Millions of college students enroll in online courses every year. Nearly a third of all college students take at least one online course, according to the Babson Survey Research Group. But it is not for everyone. If you are considering an online degree program, ask yourself these five questions.
Are you self-motivated?
You need to be a self-starter to succeed in any classroom, but it’s critical for online learning. Online degree seekers are often older than typical freshmen, and classes aren’t always the top priority. “To thrive in an online setting, you will need self-discipline. You will also need a strategy to manage your time and energy to balance classwork with other responsibilities,” experts said.
Do you have the right equipment?
You can take a course online at any time and place — that’s its primary appeal. Yet that does not mean you should be using your smartphone to do it, experts said. You will need a desktop or laptop and regular access to Wi-Fi to complete coursework online. You may need to download software that your school requires as well.
Can you adapt to learning online?
Learning in an online setting may not be the best way for you to absorb information. If you are not a reader, then you probably won’t enjoy online courses, which tend to require a lot of reading. You are unlikely to interact much with your professor or peers in an online course. A solo learning style may not be a fit if you rely on communicating with others.
Is the school you are interested in legitimate?
Programs offered by established, nonprofit public or private schools are usually safe bets. You should research the credentials of schools without a brick-and-mortar counterpart. Start by finding top online colleges from “best of” lists by reputable publications. For an extra layer of quality control, inquire about accreditation, both institutional and program-specific, with the admissions department.
How will you pay?
If you can’t afford to pay for your degree, the financial-aid process is the same as if you were attending a traditional college campus. You will need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Then you will receive a Student Aid Report detailing aid that you qualify for. Schools that are accredited will offer financial aid. Be wary if your school pushes its own loan programs.