Here are the questions you need to ask so
you can experience the freedom and affordability that the best online schools have to offer.
Online schools are becoming more and more mainstream as people are discovering the convenience,
flexibility, affordability and quality that an online education can provide for both first time students as well as those looking to return to finish what they started.
As with any educational program though, not all schools are created equal and it is quite likely that some are a better fit for you and your learning style than others.
As online schooling becomes more widely accepted by both the general public and employers alike, it is important to be able to identify those schools that are going to help you accomplish both your short and long term goals, both while you are in school and after you have graduated.
Below are a handful of considerations for you to keep in mind when looking at online degree programs. Many, if not all of the answers to these questions should be readily available on the school’s website. However, if this is not the case, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call them directly to get the answers you need. You can tell a lot about a school by just speaking with someone over the phone.
Here’s the list...
- Is your school accredited?:
Schools that are not accredited generally try to sweep this fact under the rug and hope that you will not ask this question. School accrediting agencies and governing bodies are overseen by the Department of Education. This means they have to adhere to strict standards set by the United States government that others do not. It is important to note that most employers look for and prefer education and training from accredited institutions of higher learning. You can greatly improve your odds of being viewed as a serious candidate for employment if your credential comes from an accredited college or university.
- What resources do you offer your students?:
Attending a school that offers you the resources you need to succeed is extremely important. This includes both for academic assistance as well as career and employment resources as well. With a competitive job market, every little bit helps. Your school of choice should be able to provide you with a list of resources that will be there for you if/when you need them as well as the employers that the school partners with.
- What level of technical support do you offer?:
Online schools thrive on technology so you need to make sure that the school you choose has your back when it comes to tech support. Look for schools that offer reliable 24/7 support and have a variety of contact methods for you to contact them should the need arise. If you are working on a project late at night and you run into a technical issue, the last thing you want to do is have to wait longer than necessary to get the help you need. Look for features on your school of choice’s website such as 24/7 phone support, email support ticketing service, and responsive live chat representatives.
- How much is this really going to cost me?:
Tuition costs vary, so be sure to ask about any grants, scholarships and tuition matching for select funding sources. Some schools are able to match what you are able to bring such as Pell grants, GI BILL or corporate reimbursement. So it is important to ask around and weigh your options before committing to a particular school. If you have significant financial need, look for schools that will work with you to help reduce the financial burden that tuition payments can cause. Also, get an “all-in” cost of what a school will be charging. Also, be sure to ask about any “hidden fees” that are added onto your tuition bill as these add up quickly and are often a surprise when it comes time to pay. Better yet, look for a school that has no hidden fees and a transparent approach to tuition and fees.
- What do your class participation requirements, instructor feedback and overall time commitments look like?:
Online schools each handle class participation, time commitments, and feedback in their own unique way. If instructor feedback is important to you, look for a school that has designated office hours, real-time class discussion and a small student to teacher ratio. Also, if you have an already demanding schedule outside of school, look for a curriculum that offers the flexibility you need to make it work, including night classes.
- What will my class schedule look like?:
Many college and university programs are fully attainable online, however, some may require on campus attendance depending on the course curriculum and how the school operates. Some allow full-time attendance where you can finish faster while others encourage part-time attendance due to the workload that many working adults face. This can impact your overall workload as well as anticipated completion date. Also, find out how many hours you are expected to be in class per week, study requirements, etc. Some are certainly more flexible than others to accommodate working adults with busy schedules.
- What courses will I need to take?:
Some schools require more general elective courses than others which can add up in both time and money in a hurry. Look for a school that requires only the courses that are relevant to your career goals and is willing to take the time to discuss them thoroughly to get you into the program that is the best fit for you. Be wary of anyone who tries to talk you into a program that you are not 100% comfortable with.
- Are there examples of satisfied students I can see/read?:
It is pretty easy to learn a lot about a school by searching for student reviews on the internet. Over time things can change, so pay particular attention to the most recent reviews. Be wary of schools that do not publicly display their student satisfaction in the form of written testimonials and video reviews. Ask to speak with a former student to get firsthand feedback on what they loved and disliked about their experience.
- Do your instructors also work in the field they teach?:
There is an old saying “those that can’t do, teach.” While we don’t fully agree with this statement, we do think it is most beneficial to learn from those that have real world experience. Look for schools that teach based on seasoned experience in the field and not just theory-based curriculum.
- Do you offer student financial aid? Can I graduate without student loans?:
As you know, financial aid comes in many forms. There are government subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, private loans, university loans, federal pell grants, university grants and scholarships, tuition reimbursement… The list goes on and on, but not all are created equal. The important thing to keep in mind is, there are schools out there that offer a quality education at an affordable price. In most cases, it is no longer necessary to take on piles of student loan debt in order to get a marketable credential that can position you well in your desired career. Look for schools that encourage “zero debt education.”
So there you have it. Ten great questions to ask your school(s) of choice to weed out the problem schools from those that will give you the best chance at long term success.
In case you were wondering, we encourage you to ask us these questions, too. We don’t have anything to hide and are glad to discuss how you can be confident in your decision to continue your education, 100% online and with zero student loan debt, at ABTU.
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