on these skills. The courses were amazing. They made me want to start taking them immediately, to learn what they taught. I could see immediately how the coursework would help me in every day work. The courses you take should make you feel the same way - excited, enthusiastic.
Make sure these schools are fully accredited. This can be tricky. There are a lot of scam sites out there. If you find a real brick and mortar school - say UCONN - it's fairly clear that they are a real school. But how about a school that is just a website? Start with the US government's search site - http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/ and go from there.
There's a lot of discussion about going with the cheap / easy school vs going with the challenging / expensive school. There are all points of view on this. If you are going with a basic program that teaches you straightforward skills, like accounting and budget balancing, then you might do just as well with a U of Phoenix degree (cheap) as with a Yale degree (expensive). If you aren't intending to try for a Wall Street job, that Yale name and level of education might not help at all.
On the other hand, I deliberately chose Northeastern and Penn State because they were the top rated programs in the US online. I certainly could have chosen cheaper alternatives. But for me, I wanted someone high end to help me get to the next level. I've already read hundreds of business books over the years. I've attended countless seminars and networking events. I've been running BellaOnline for 10 years. The help I need is not basic help. I need someone who has a lot of experience, and I'm hoping to end up with students who have that same high calibre of intention. I want the coursework to be the best it can be, the teachers to be the best they can be, and I want to challenge myself to the very highest level to get an A. To me, that is what I want this experience to be about.
I don't want to slide by with basketweaving courses, I don't want to "get free credits" for life experience. I am here to sweat, and learn, and get the very best education I can. It is very important to me that I do my very best to help my editors and visitors.
After you select a few schools, it's time to start Applying to Online Schools.
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