Q&A: How Do I Choose an Online School?

Answer: Universities, community colleges, vocational and technical schools provide thousands of online programs to students all over the world. With so many online schools available, it can be difficult to pin down the right school for you.

Many students know exactly what area of training or career field they are interested in and focus on schools in their area. However, some students aren't sure and are still looking at their options. Either way, reputable schools have a point of contact for student inquiries, such as student services, academic and student counselors, or advisors. Schools are in the business of educating students like you so they are usually more than willing to spend time telling you about their history and programs.

Most students choose schools based on the cost per credit hour or class, programs and certificates available, and length of programs and classes. However, there are important factors to consider. Since some programs are more common, such as education, psychology, engineering and business, you could have several schools to compare. For programs that are less common, you may not have as many choices.

When contacting or researching schools, make sure you have a good understanding of what each school offers. Here are five questions that students can use as a guide when looking at potential (online) schools:

  1. What degrees, programs or certifications are offered?
  2. Is there a difference in the cost charged per program or a standard rate per class or credit hour?
  3. How many classes are in the program (the one you are interested in)?
  4. What steps do I need to register?
  5. What are the options for payment (for example, scholarships, financial aid, private loans and so on)?

Based on the responses to these questions, you should be able to narrow down what schools best fit your budget and career field. As mentioned earlier, there are several options, including universities, community colleges, vocational and technical schools. Therefore, the costs and programs vary. As a future student, your "homework" starts with researching and communicating with schools.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!