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Choosing the School for You

16 Tough Questions to Ask Before Signing Up

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Before you enroll in online classes, take a few minutes to interview the school of your choice. Asking your questions upfront can ensure that the school is a perfect match for you. Once you’ve asked the following questions, as well as a few of your own, you’ll have a pretty good idea about whether or not you want to enroll.
    1. Is this school accredited? By whom? Make sure that your school is accredited by the correct regional association. If it is not properly accredited, your degree may be rejected by the majority of employers.

    2. When will it be reviewed for accreditation? If your school is not accredited, it may be in the process of scheduling a review. Check to see if accreditation is in its future.

    3. How much is tuition? Are there any additional fees or hidden costs? 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.

    4. What education and experience do your teachers have? 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.

    5. How many students does each teacher work with? 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.

    6. What hardware is required? Most online classes require that students have access to a computer that is has the ability to run up-to-date multimedia and word processing programs. If your computer is too old, it may not work with your online program.

    7. Will I need to purchase any additional software? A lot of online programs provide all the materials you need directly from their site. A few request that their students buy supplemental software on their own.

    8. What degrees are offered? Not every program offers every degree. Before you enroll, make sure that your school offers the degree that you are looking for.

    9. How long does it take to complete the program? 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. Can I speed ahead or take more time and work at my own 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. What curriculum is used? Will I need to purchase textbooks? 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. What if I need extra help? 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. How long has this school existed? 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. How many students are currently enrolled? If you enroll in a new school that has very few students, you can expect to encounter quite a bit of instability.

    15. How many students have graduated? A higher graduation rate demonstrates higher levels of student contentment and success.

    16. How will I communicate with the school? Is it all online or is there a number I can call for help? 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.
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