Choosing an Online College
Identify Your Needs
Asking yourself a few questions prior to researching different online colleges will help keep you focused on your ultimate career goals. It is important to identify what you want so that you can choose the college that is right for you. Write down your answers to the following questions so that you can reference them throughout your search:
- Do I want to continue education in my current field or obtain a new degree to further my knowledge?
- What qualifications must I meet to be eligible for admission? Are there exams to take as part of the application process?
- Will I need financial assistance to enroll in a degree program?
Explore the Institutions
Before you settle on a particular online institution, be sure to thoroughly examine the school’s requirements and course offerings. Exploring all facets of the organization will not only assist you in narrowing your search, it can also offer valuable insight into degrees that may guide you in selecting a program.
- Is the college accredited or reputable?
- How many students are allowed to be enrolled in each class? Are there class attendance minimums, and if so, will the class be cancelled if the minimum is not met?
- What courses are offered? Is there a variety of classes and times (or lack thereof)? Do these courses support your personal or career goals?
- Does the online college provide opportunities for flexible payments or financial aid or assistance?
Research the Faculty
Another very important aspect of choosing an online college is researching the credentials of the instructors and professors that teach there. Investigating the qualifications of the instructors, as well as examining their teaching and communication styles, can further ensure that an online college will align with your needs and goals. For example, some professors will only be available via an email address provided, while others might provide a phone number so they can be contacted directly.
Contact the Institution
Once you know what you want and have done some investigative work, contact the school through the request forms on this site. Someone from the school will contact you as soon as possible to answer any questions you might have. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time that will help you remember all of the information you need to obtain. Finding out as much information as possible about each institution you are considering is crucial in this process and will help you ultimately choose the best online college for you.
Remember, there are many options for online colleges out there. Equipped with this methodical approach to identifying your personal goals and examining different elements of the institutions that offer online degree programs, you will be well on your way to earning a degree.
The number of distance learning options for students continues to grow, as online universities and state university systems race to enter the online learning education marketplace.
However, it is important for schools to consider those online learning management techniques necessary to create positive, productive environments. This article presents some helpful tips.
Online Learning Education – Course Structures
If there are things distance learners want more than anything else, it’s scheduling flexibility. It’s for this reason that programs need to provide asynchronous course offerings which enable students to log in and take classes whenever they choose.
However, to improve student learning and enhance the online learning environment, it’s essential that asynchronous courses attempt to match the level of interactivity that live courses offer. Below are some of the ways to improve the interactivity of asynchronous courses:
- Provide archived, streaming lectures which were recorded live
- Provide dynamic videos and graphical interfaces as learning materials
- Create dynamic discussion forums which allow students and professors to communicate
While the highest level of interactivity can be achieved with synchronous (live) courses which use web-conferencing technologies and chat applications, programs which demand that students take solely synchronous courses will find that busy, working students can suffer quickly from learning fatigue in such schedules (which leads, of course, to enrollment fatigue).
While synchronous courses can enhance the learning experience, they should be included as supplemental options, and not as the only way to deliver online courses.
Online Learning Education – Instructor Availability
The online learning management of a program should place a high priority on making sure instructors and professors are available to their online students. This means two things:
- Faculty schedules must be coordinated to allow instructors the time and energy needed to keep up with personalized discussions and queries from online students;
- Online institutions must place strict rules on the maximum amount of time an instructor can go without responding to a student’s request.
Many universities provide online office hours, allowing students to contact professors via chat, email, or telephone. Such a strategy can enhance the overall online learning environment and promote student success.
Online Learning Education – Accreditation
Online learning has unfairly received a popular reputation for being less rigorous or valuable (due to unregulated diploma mills). In truth, according to the U.S. Department of Education, online students from accredited, quality schools often do better on learning outcomes than on-campus students.
To promote the quality of a program and the value of the degrees being offered, online programs should seek accreditation from both professional accrediting organizations in appropriate fields as well as from national accrediting organizations.
Online Learning Education – Academic Support
The online learning management team of an educational system should place a priority on student support services, such as academic advising, mentoring, tutorial services, financial aid help, and technical support.
While distance learners crave the flexibility online degree programs offer, they also can feel alone at times, particularly during moments when educational struggles arise. To enhance the overall online learning environment for students, and to obviously increase their learning potential, online schools should implement strong student support services that match what on-campus institutions offer.
Benefits of Good Online Learning Management
By providing students with valuable degrees, flexible schedules, available instructors, and strong student support services, online colleges and universities can produce online learning environments which create positive communities and provide for quality student learning opportunities.
Every year, high school seniors searching for the best value for their education. This year is especially crucial because the US economy continues its downward spiral. Parents are bogged down by burdensome mortgages and other financial responsibilities. Paying for school seems impossible.
Robert Franek, the VP/ Publisher of The Princeton Review (TPR), says, “The cost of college at most institutions is sobering, and the need for financial aid greater than ever in these tough economic times. But we encourage applicants never to cross a school off their list because of its sticker price, and always to get information about the schools’ financial aid offerings, and their award prospects which can be truly compelling.”
Best Schools Financial Aid, Princeton Review Rankings
TPR makes the search simple by doing the work for prospective students and their parents. TPR surveyed administrators and students receiving financial aid from 623 universities from 2016 to 2017. According to TPR’s website, the criteria is as follows:
“School data included the percentage of their students determined to have need who received aid, the percentage of need met, and the percentage of students whose aid was fully met. The rating also factored in data from The Princeton Review‘s surveys of students attending the schools about their satisfaction with their aid awards.”
For prospective students and their parents, these rankings can strongly influence decisions on where to apply.
All of the schools on this list received the highest score of 99. Upon collecting data and analyzing the surveys, TPR gives each institution a rating between 60 to 99. 99 is the best score possible. In the following alphabetical list, all 13 schools received a 99 rating:
- American Jewish University
- California Institute of Technology
- Claremont McKenna
- Lake Forest
- Thomas Aquinas
- Washington Univ. in St. Louis
Every year The Princeton Review announces the Financial Aid Honor Roll to help students and their parents narrow their search for the schools that give the best financial aid packages. It can be hard to receive money for school, but with the help of this list, students and parents can be led down the right path for their educational funding.
Your scholarship essay is your one shot at winning over the selection committee and, in turn, winning some cash for college. Remember that you want to stand out as the unique candidate in a sea of applicants. Here are some tips to make sure that you’ve covered all your bases.
- Check your spelling and grammar. There is no room for mistakes here.
- Use a thesaurus. While you don’t want to get too exotic with your word choices, you should look for different adjectives and verbs to give your essay a variety.
- Be positive. No one likes a wet blanket! Keep the spirit of your essay focused on good.
- Back up your ideas with examples.
- Read the essay requirements and make sure you have met all formatting guidelines.
- Get help from a writing workshop or writing center. Check with your high school or a local university for writing assistance.
- Type the essay and have an educated, trustworthy person proofread it.
- Print the essay on a high-quality writing paper and submit in a typed or neatly labeled package—good presentation is important.
- Refrain from listing all of your awards, accomplishments, and activities. Incorporate these into your stories and concrete examples that will back up your main points.
- Don’t grow a sense of humor in your writing. While you might be a funny person, trying to be funny in an essay can often miss the mark. Play it safe and stick to what works.
- Be yourself. Try not to inflate your stories and accomplishments because you think it will impress the committee. If you’ve met the eligibility requirements for the scholarship, your great qualifications should shine through without embellishment.
Grants are amounts of money awarded to an individual or group in order to finance an activity. Grants are sponsored by federal agencies or other organizations and usually do not have to be repaid. Most student aid grants are need-based, meaning that you must meet a financial need to be eligible for them. By completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), your financial aid office can determine if you are eligible for a federal grant. Some types of federal grants include:
Federal Pell Grant
When you complete the FAFSA, you are immediately notified of Pell Grant eligibility. Eligibility is determined using the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) on the SAR (Student Aid Report), which is created when your FAFSA is processed. If you are eligible for a Pell Grant, then you automatically receive the grant and may also be eligible for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). The amount awarded is based on your school’s cost of attendance and your student enrollment status.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is also need-based. Pell Grant recipients are given priority for this grant. You must be an undergraduate student to receive this grant, and priority is given to full-time students.
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG)
The Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) provides up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of study to full-time students who have Pell Grant eligibility.
National SMART Grant
The Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant Program awards up to $4,000 for third and fourth year of study to students who are Pell Grant eligible and are majoring in physical science, life science, computer science, mathematics, technology, engineering, or in a foreign language that is critical to national security.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
Provides grants up to $4,000 per year for students, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program aids its recipients the plan of soon-to-be teachers in a public or private elementary or secondary school with students coming from poor families with very low income.