Read these 8 Choosing an Online Bachelor Degree Program Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Bachelor Degree tips and hundreds of other topics.
Perhaps you have been contemplating taking an accredited online course but don't know where to find one or maybe you are already a student and just searching for a more convenient way to take a required course or work around a scheduling conflict. Here is the information you need to find the class or program you want:
Selecting an online university is not a simple decision. Each student should carefully evaluate his own preference and research highly rated schools before creating a list of potential schools. Once this list is established, you might wonder what to look for in an online university. Create a list of variables such as reputation, size, location and cost. This can help the student determine which online university is the best choice for him. Creating a spreadsheet can help the student to easily see how the schools compare to each other and to his preferences.
By now most people have heard of the convenience and flexibility provided by an online or distance education format, yet fears surrounding the quality and reputation of obtaining an accredited degree online remain a concern. The fact is many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation now offer accredited degree programs that are indistinguishable from the more traditional degree program. In fact, some online degree programs like Penn State provide transcripts and diplomas that look exactly the same as any other Penn State student's transcript or diploma.
There are two main criteria any prospective student will want to consider when choosing an online university: accreditation and reputation. Accreditation is important in determining if a course or program of study will be recognized by other colleges and institutions of higher learning. This is particularly important if you are exploring a bachelor degree program with the potential of graduate school in your future.
Not every online university degree program is equal. Some are relative newcomers to the educational arena and are known by name as solely online programs. Other online offerings like Penn State are indistinguishable from the main accredited university program. Essentially when you obtain a degree from Penn State, whether in person or through the accredited online degree program, you are granted a diploma with the full reputation and prestige of an established and reputable college with over one hundred years of history. Find out in advance if your diploma or transcript will differentiate your degree from others.
If you have been considering taking an online course or even completing a bachelor degree program via distance learning then you already know how convenient and practical an online university degree program can be. Choosing an online university isn't the same as choosing a new pair of shoes; choosing the right college can launch your future while choosing the wrong college may result in the loss of time and money! Here is what you need to know to find the perfect fit when choosing an online university.
First, make sure you are dealing with an accredited university or college particularly if you plan to continue your education or transfer credits in the future. The accreditation process ensures the college or university meets acceptable levels of quality. To view a list of accredited online universities visit the United States Department of Education database.
Next, you will want to determine if the degree program you are interested in is available. Remember, it is possible to be accepted to a college or university without being accepted to your specific field of study: Particularly if the program is subject to selective admission or is in a highly competitive field. In that case, you may still be required to apply and be accepted into a specific degree program within that college or university. When choosing a college major within an accredited university degree program be sure to ask if you will be accepted into both the college or university and the degree program of your choice.
Finally, choosing a college is a highly personal decision whether online or in a traditional format. Each college or university has a different look and feel: some accredited degree programs pride themselves on a highly progressive platform whereas others attempt to provide a more traditional format albeit via technology integration. It's important to find the one which reflects your personal level of comfort. Spend time reviewing what each college offers and compare the pro's and con's related to your own preferences. Before signing up request a program outline copies of individual course outlines or syllabi from instructors: most are happy to oblige prospective students.
Obtaining an accredited degree online has become easier than ever as literally thousands of colleges and universities offer a wide selection of courses and programs to choose from. However, before choosing an online university or degree program there are a few things each prospective student should consider about their own situation.
First, do you have a computer you can depend on and is your Internet Service Provider reliable? When taking an online university degree program you will typically be required to sign in on a regular basis and participate in online discussion forums in addition to submitting work through a technology platform. Computer problems can quickly cause you to fall behind and negatively impact your grade. Before enrolling into any accredited degree programs request a copy of the suggested computer and technology requirements. Most accredited online degrees will gladly provide a list of compatible computer and software requirements suggested for the program. In fact, if you need to upgrade your computer or software to meet the minimum requirements, be sure to request information about student discounts which are frequently made available to students enrolled at an accredited university.
Next, are you self motivated and disciplined? If you have a tendency towards procrastination then online learning may be challenging for you. It's important to realize that although convenient and often more flexible than traditional courses, online programs still require substantial investments of time and energy. It's highly recommended that a person who is new to the distance learning format begin slowly by taking only one or two courses to begin.
Finally, are you comfortable communicating online and using a variety of software programs? When selecting a graduate or bachelor degree program request information about training if you are not certain. A large number of schools will provide orientation courses for new student for free. It's a great way to become familiar with the technology and structure of an online course or program!
Although it is possible to use life experience toward fulfilling the requirements of obtaining a bachelors degree, it is not common. Most colleges or universities only accept specific types of professional experience for credit toward fulfilling degree requirements—a process called Credit by Portfolio Evaluation, which is typically restricted to students with particular types of formal professional training such as nurses or police officers.
Occasionally, other types of professional training may be considered on a case-by-case basis, but life experience rarely results in credit conferral.
Many less reputable programs claim to confer a degree based largely on prior skills or portfolio credit so be cautious when seeking to use life experience to obtain a bachelors degree. It may be possible but it's rarely easy and very unlikely to result in the majority of coursework toward an online degree. In fact, most colleges and universities require a minimum number of course hours to be taken through the university in order to confer a diploma on a student. Any claims to the contrary should be regarded with caution.
If you have extensive experience in a given skill or subject area then one way to gain valuable credit, time and money savings is to “test out” of certain core subjects. For instance, if your program requires a foreign language and you happen to be fluent in another language then it is often possible to sit for an examination that demonstrates your mastery of the subject. However, it's important to note this will rarely result in allowing you to take fewer credit hours for the completion of your degree!
Another option that may be available if you desire credit for real life experience is an Independent or Supervised Study course. These are typically less structured and require advance approval but are flexible in providing credit toward “real life” experience. Because this will require advance planning and a sponsoring faculty member who agrees to supervise your progress; plan to present a clear goal and rationale when requesting an Independent study program. It is a great way to enhance your hands-on training while obtaining course credits toward your college degree!
If you are considering returning to college to pursue an online university degree program you're probably also looking for ways to fund it. College tuition is an investment in terms of both time and money. Fortunately, there are many options available when it comes to financing or paying for an online degree.
If you are employed then one of the first places to begin is the HR department of your company. If you are fortunate enough to have tuition reimbursement then find out what is covered and the requirements for reimbursement. Many employers will pay for or reimburse tuition, books and even supplies required to continue your education particularly if the college is accredited and the degree is related to your job.
Standard sources of federal, state and local online bachelors degree financial aid as well as scholarships, grants and loans are all available to students of most accredited colleges and universities. Contact the office of financial aid for the college or university program to request application forms.
Finally, for those who are self-funding or “paying out of pocket” for their education, deferred or installment payment plans are often available. Be sure to inquire with the financial director and fill out the forms in advance.
Online education is flexible, convenient and a great investment. Today more than ever it is possible to obtain a prestigious university degree from top ranked colleges and universities like Penn State, University of Florida or even Harvard without leaving your home. In fact, many programs provide transcripts and diplomas that are indistinguishable from those earned in the traditional format. But all colleges are not equal and much of the difference hinges upon the support and services provided.
It is important to determine the extent of support and services you can expect. What is available and how can you access it?
A reputable online university degree program like that of Penn State's World Campus provides a variety of technical assistance programs ranging from Academic Advisement to Technical Assistance and career placement. An online degree program should not be an inferior degree in any way shape or form. If the program you are interested in doesn't provide the same level of services as found on a traditional campus then you should keep searching for a program that supplies all of your needs.
At a minimum here is what you should expect:
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|