5 Questions for Adults to Ask When Deciding Which Online College to Attend

Questions About Online College for Adults

  • Is this school accredited?
  • Does this school have the degree or certificate I want?
  • Does this school accept previously earned credits or give credit by examination?
  • What support services are available?
  • Will this degree prepare me for a graduate degree?

Online colleges and universities are proving to be popular with working adults who find, for one reason or another, that career advancement is contingent on further education. For a man or woman with work or family commitments, an online college is the answer to the dilemma of how to fit class attendance and course work into an already too-busy schedule. Going back to school is a major life-changing decision with significant personal and financial consequences. Anyone considering an online college or university must ask these five questions when deciding which online school to attend.

Is this school accredited?

This is the first and most important question to ask. Non-accredited schools will have third-rate instructors, credits earned will not transfer, and enrollees in non-accredited schools do not qualify for student loans. Fortunately, this one is easy. Every college will include its accreditation information on its ‘About Us’ page. Read the ins and outs of accreditation in this article: Accreditation in the United States.

Does this school have the degree or certificate I want?

Not all degrees and certificates are offered at every online college. You will need to identify which degree or certificate is most appropriate to your profession. If you are unsure about what to study, ask colleagues, your superiors or the Human Resources department for suggestions. Then do an online search for your desired degree and you will find list of the schools that offer it.

Does this school accept previously earned credits or give credit by examination?

You may be able to earn your degree or certificate more quickly if you have college credits from prior attendance or if you know your subject very well. If you have previously taken the basic education courses, e.g., math and English, that are required for every bachelor’s degree, look into transferring these credits and save several credit hours of course work. Alternatively, if you know a particular required subject very well, you may be able to take a standardized test, such as CLEP or DANTES, and test out of a class. Not all colleges give credit for these tests, so look into this carefully if applicable.

What support services are available?

Online classes are not easy. They generally require a great deal of reading, research and writing in addition to the subject-specific course work. Many adults, out of school for many years, need help with writing and basic math. Free support services, such as an online writing center, math lab and library, are a good sign that the school supports its students and wants them to succeed.

Will this degree prepare me for a graduate degree?

A graduate degree may not be in the plans right now, but keep in mind that it may be desirable at some point in the future. Careers in academia, engineering and science, for example, practically require a master’s degree at the very least. Look into whether the school you attend and the degree you receive will pave the way for future study if it becomes desirable. An admissions counselor will be able to help you determine this.

You may discover that finding the best school for your goals requires more homework than you will have to do while actually taking classes. Every moment you spend researching, asking questions and checking requirements will pay off with the right degree completed in the timeliest manner possible. When deciding which online college to attend, ask these 5 questions and keep searching until you find all the answers you need.

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