You’ve made the decision; you want to earn an online college degree. But how to begin? Before you can start applying to the online school of your choice, you need to figure out what you want to study. Below you’ll find the who, why, what, where, and how of choosing the right online degree program for you.
You, of course, that’s who. Take some time to consider things that you want out of earning you online college degree. Do you have a degree path in mind? What do you do well when it comes to school? What gave you trouble in school—writing papers, taking notes or showing up to class prepared? All of these are important factors to consider before moving forward with your research about online college degrees.
A good exercise is to sit down and write down answers to the questions above. College is challenging, even when your courses are online, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses before you enroll is key. Take the time to really dig deep and understand yourself before starting the next step of deciding where you want to go to school and what it is you want to study.
This is important: WHY do you want to earn an online college degree? Are you fulfilling a life-long dream or simply following the expectations of your family or friends? Are you hoping for a lucrative career and believe that a degree is the next step down that path? Whatever your reasons, if you are doing it for yourself and the dreams you hold for your life, you are more likely to succeed.
Additionally, it is important to align your program with your career goals. Pursing higher education can be costly and time consuming. In order to ensure that you are able to make a sound return on your investment, it’s good to evaluate your motivations.
You’ve heard, and may have dreaded, the question: what do you want to do with your life? To answer this question, you need to do more self-examination. Let’s start with your interests. What types of things excite you? What types of jobs or careers appeal to you? Don’t feel restricted by the expectations of others—let your hopes and dreams soar when considering these ideas.
Now, let’s look at your abilities. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What kind of skills do you have? Look at the courses you took in high school. What were your best subjects? Is there a pattern there? What kinds of extracurricular activities did you participate in while in high school? What kinds of things did you learn from part-time or summer jobs?
The next step is to examine what you value in work. Do you value helping society? Do you like working under pressure? Are you interested in a specific group affiliation? What about stability, security, status, pacing, working alone or with groups or having a positive impact on other people?
Here comes the reality check when it comes to selecting online college degree programs. You need to honestly evaluate your options. Do you have an interest in being a doctor but have little skill in science? Does your occupation require an advanced degree, but you have no desire to go to graduate school? Do you have a strong interest in the arts, but your family is convinced you will become a lawyer like your father? None of these things should stop you, necessarily, but it is still important to face these obstacles and be realistic about whether you can get around them.
Finally, based on all your research and self-assessment, you should now have a better idea of the careers and majors you are not interested in pursuing, as well as a handful of potential careers and majors that do interest you. You are now ready to begin your research on specific online colleges.
The first step, of course, is to find out the best college for your area of interest, and then find out if they offer an online degree option. Because you are choosing among online college degree programs, without the limitations of geography, you have a much wider range of choices when it comes to selecting a particular school.
Secondly, you should spend some time researching how the online school assists its graduates. Does it offer career counseling? How about job placement assistance? Once you’ve graduated, you’ll need some assistance taking that next step. Check out how your online college will help you.
Last, but not least, is the college you’ve chosen accredited? When selecting an online college degree program, you need to be very careful that you are not falling for a diploma mill or other online scam. Make sure the online university you choose is well-known, established, and has all the proper academic accreditation before paying any fees or submitting an application.
Ah, how may seem like the biggest question. How will I get in? How will I pay for college? How will I manage to work while going to school? Earning an online college degree affords you more flexibility than students who choose to attend campus classes. You can go to school online, part-time or full-time, allowing you to keep your day job if you’d like to.
Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are also available to students interested in online education. The admissions counselors at the online school can often help you navigate the paperwork required and provide college advice on both financial aid and your course load.
For students considering pursing online college degrees, it can be overwhelming. Be sure to break down the process into steps and evaluate all of your options before finally settling on a school or program.