[an error occurred while processing this directive] 15 Considerations to Choose Online School
1. Accreditation
Accreditation is the process of reviewing a school's programs and policies to see if it meets criteria set by an outside agency. When a school is found to meet the minimum criteria, it is granted accreditation. Not all accreditation is equal. Accreditation from the wrong source (such as an accreditation mill) can be worse than no accreditation at all. Make sure that your online school is accredited by an agency recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These organizations maintain lists of legitimate accreditors.

2. Residency Requirements
A "residency requirement" is a set amount of time a student must spend on campus in order to complete a degree. Many brick-and-mortar colleges mandate residency requirements for their online students. If you enroll in one of these programs, you may have to travel to campus for several weekends or even several semesters in order to earn your degree. Before enrolling in any online program, make sure its residency requirements will meet your needs.

3. Class Schedules
Whether you want to meet deadlines or learn at your own pace, there is an online class schedule to fit your learning style. Before enrolling in any online college, compare class schedules and pacing. Choosing a schedule that fits your needs will help you manage your time and stay on top of your assignments.

4. Admissions Requirements
A successful academic record. Online colleges want to know that accepted applicants will succeed in their classes, without any face-to-face encouragement. High test scores. Whether they require the SAT, ACT, GRE, or LSAT, your online program wants to test your current knowledge and your ability to learn.
Extracurricular and professional activities. Online schools may not offer a vibrant campus life, but they do want students who will make a difference in their own communities. Well-written essays. The application essay is your chance to let your personality show through.Stellar recommendations. Online colleges also want to know how other people see you. That's why many programs require several letters of recommendations.

5. Tuition
Your tuition should be comparable to that of regular universities, perhaps slightly less. Make sure that you won't be overcharged or stuck with mandatory fees.

6. Teachers' Education and Experience
If teachers will be grading your work or leading you in online discussions, it is important that they have the knowledge necessary to do the job. The majority of junior college teachers have at least a M.A degree in the subject they teach, and the majority of university professors have a Ph. D. in their area of expertise. Distance education teachers should have comparable experience.

7. Number of Students Per Teacher
Teachers who are assigned too many students have less time to work with people who need help. Making sure your teachers are not overburdened can help you get the education you deserve.

8. Degree Program
Not every program offers every degree. Before you enroll, make sure that your school offers the degree that you are looking for.

9. Program Period
Some online schools offer students the chance to complete a degree in less time. Some students are even able to finish an entire year early.

10. Pace
While some schools let students complete tasks at their own pace, others require that students participate in virtual class sessions and have specific deadlines for assignments.

11. Curriculum
If you will be required to purchase textbooks, determine what their average cost will be. Books can be expensive, even hundreds of dollars per course. If you are an auditory or kinetic learner (learn best by hearing and doing, rather than by reading alone), finding a school that offers a multimedia element in their curriculum may help you master the material.

12. Tutoring
Some schools provide virtual "office hours" that allow students to communicate with teachers when they have additional questions or are struggling in their work. Others expect students to work independently and do not offer direct assistance.

13. School History
The longer the school has existed, the better. A school isn't automatically credible because it's been around a long time, but having experience is always a plus.

14. School Scale
If you enroll in a new school that has very few students, you can expect to encounter quite a bit of instability.

15. Communication
Having a number to call or an actual location you can go to can be very helpful when you need help or are looking for answers. Most legitimate schools will give you a number you can use to reach them.

published on May 1, 2012
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