How to Pick an Online College

Picking a college can be one of the most stressful decisions in one’s life. Picking an online college can be especially hard/stressful. My first piece of advice in this post: Stay away from for-profit colleges. There are many reasons for me giving this advice. Please read on.

Buyer Beware: Stay Away From For-Profit Schools

For-Profit schools can be very tricky. They make everything seem so easy with their nice web site designs. To their credit, they do offer a variety of programs to meet the vast interests of college students. Quite simply, they do not meet the standards or regular brick & mortar schools. After graduating from Penn State I was looking at a PhD program at Walden University. I emailed a former professor asking his advice on the school. From what he had heard, their PhD program was on the level of a Master’s degree program. Walden’s program could not be taken seriously amongst those in academia and many would question your credentials with a PhD from that university. So, you have a lack of quality, which should be alarming considering how much $$$$ you dish out.

Accreditation. This is another area which should make you skeptical of for-profit schools. A school’s accreditation can have multiple impacts on you. For example, top MBA programs (30%) are accredited by AACSB. AACSB accreditation is considered the gold standard of MBA programs. Walden University and the University of Phoenix offer MBA programs accredited by the ACBSP. This accreditation is considered a step down.

Reason 2: Well Known Schools Offer Online Degrees

Many well known brick & mortar universities offer online undergraduate and graduate programs. I finished the last two years of my Bachelor’s degree online at Penn State’s World Campus (http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/). Currently, I attend the Catholic University of America for my MA in HR Management. You are taught by the same professors on campus students are taught by and follow the same curriculum. Another added bonus: there is no mention of receiving your degree online.

A good resource to use when searching for an online college is US News. Here is the linky: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education . Ahem, as you can see Penn State has the #1 ranked Bachelor’s program in the online arena. You can find information with rankings for specific programs and graduate programs. It really is helpful tool to use and I highly recommend it. You can jot down the schools you are interested in and visit their sites at a later date. Direct links are sometimes included on US News as well.

There can be many online programs in your area and you may not even know it. I definitely suggest doing heavy research on this before making a decision. In my general area, which is Philadelphia, Temple, Drexel, St. Joe’s, Villanova, LaSalle, and Rosemont all offer online programs of some sort. Even Harvard, through their extension school, offers online programs, though you are required to stay on campus for a portion of it. So, they are considered hybrid programs. Here is their linky: http://www.extension.harvard.edu/ .

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