7 Steps to Prepare for Online College

Step 1 – Choose an Online College. There are several online colleges out there, so it is important that you do your research.  Once you narrow down your list and have a list of schools in front of you, make sure you check the school’s accreditation, inquire about the teaching staff and their educational background, and read pamphlets about the school’s general policies.

After you’ve read through all this material, re-review your notes and scale down your list even further.  Finally, evaluate the tuition costs and associated fees and decide on a college.

Step 2 – Purchase a Computer. I recommend that you get the best computer that you can afford to make sure that you get some of the basic requirements of Internet access and introductory software.  Your class assignments will be sent out frequently, maybe even on weekends – so you will not be able to borrow another person’s computer for the entire semester.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll be able to just borrow someone else’s computer whenever you get ready.  You’ll likely regret this when you discover that your instructor will not give you extra time to complete assignments because you don’t have access to a computer.

Step 3 – Evaluate Technical Support. Some schools will require you to use their specific software when taking online courses at their school.  If this is the case, make sure the school has a 24/7 technical support center and that the phone number they gave you works!

You should familiarize yourself with the software and get any questions answered before classes start.  Some school’s online platforms can be tricky, but there should be a tutorial available that will walk you through how to use everything correctly.

Step 4 – Libraries, Writing Centers, & Book Stores. Most reputable online schools have free virtual writing centers for their students.  They usually also have an online library that is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.  The school should also have an online bookstore so that you can purchase your textbooks and other required course materials.

Step 5 – Review Class Schedules. Be sure that you fully understand your course schedules.  When does the semester begin and end?  When are holiday breaks?  How long is each class session – 45 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, etc.?

Here are some other questions that you should be asking: How exactly are classes run? What will your grade consist of?  Are online chat discussions required?  What if you are in a different time zone?  How much interaction with the instructor will you have?

Step 6 – Read School Policies. Read the school’s student code of conduct.  Is there anything in this document that you have questions about?  Do you know that school’s terms of payments?  How do you register for your next set of classes?  Who should you contact if you have questions about registration?

Step 7 – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask. Asking questions is the only way you’ll be able to successfully navigate the world of online education.  The policies and practices of each school vary significantly.  It always pays to be informed ahead of time.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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