It is a great idea to obtain a high school diploma, bachelor’s or master’s degree through online learning programs. Compared to brick-and-mortar high schools or colleges, online schools can give you more flexibility and allow you to learn on your own pace from the comfort of your office or home.
Today, there are really a lot of online schools offering a variety of degree programs for online learners to choose from. It’s important to do some researches to select an accredited online school that can provide you with high quality education and an acceptable degree.
Well, no one can pick a high school or college for you. But fortunately, we can tell you what you need to know before enrolling in an online school to make sure that you will receive quality education and earn the degree you always desire.
I. Is the School Accredited?
You know, only accredited online schools will allow you to earn high school or college credits through taking online courses. Besides, they can ensure you the quality of education and an enjoyable learning experience.
Check the website of an online school carefully to see if it’s accredited and what type of accreditation it has. Take note of the agency which accreditted this school and then try to find its name among the regional or national accredited agencies listed on the official site of the U.S. Department of Education.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also maintains a list of accepted accreditation organizations. Plus, it publishes a few known accrediting scams. You’re recommended to check its official site to see whether your school’s accrediting agency is on the scam list.
According to the U.S. Secretary of Education, some of the national accreditation agencies include: North Central Association (NCA), New York State Board of Regents, Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
For lots of families, high school and college education can be one of the largest investments. To avoid wasting your money and energy on a worthless degree, you have to make sure the school is accredited by a renowned agency before submitting your application form.
II. What are enrollment, attendance and graduation requirements?
Normally, every accredited school has certain attendance and graduation requirements. Also, not everyone will be eligible for their online learning programs. It’s advisable for you to go through all the requirements before enrolling.
Check your eligibility to make sure you will be accepted by the school, and then take a look at the attendance requirements to see how many courses you need to take every day or week.
Schools might also require you to take part in activities or discussions regularly. For instance, California Pacific Charter Schools (CALPAC) – an accredited tuition-free online high school – asks students to attend at least two Live Sessions per course per month and complete their homework on a weekly basis to ensure successful graduation.
And GSVA, which is also an online high school, requires each student to log into their classes every school day and be in attendance a minimum of 25 hours every week. To earn a Master Degree in Education from Wilson College through online program, you also need to complete 10 course credits, which include a Master’s Project. In addition, the school requires you to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
III. Does the school offer financial aid?
Once you’ve chosen an accredited online high school or college and make sure that you can meet its enrollment and attendance requirements, you can submit an online application. While you are waiting for your application to get approved, you can contact the school to see whether there is any financial assistance available for you.
For those expecting to obtain a high school diploma, tuition-free or no-cost online high schools can be great choices. They are often funded by state government and won’t charge any fee. The best part is that all the study materials will be delivered to your doorstep free of charge.
College education is always expensive, no matter whether you take courses online or offline. So, before enrolling, be sure to contact your school to figure out if you qualify for scholarship, grants, loans or other forms of financial assistance.
IV. How about student service and faculty?
Faculty and student service are also important factors you have to take into consideration. Try to find more information about teachers and professors on your school’s website to see whether they have experience in teaching online, how many classes your instructor will give every week or month, and how you can contact her/him, by e-mail, fax or phone, etc.
Besides, contact the school to figure out what kind of service it has to offer. Will you get access to the library? Does the school arrange field trips, online discussions or other activities for students to enhance learning experience?
More importantly, ask your school to see what kind of career services the school can provide to students. If possible, contact recent graduates from the school to know the percentage of graduates who find jobs in their fields of study. Also, you can try contacting your school or instructor to see if the school will offer technical support or learning document delivery service.
V. How much will it cost for you to graduate successfully with your degree?
Education expense is also a factor worth your attention. The highest tuition and fees does not always mean the highest quality education. It’s important to select an online degree program that you can afford.
For high school students, it’s necessary to figure out whether the school is totally tuition-free. Will there be any additional fees? And if you are considering enrolling in an online private high school, estimate how much tuition and fees you will be charged in total.
Most online colleges and universities will list out how much they will charge as tuition and what kind of extra fees will be involved. Since 2011, colleges and universities in most states are required to provide a Net Price Calculator on their websites for students to figure out how much they have to spend in total to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Take advantage of the calculator and you can estimate the cost easily and quickly.
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