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.
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.