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Online College: 5 Things to Know

4 minute read

By Check

When online colleges were in their nascent stages, many people were skeptical about them. Whether they felt these programs were not as strong as their brick-and-mortar counterparts or they did not have the right tools to access online learning platforms, students did not pursue these programs as readily as they do today.

Since online learning has become more popular, you may have a vested interest in enrolling in such a program. Before you do, make sure you keep some important information at the forefront of your mind to ensure that you select the right program.


Even though online colleges have become more popular, you still must look into the school reputation. Some online institutions are known for having poor levels of instruction and for hurting students’ changes of finding jobs upon graduation. Speaking to people who actually attend and attended the school is generally the best way to find out what the programs are actually like. Online reviews are sometimes written for money, and the people who wrote them may have never even taken a class at the school.

Additionally, you must research the school’s reputation in the college world. Choosing accredited schools is of utmost importance. Failure to do so could mean that you are unable to find a job after graduation. Employers may view you in the same way as they do people without college educations at all.

On top of that, you have to find out if the school has a strong reputation in your specific program. For example, if you are interested in teaching, you need to see if the schools available have a reputation for a good education program.


Some people assume that the cost for an online program is different from an in-person one. While that may be the case in some scenarios, the costs are usually the same. Differences may exist if the online program does not require the use of certain classroom materials when the in-person program does, for example. Usually, however, the cost of attendance is calculated by the number of credits that you are taking. Most schools allow 12 to 17 credits for one full-time price. You will pay for each credit, but you will also have to pay fees associated with the university.

On the other hand, you may decide to pursue your education at a part-time level. In these cases, you may need to pay per credit only. Some schools will still have fees associated with the program. Also, you may want to look into scholarships. Don’t assume that the school lacks scholarships for you just because you are attending an online program; you are still entitled to scholarships and financial aid as other students are.

Personal Responsibility

When you are attending college, no matter how you are accessing the program, a high level of personal responsibility is involved. Professors are not going to call home to your parents if you aren’t completing the work or if you haven’t come to class in several weeks. Online programs require an even greater degree of personal responsibility in some ways. When these programs first appeared, students would often meet with one another in a chat room during a designated time of the week.

Now, however, professors often post the assignments for the week and expect that they are completed by a certain date and time. Your professor might post as assignment on Monday and expect that you complete it by Tuesday, which means that you need to check your online platform on a regular basis. You also need to budget your time to complete the assignments, and you have to prevent yourself from surfing the web when you are supposed to be learning.

Residency Requirements

Sometimes, the academic requirements of an online program require that you attend campus for a period of time. The residency requirements are going to vary from school to school and program to program. For example, some programs may require that you live at the school or attend classes on campus for a specific duration of time during the summer each year that you are enrolled. Others will have certain courses that you need to come to campus to take. You may have to go to the school to complete the requirements for labs.

Still other institutions may provide you with some freedom as to when you fulfill these requirements. For example, they may say that you need to take at least nine credits of courses on-campus but that you have the option to fulfill that requirement with whatever classes you want and whenever you want. Finding out this information before you begin the program is important because you may need to make childcare accommodations or other arrangements for the time you will spend away from your home.

Drop the Excuses

You may think that online programs are more lenient and that you can get away with not doing some of your work because you can just blame the issues on a bad internet connection. That is not the case. You are expected to plan in advance and to have a back-up plan. If you have an assignment due on Tuesday at midnight, you should not try to access it for the first time on Tuesday after you eat dinner.

On top of that, professors expect that you have another internet connection that you can use if yours is not working. You may need to go to the local library or find a relative who lives nearby and who will be willing to let you complete schoolwork if needed. If you tell your professors that your computer isn’t working, especially early in the semester, they have no reason to believe that you are not just inventing an excuse to get out of doing your work by the deadline.

Online college offers you a great opportunity to pursue your dream career without sacrificing your current life. Before you enroll in a program, however, you should have a strong idea of what you are signing up for.




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