Sometimes, having to go to a physical location doesn’t work. Trying to balance everything – including the hassles of everyday life – makes finishing school feel like an impossible task. Thankfully, there are online options available when it comes to finishing up classes.
First, it’s important to note there are different ways to create a more flexible schedule to finish up college. For example, going from full-time work to part-time, taking select classes online while finishing the rest at night, or testing out of classes so you can free up more time are all valid ways for you to get your degree. Even so, transferring to an online college might be the best step for you.
Despite us moving toward a more online world, people can be skeptical about joining an online program. The last thing you want to do is go to college, pay money, then find out your degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
One of the best parts of going to finishing up college online is how affordable it can be. For example, I’m currently finishing my last credits at WGU, where tuition is $3,370. On top of that, it allows me to work full-time without as much stress as I had when I was trying to do the same thing at my traditional state college – University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Also, traditional universities are starting to catch on to the power of online schools. Some traditional universities offer degrees online. That being said, you have to watch out.
Do you think a college that is regionally accredited is better than one that is nationally accredited? Normally, going to a regionally accredited college is better in the US. Whatever program your online college offers, please make sure that it is accredited.
At the end of the day, a piece of paper isn’t everything. That being said, it can open doors like not being taken out of the running for an excellent job just because you don’t have one. In addition, where you live and your field play a big role in if you will get hired for your desired job.
For me, I look for the following:
– Do you need a degree to enter or move up in your field?
– Do employers have a neutral, negative, or positive view of this online college?
– What jobs are alumni getting? Is there a strong alumni network?
– What are you planning to do to get employed in your field of choice?
Let’s address my first point. Do you need a degree to enter or move up in your field? Often, you may not need a degree to get started in your field such as marketing or tech. Even so, if you want to work for larger corporations or have more negation power, a degree goes a long way. You can find out by doing informal interviews with people in your field, looking at LinkedIn profiles of people who have the job you want, and doing some research online.
Answering the second question, “Do employers have a neutral, negative, or positive view of this online college?” might be harder. For some people, online colleges don’t count as “real” ones in their minds. There is a misconception that any online college is a diploma mill, which is not the case. At this point, ignore that group; you don’t have the power to change their minds. I recommend seeing what people say about the college when you search it online or mention it in person. Also, look and see if the alumni are getting good job opportunities.
Lastly, a degree is a piece of paper at the end of the day. Your skills and experience are what truly matters. How are you showing employers you can get the job done, and how do you compare to your peers? It’s ok if you don’t have a lot of experience, but online colleges have one huge weakness – networking is almost impossible because you have no to little contact with your classmates. The first thing I would do is try to grab a paid internship as soon as possible. From there, you can network with people in your field by joining a professional organization, going to meet-ups, and taking on side projects related to your field.
In the future, you may need a Master’s degree to get that promotion or job you really want. Since we don’t have a crystal ball, I recommend learning what happens if you want to get a higher-level degree at a traditional university. Ask the university, use the Alumni network to see if former students we’re able to do it, and search online to see if alumni made the transition.
The Right Fit
I can’t stress this enough – find an online college that will work for you. Each has differences that may not work with your personality and leave you feeling drained. For me, taking a mix of online and in-person classes was the perfect way to start my journey, but it left me feeling stressed when I started working full-time. If I would have realized that sooner, I would have had my degree by now.
The hardest part is knowing what you need to succeed as a student. For this, I suggest you find out how your classwork will be graded, how much contact you will have with your professors, and how much classes you can take each semester.