Are you considering earning a degree via online schools but you are perturbed on how to choose an online school that is legitimate? Then we are here to guide you.
Online schools make it so much easier for some people to earn degrees and land their dream careers.
However, not all high school graduates and working adults are 100% confident with the integrity of the degrees they would get from online colleges, most especially when it’s time for them to apply for jobs.
Attending the right online school is vital if you want nothing but quality education and an accredited and respected college degree.
In this article, we will be talking about 11 factors to consider when choosing an online college. See How to Know If a College is a Diploma Mill.
Here are the 11 Factors to Consider When Choosing an Online College
The best way to see if an online school is reputable is to check out its accreditation status. Many online schools do not have an accreditation status, meaning that they are most likely for-profit institutions or “diploma mills” that are essentially conferring meaningless degrees.
Students should check for the accreditation status of the school they wish to attend, but they must be vigilant: many schools have chosen to try to trick unsuspecting students by misspelling the name of an accreditation agency in order to seem like they are more legitimate than they are.
The accreditation students will want to check for is provided by either the United States Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation; the former has a full list of the schools they accredit on their website.
2. Check With Professional Organizations
Graduate programs and even some undergraduate programs are focused on a single profession. Students who want to become teachers, educators, lawyers or any profession in which a license or certification is required to begin that career will want to check with professional organizations to see which online schools they recommend.
Many online programs will provide a pathway to licensure and certification, but only if they can meet the education and practical experience requirements that are set forth by the professional organizations that deliver those endorsements; the same is true for any profession that requires the government to assess the individual prior to allowing them to practice in the state.
This information will be front and center on an online school’s website; if it’s not, it may mean that the school isn’t reputable.
3. Campus or Office
Some online schools offer hybrid learning, which is a combination of online and in-person classes. It’s because of this that they have campuses.
As a matter of fact, many online schools have multiple campuses across the US. For instance, Strayer University, a for-profit school that offers online and traditional degrees, has a total of 64 campuses.
But then, some online colleges and universities offer programs via the Internet only. Online schools whose classes take place digitally exclusively are not expected to have any campus at all.
Still, they should have physical offices their administrators could use for carrying out their everyday administrative tasks, or their students may visit for an assortment of academic-related reasons. Having no physical headquarters is a red flag.
It’s also of utmost importance for any online school to provide various contact details so that you may be able to get in touch with it in a way that you deem the most convenient and appropriate.
This is why you should be very suspicious if the online school doesn’t have any phone or fax number.
Anyone with a device capable of hooking up to the internet can create an email account. See if Walden University is Respected By Employers.
And this brings us to one telltale sign that an online school is probably fake: its email address doesn’t have its name in the domain name.
If it’s legit, an online school will have the money and technology to come up with an email address bearing its name.
4. Name of the online school
In some instances, taking a look at an online school’s name alone is enough to determine whether or not it’s something you can put your trust in.
Unfortunately, many diploma mills are very good at making themselves sound legitimate and reputable. However, there are times when it’s their names themselves that give them away.
Everyone can agree that Harvard University is one of the most respected and easily recognizable schools.
Stay away from an online school whose name is “Harvard Tech University or “Harvard University”.
Obviously, it’s just trying so hard to make it seem that it’s associated with Harvard University (who doesn’t dream of attending Harvard?) and trick unsuspecting victims into thinking that the degree they can get from it is Harvard University-level.
But because it’s not right to judge a book by its cover, it’s certainly not right, too, to judge a book by its title. This is why you may give the online school a call and ask why the administrators chose that name.
No phone number to dial?
Just as advised earlier, be very suspicious!
Just a quick tip before we proceed to the next one: most reputable online schools in the US have websites that end with “.edu”.
But be careful because, these days, many education-related domain names can be purchased for as cheap as $20 a year, making it trouble-free for diploma mills to get their hands on them.
5. Credit for Experience
Practically anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent (e.g., a GED, TASC or HiSET certificate) can apply to online schools, especially those with open admissions policies.
While many fresh high school graduates consider attending online schools, working adults are usually the ones that many online schools appeal to.
Many working adults who would like to earn degrees via the internet have gone to college before. Some of them attended college for a couple of semesters only, while others have completed their chosen programs.
In any case, many online schools accept credits earned elsewhere. This is especially true if the credits were earned from a regionally accredited school, which is why it’s generally a good idea to apply to a college or university with a regional accreditation, just in case you decide to transfer to another school.
Some of the best online schools also give credits for experience, or credits earned outside the classroom, making earning an online degree so much faster and cheaper, especially among working adults.
To gain credits for experience, you will be asked by the online school to take an exam to prove your knowledge or skill set.
You may also be asked to present a portfolio to document your body of work or provide references from co-workers or people who are familiar with your work or capabilities.
Fake online schools, on the other hand, might give credit for experience simply by looking at your resume.
6. Above Average Rankings
Many students (and parents, too) who are on the hunt for good schools often turn to college and university rankings.
It doesn’t come as a surprise since it allows them to quickly and easily have an idea of where the schools on their list are at when compared to others.
College and university rankings, as the name suggests, are rankings of higher education institutions that have been ranked based on a combination of different factors.
For example, the US News and World Report, which is a US-based media company that publishes rankings of various colleges and universities in the country and reaches over 40 million people a month, used a total of 17 different indicators of academic quality in coming up with its Best College Rankings for 2021.
But before you apply to an online college because it is a high-ranker on a ranking list, there’s one very important matter you need to know about college and university rankings: they are subjective.
That’s because they use different indicators of academic quality when ranking schools. It is as a result of this that an online college may rank high on one ranking list and rank low on another.
7. The Number of Courses and Majors Offered
One of the most important things you need to check before applying to an online college is the availability of the course you would like to take, which is key to reaping the career of your dreams.
Remember to read the course catalog carefully. If it is not available online, do not be too shy to get in touch with the school and request a copy of it.
Checking out the course catalog is of utmost importance. It will let you know about the objectives, goals, level of difficulty, materials needed, time requirements, and many others.
It is not enough that the online school offers the course you want. It’s also important that it is known for that course.
Different online schools are known very well for some of their degrees. It is a great idea to earn the degree you want from a college or university specializing in it to make sure that your future employer will be impressed.
8. Technical and Student Support Availability
Refrain from assuming that you are completely on your own when earning a degree via the web. Many online schools offer student support, just like traditional colleges and universities, albeit facilitated digitally.
No matter if you are technology-challenged or your brain isn’t working like a well-oiled machine all the time, check that the online college you are about to apply to offers support.
You can do this by talking with the admissions counselor of the school or checking out student reviews in cyberspace.
Ensure that both technical and student support is available from the online college.
9. High Graduation Rate
When searching for colleges and universities to apply to, one of the things that many students check out is the acceptance rate.
Schools with high acceptance rates are not selective, which increases the chances of students, including especially those with low GPA and SAT or ACT scores, of getting admitted into them.
Rather than the acceptance rate, it is a much better idea to take a look at the graduation rate.
Put simply, the graduation rate refers to the time in which a student enters a school and then completes a two- or four-year degree. You can use a school’s graduation rate in gauging its quality.
A low graduation rate can speak volumes about an online school. Suppose the number, which is usually expressed in percentage, is simply too low compared to the graduation rates of other schools.
10. Affordable Cost of Attendance
Earning a bachelor’s degree online can cost anywhere from $38,496 to $60,593 in total. So, in other words, it doesn’t come cheap.
In some instances, going to an online college is more expensive than going to a traditional school.
It’s because of this that you should opt for an online college that you can afford.
When comparing different schools, don’t just look at the sticker price, which is what you will find on the websites and brochures of schools. You should also consider the net price, which is the price for tuition and other fees minus aids, grants, and scholarships.
This is why it is necessary to apply to an online school with regional accreditation because they create room for financial aid programs that can help make the cost of getting an online degree easier on the pocket.
While checking the school’s accreditation, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the availability of merit- and need-based scholarships, especially if you are on a budget.
What better way to learn more about an online school than through the words of students who applied to it?
Nothing can give you some kind of a firsthand experience attending a college or university operating in cyberspace more than checking out the feedback of those who earned their degrees from it.
It’s because of this that you should give reading online reviews a try.
Notwithstanding, like looking for an online school you can trust, finding authentic and unbiased online reviews can be challenging.
Some of the reviews posted on the web could be by students who were unhappy with the grades that they received and would like to bring their online schools down with them.
You may also consider taking a look at college and university rankings. However, keep in mind that rankings are just as subjective as online school reviews.
That is because the websites that come up with rankings tend to use different indicators of academic quality. This is why an online school’s ranking may change from one website to the next.
That was all about the 11 factors to consider When choosing an online college, was it helpful to you? If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section.
Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Admin