Selecting a School
Making the Right Choice for YOU
What kind of information should I get from a school? This is a very good question to ask yourself. We have come up with a list of questions you should consider asking when contacted by an Admissions or Enrollment Counselor. The more prepared you are, the better selection you are likely to make in the long-run. Make sure you get the information you need and check out all of your options as you prepare for education beyond high school. We encourage you to solicit information from more than just one school if there are a couple that interest you. Then you'll be in a position to compare and contract your options. Know what to expect from the schools you're considering.
Ten things to consider when selecting a school
- School Track Record
- Professional Recognition
- Transfer Credits
- Course Delivery
- Student Services
- Instructor Accessibility and Quality
- Tuition Cost & Other Expenses
- Financial Aid Availability
- Job Placement Programs
Accreditation is an important indicator that a school is reputable and has met certain quality standards. You should look for a program that has been officially recognized by accreditation bodies approved by The US Department of Education. In the US, the most widely recognized accreditation for degree-granting programs comes from the six regional accreditation commissions. The Distance Education & Training Council (DETC) is another accreditation agency that specializes in distance education institutions. We have made your job easier for you by listing only accredited schools on our website, however, you can never be too careful. We encourage you to check for yourself at: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.asp
School Track Record
Not all schools and degree programs are created equal. Before you enroll, find out how long the school and the program have been in existence, how many students have completed the program. A school is required to disclose to current and prospective students their completion and transfer-out rates. Try to speak to current students as well as graduates about their impressions of the program and its professional value.
Be sure that the program is recognized in your chosen field. For example, students pursuing teaching or nursing degrees or certificates need to be sure the program will satisfy specific professional requirements. Do your homework on the requirements of the job you wish to have, and then make sure the school and program you are interested in satisfy these requirements. It will be important to know this information before you begin your studies.
Transfer of Credits
If you have credits from prior studies that are relevant to your selected program, make sure the program you choose will accept those credits. Equally important, will the credits you earn in the program be accepted if you decide to finish your program elsewhere? Keep in mind that regionally accredited schools recognize each other as equals for the purpose of transferring credits or degree status.
If you are interested in online programs, specifically, choose a course instruction format that best fits both your learning style and schedule. Distance courses can be taken in real-time or self-paced or a combination of both. Real-time course formats are popular with students who enjoy interactive learning. Self-paced courses provide the convenience of allowing students to determine their own schedules by accessing posted materials and completing assignments in a sequential format.
Instructor Accessibility and Quality
Your distance education experience will be greatly enhanced if your instructors are both knowledgeable in their course subjects and well-trained in distance education instruction. A good instructor will simulate a dynamic classroom discussion and prepare engaging lesson plans. Also, you will want to ensure that instructors will be accessible and responsive to student inquiry. A good indication of instructor availability may be the size of the class. Ask the Admission Counselors about their Instructors and Professors and the standard Teacher-Student ratios per course.
A good education program will provide you with important resources and services. Things you should look for include: resource center and library, sophisticated technology infrastructure, academic advisors who are assigned and available throughout your course of study, technical support desk, financial aid office, career services, alumni network, and online student forums such as message boards or chat rooms.
There are several things to keep in mind when calculating how much an education will cost. Tuition and fees can vary widely by school and program. Ask the Admissions Counselor what types of costs you can expect beyond tuition.
Financial Aid Availability
Ask each program's financial aid office about the types of financial aid (scholarships, grants, and student loans) they offer and the eligibility requirements for each aid type. If you're interested in applying for Federal student loans, your school must be Title IV eligible (which most of the schools we list are). Some may still be awaiting Title IV status. Make sure to ask. Remember: always check with your school's financial aid office to see if your program has Federal student loans available.
Job Placement Services
Since you are most likely getting this education to advance within your current career or to change careers altogether, we encourage you to ask the school about their job placement rates. This is usually represented by the percentage of students who are placed in jobs relevant to their courses of studies. If the school advertises its job placement rates, it must also publish: (a) the most recent employment statistics; (b) graduation statistics; and (c) any other information necessary to back up its claims. Also ask them what kind of job placement services they provide.
Remember, you are the one in control of the decision here. Be prepared to ask the right questions before committing to your selection.