Searching for an online school can seem overwhelming.
Looking through dozens of options requires time and energy. Before spending a year or more completing a rigorous online education, cover your bases. Focus on the factors that are most important to you.
Current and past online students once went through this same research process, and you can learn from them. Here are three things to avoid when researching online degrees.
1. Limiting your search to only local options: Picking an online program close to homeprovides students with access to on-campus resources and a sense of familiarity. But before doing so, be clear about your reasons. Does the school really suit your professional and personal goals? Or does it just happen to be in your county?
When I chose an in-state school, I did so for the online program, not its physical location. I was looking for a military-friendly online MBA from an institution with a good reputation nationwide.
[Discover why to visit campus when choosing an online program.]
Though many students do visit campuses even in online programs, don’t limit yourself in your search. With today’s technology, you can choose a school that is hundreds or thousands of miles away but fits your needs perfectly. Look for an organic match. There is nothing wrong with choosing a local school, but make that decision consciously.
2. Considering only one or two different programs: Looking for a school in itself is a huge task. There are hundreds of options and you may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities.
I reviewed a dozen schools but contacted only three. I am very happy with the choice I made, but I would advise my past self and others to not rush into the final verdict.
Be strategic, identify a reasonable number of schools and compare programs. Don’t settle for just one or two. Twenty-three percent of current and past online college students said they wished they had contacted more schools during their selection process, according to a 2017 survey by Aslanian Market Research and the Learning House. So you want to make sure you get the best deal for your time and resources.
By looking through several options, you can actually get a better feel for what exactly you want in your education and why some schools may not fit your needs, and vice versa.
[Explore why many online students now decide between multiple programs.]
3. Speeding through the process: If you don’t want to regret your decision, don’t get blindsided by a single factor like finances or reputation. Consider things that matter to you and your personal learning style.
Research faculty, possible scheduling options, classes, required weekly workload and self-paced versus live learning requirements. Sixty percent of current and past online students would change some part of their search for an online program if they had to do it over again, according to the survey. You don’t want to find yourself in that group.
The takeaway: Schools in your home state may seem like a good fit, but don’t be afraid to explore further if an online course offers a better fit for your specific needs.