Planning For an Online Degree

Distance Learning Checklist

Consumers who shop for online degrees typically are over the age of 30 and have less than an undergraduate-level degree. Many have partial degrees, but few understand the components necessary to assemble a complete college degree plan. What do you need to know before you apply for a degree program? A checklist that outlines the major components of a college degree search can help enormously with organization. Make a note of websites you’ve visited, scholarships you’ve applied for, and keep to-do items organized.

Demographically, most online learners have been out of school 10 years or more, and many have never gone to college. The idea of ‘online’ seems convenient, affordable, and even easy. But as attractive as distance learning may seem, it’s not for everyone.

Online learners in hot pursuit of a full-blown degree must first be aware of the time commitment. Yes, online degrees are designed to afford the most flexible environments. Online curriculum environments are available 24/7, and there is some freedom to self-pace assignments. But with these advantages in mind, learners must also have a high degree of self-motivation. After the dishes have been done and the kids have been put to bed, it’s typically study time. Can you maintain a busy schedule of work and family, plus add in a couple hours study time each night? Can you do this for possibly two or more years? If so, then online learning will likely suit you.

Choosing an Online Provider and Program

There are a number of online degree providers from which to choose: online universities, traditional colleges/universities, or specialty schools. Carefully weigh your career situation, career and educational goals for the short- and long-term, as well as the type of degree or coursework you wish to pursue. Are you looking for an undergraduate degree, baccalaureate completion program, graduate degree, or postgraduate degree? Or are you filling in career blanks with standalone courses and/or professional certificates? Do you want the prestige associated with an elite school ó as well as the cost ó or are you satisfied with a large online university or a regional provider?

Online degree providers offer varying numbers and types of degrees. Large-scale online universities may have dozens of degrees: certificates, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and even Ph.Ds, and in almost all majors and fields of specialty. Some providers also offer bachelor’s completion programs for those students who have already earned transferrable undergraduate credit.

Requirements for application may include previous undergraduate work, GED or high school diploma, GRE, minimum GPA from previous coursework, prerequisite coursework, transcripts, as well as letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and financial aid information.

Understand Financial Aid

Forms of financial aid may differ depending on the type of degree, course work, and even the online degree provider. Many advisors suggest you automatically complete the FAFSA. In addition, there may be sources for money you don’t have to pay back. Free money may include scholarships, grants, tuition reimbursement plans, and student loan repayment/waiver programs.

Check with your employer or HR department for any available tuition reimbursement programs and ask your college financial aid advisor for information regarding any institutional scholarships for distance learners. Keep close track of deadlines and fill out information completely.

Keep Technology Needs in Mind

Online degrees require students to have at the very least a computer and Internet access. Further technological requirements are dependent on the degree provider, the type of curriculum management system, and type of degree and course work you’ll need to do. Consider your level of computer proficiency. You don’t have to be a computer science guru, but online curriculums require you to possess basic navigational know-how.

Online degrees tend to be less demanding when it comes to preparation and finances than traditional ones, but nevertheless, organization is the key to making sure all your educational goals are met.