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Choosing the Best Online College

Updated on August 28, 2013

The right online college to enroll in is the one that best meets your needs and offers classes in a format you enjoy. Online courses, once thought of as 'diploma mills', now provide legitimate degrees in many subjects. Finding one that matches your unique likes, dislikes and learning style can be challenging, but here are some tips to help you find a great college and earn your degree online.

If you want 'the right college' for a brand-name degree, you are better off finding a bricks and mortar institution that offers distance-learning options, or waiting until you can attain a degree from a major university. In today's job market, unfortunately that's a reality - people do look at the school you attended, especially when you're starting your career. As time goes on, however, experience and credentials outweigh the name brand value of your school.

Education is expensive and takes time. All things considered, pursue a degree from a college YOU enjoy, not one you think will propel your career. Hard work and time will help you advance your career; educational experiences last a lifetime, and provide a basis for knowledge that will service you in good stead no matter where you go in life.

Look for An Accredited Institution

When examining the credentials of online universities, only consider accredited institutions. What is accredidation? Colleges and universities must apply for and earn accredidation status from one of the major bodies across the United States set up to review and affirm the quality of educational programs available at the school. I've included a link at the bottom to an article I wrote explaining more about accreditation, and where you can find each accrediting body. They are organized regionally. As you review each online school, if they claim to be accredited, check the accrediting body against the list in the article. If it is not an organization on the list, it may not be a legitimate accreditor and you should skip the school.

Online Degree Programs at Bricks and Mortar Schools

Schools may be solely online, or degrees may be granted by bricks and mortar institutions with online programs. You have a much better chance of finding an accredited, legitimate program at one of the major colleges or universities offering such a program. Some undergraduate degrees and master's degrees are offered online. State university systems, community colleges, and even some 'big name' colleges offer courses or entire degree programs online. Best of all, credits can usually transfer from the online program to a seat-based, bricks and mortar program when attained through these schools.

Be Sure Your Learning Style is a Match

Online learning is very different from seat-based learning. You gain the flexiblity to take classes from home, but lose the social interaction with your professors and fellow students. You need more self-discipline, since distractions will tug you away from the computer. You'll need to have a strong independent streak and the ability to work on your own.

Other Distance Learning Programs

Other distance learning programs incorporate video and audio taped courses alongside online technology to create unique programs. Auburn University, for example, offered a distance-learning MBA course that included videotapes of actual on campus courses, coupled with emailed assignments and telephone consultations with professors to provide a unique program. Broaden your search terms to include distance learning so that more courses open up for you.


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    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 9 years ago

      I am interested in online paralegal studies. This will be helpful thanks.