Applying to Online SchoolsOnce you have your list of your top 3-4 schools you're really interested in, it's time to prepare to apply to them. First you want to gather up all your transcripts. Contact your previous colleges, your high school, and anywhere else you have transcripts. Get all of their contact information. You will need for them to directly send their information to your chosen schools. Normally you cannot send copies yourself. Your colleges will want to receive the information directly from the source to know it is legitimate.
Pretty much every online school has an online application form. Often it is very simple. Sometimes they want you to have transcript details to fill in (like your high school GPA). It's good to have a copy of every transcript in a folder by your desk while you fill these out.
Sometimes the applications are free. At other times they have a fee involved. Make this part of your budget to get your degree. The fees can range from $10 to $50 typically.
Usually with online schools there is no "deadline" to apply. You apply whenever you can, and they start you in the next cycle of classes. That is the beauty of online programs. Always check with the school's website to get the details about the schools you are interested in.
Many schools have an online tracking system where you can see the status of your application. Don't bother to check back daily :) It can easily take a month or more for them to gather up your transcripts and go through the evaluation process. If the school's website doesn't list any information at all about their average time, it's a good idea to check back in a month - via email - and at least make sure they have all the transcripts they need and are ready to start the evaluation process.
Where physical schools often want long essays and other details, online schools seem more interested in basic statistics of how well you've done. They want to make sure you have a chance of graduating and are not going to pull down their "average graduation rate" numbers. You might think that online schools would take anybody willing to pay, but that's not true. If they flunk out half of their students, that creates a HUGE impact on the willingness of others to apply. The school wants to bring in high quality students.
When I applied to Penn State, the sign-up fee was $50 I believe, and then I heard nothing. Their website said it would update when there was a status change, but it just sat in a holding pattern for weeks. I finally wrote in to ask what the average time to decision was and was told it could be 6 weeks. I wrote them at 4 weeks. I heard from them 2 weeks later, saying I was accepted. This was the first time I heard from a "person" - an adviser wrote me an email to offer help.
When I applied to Northeastern University, sign-up was free. I immediately heard from a "buddy" who was there to help me with any questions or concerns. This was great! I wrote her back - and heard nothing. Weeks passed. Eventually a month later I started getting emails about "are you coming to orientation" but I'd never gotten any acceptance letters! I did finally get a paper packet in the mail and things were settled. But do keep in mind that schools can be a bit out of sync between their email system and their paper mail system. It's good to be gently proactive and ask what the status is, in a friendly way.
So now I had acceptances from two schools. It was time to decide.
Choosing an Online School
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