How To Choose An Online College

Online colleges is one of the fastest growing industries on the internet.  Given the current state of the economy, a lot of students are forced to get a full-time job after high school in order to help bring some additional income into the household.  As such, a lot of students are choosing to attend college online as opposed to attending a traditional college because of the flexibility that online programs offer.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the things that you should be looking for when choosing an online college.


It’s important to remember that not all online colleges are accredited.  The very first thing you should look for when researching online colleges is their accreditation status.  Is the school accredited by reputable organizations or by the industry at large?  The validity of your degree will depend on the school’s standing and reputation.

Here are some initial questions that you should be asking yourself:

  • How long has the school been in existence? (experience is always a plus)
  • How many students are enrolled?
  • How many students have graduated?


Given the rising cost of a college education, tuition is definitely something that you want to consider during your search for an online college.  The cost to attend an online college should be slightly less than that of a traditional university.  When requesting tuition related information, pay attention to overcharged mandatory fees, hidden costs, and other inappropriate fees.

Also, research the various programs of study and courses.  Determine if there is a requirement for books.  If so, check out the cost of the books first.  Some online colleges will use their own course material, as opposed to a traditional textbook.  These lessons can come in the form of videos, PowerPoint slides, electronic workbooks, etc.


It’s also a good idea to research the school’s teaching staff.  Do they have the same level of experience and competence as those of traditional university professors?  Here is one way for you to measure this…Junior college teachers typically hold a Masters degree is the subject area that they teach, whereas professors at traditional 4-year colleges and universities typically hold a Ph.D. degree in their related subject area.  Online instructors should be comparably competent.

Also, you might want to pay attention to the total number of students that can be enrolled in each class.  Teachers that have many students will have less time available to assist each one.  Depending on how much one-on-one time you think you’ll need, this may or may not be important to you.

Computer Requirements

Since you will be taking your courses online, you will want to make sure your desktop or laptop computer is up to par.  Before enrolling in any online course, you should determine what computer hardware and software will be used in the lessons.  This may require you to make some necessary upgrades to your computer.  If your computer is out-dated, it may not work well, or not work at all.

Degrees Offered

When selecting an online college, you definitely want to look into the type of degrees offered.  The type of degree that you desire may not be offered at every online college.  It is important that you research this before you begin the application process.

The next question that you should be asking yourself is: how long will it take me to complete this degree program?  Some schools may allow you to obtain specific degrees in less time than others.  Other schools may allow you to complete degrees at your own pace, giving you the flexibility to speed up or slow down the process.

Methods of communication and professor accessibility also vary at each online college.  There are some schools that will require you participate in virtual classes at a specific time and have specific deadlines for course assignments.  While at others schools, the course work and lectures will be provided to you in advance and the student is responsible for completing it by a certain time.

Some schools allow students to communicate with their professors about their lessons, whereas others may not offer this type of one-on-one assistance and require the student to work out things on their own.  All of these little nuances will depend on each online college.

The most important thing to keep in mind about online colleges versus traditional colleges is that the student is most often responsible for taking the initiative and staying on track.  If you feel that you have the discipline to stay on top of your course work and desire the flexibility that you just can’t get at a traditional college or university, then an online college may be the right fit for you.

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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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