Not every college experience has to occur on campus. In fact, with U.S. News and World Report reporting that 5.3 million people took at least one class online in 2013, it’s safe to say that learning in a digital setting is more popular now than it’s ever been before.
The reason for this surge in the acceptance of the online pursuit of degrees boils down to one key concept: Flexibility. By committing to a collegiate program that operates entirely in an online setting, you can avoid commuting issues, rigid class scheduling, and the excess expense that comes with the traditional on-campus experience. From this perspective, it’s easy to see why this flexible take on the college experience that works around professional and personal responsibilities seamlessly is gaining more traction with each passing semester.
Test Scores and Selectivity
While your SAT and ACT scores aren’t the only factor that plays a role in the admissions process, there’s no denying that these metrics still carry plenty of weight for receiving institutions. From this viewpoint, it makes sense to not only understand what your target schools expect from prospective students, but also how selective these colleges are in general.
It is important to note that selectivity relevant to scoring and other attributes doesn’t always correlate with the quality of the education offered by the institution in question. Most of the time, being a well-rounded student in a variety of areas – and not just standing out with one metric or characteristic – resonates to a greater degree with admissions officers.
Type of School
Are you okay with starting your collegiate experience at a community college? Where does the size of the school and public or private considerations fit into the equation? Answering these questions and pinpointing unique preferences – like wanting to attend a single-sex only institution – before you start the college search helps trim down on undesirable options immediately and expedites the process considerably.
For some students, the allure of staying in-state and close to home or spreading one’s wings and moving to a new region (or even country) is a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to finding the right college. However, thanks to the rise of digital alternatives, online degree programs also factor into the location conversation. To come to a strong decision on this front, you need to honestly weigh the benefits of undertaking your educational pursuits from the comfort of your home against the appeal offered up by the traditional on-campus atmosphere and experience.
When comparing potential college landing spots, it’s always a good idea to review the actual programs of study offered by these institutions before you get too attached to a specific school. After all, there’s nothing that can ruin the excitement that comes with continuing your education more than committing to a college and realizing that none of the majors offered by this institution fit your needs. Browsing through course listings and learning pathways listed by a school also has the potential to uncover more desirable areas of study, thereby shielding you from the frustration, anxiety, and expense that comes with switching majors later on down the road.
Learning Environment and Study Options
Aside from confirming the general availability of a particular program of study, reviewing study abroad opportunities, distance learning options, and even internship prospects guarantees that your decision regarding a chosen major is well-thought-out and accurately reflects your future college experience. As far as class timing is concerned in relation to the learning environment of a school, some institutions even offer weekend- and evening-only classes that better accommodate working professionals and other individuals with taxing non-school schedules.
Searching out a college that accepts previously earned credits is a great way to save time and money during your time on campus. However, this isn’t the only viable way to accelerate your learning experience. By testing out of classes via CLEP, DSST, and other proficiency exams, submitting a personal life experience portfolio, and even leveraging currently held professional certifications, you can bolster your incoming college credits and reduce the time it takes to complete your degree program.
Financial Aid/Paying for College
Paying for college isn’t always the easiest topic to bring up during the planning process. Fortunately, with a savvy approach on your side, there’s no reason why funding your higher education goals has to be a cause for concern. Thanks to federal grants, scholarships, waived fees, and loans, handling tuition is a far more manageable affair than most students expect. If your employer has an assistance program in place, you might even find that this organization is willing to foot some – or all – of the bill as part of a commitment to supporting professional growth and workforce development.
Choosing a school with a great support network in place is crucial to setting yourself up for success once classes start. For on-campus students, this means having access to program-specific tutors and counselors that can help with a variety of personal issues. As for online institutions, adequate support services often come in the form of reliable digital access to professors and other faculty members, as well as an IT help desk that can troubleshoot and solve any problems related to the institution’s chosen online learning platforms and portals.
Figuring out which college is right for your is clearly a complex process; the sheer amount of considerations covered in this post that are worthy of your attention is a testament to this fact. However, with what you’ve learned here leading the way, there’s no reason why your college search can’t end up uncovering the perfect school for your education needs and goals.