How to Choose an Online College: Essential Elements to Consider

November 14, 2018

Woman on laptop researching online program.

When choosing an online college, gathering research is an important step in the decision-making process. Exploring your options is essential to ensure you have chosen the right program. To help get you started, we put together a helpful spreadsheet to assist you with your research. Click on the links below to download the Excel file or printable PDF.

Download Excel File Download Printable PDF

These resources will guide you through some of the most important elements that you should take into consideration when choosing your ideal online school. Each of these areas is outlined in more detail below.

Admissions Representatives

In many instances, your search will start with a conversation with an admissions representative. The admissions representative is there to guide you through the process with your best interest in mind. This is an essential first step in reaching your goal. Refer to the spreadsheet when speaking with an admissions representative to ensure that your vital questions are answered.

Cost

Gather information on cost per credit, total program credits, fees and number of semesters to complete the program. This varies greatly from school to school - ask your admissions representative the total cost including fees.

Online Convenience

Online programs, in general, are more convenient for students who are working full time as they do not need to go to campus to take courses. You may find that some schools also offer a hybrid program where you take classes both on-campus and online.

Resources

Some brick and mortar colleges extend all of their academic and administrative support offerings to their online students. When choosing an online school, be sure to find out what kind of services are available to you. Ask if they have technical and administrative support. Can you access the library, tutoring center, career services, and alumni network? Make sure that you will have the necessary resources within the school to be successful.

Support Team

Make sure that you have a connection to a support team that will ensure you have the administrative and academic support you need from the very beginning. If you will be working while completing your program, weekend support hours will be a must-have.

Accreditations and Rankings

A regional accreditation, such as NECHE, is an important accreditation for a university to hold. These regional accrediting bodies are self-regulating and hold institutions to the highest academic standards. Most regionally accredited universities will not accept credits from a nationally accredited institution. Non-profit universities focus on student experience by providing students with resources and benefits that will enhance their learning experience and outcomes. This is a voluntary affiliation.

Furthermore, reputable organizations such as The Princeton Review and US News and World Report rank best colleges and universities on a variety of criteria and are helpful when researching. When exploring these rankings for your chosen program, be sure to review their methodologies to ensure their criteria matches what is most important to you.

QU faculty teaching group of students.

Faculty and Staff

Professors and staff should be full-time faculty and dedicated to the university’s mission and vision of the program. They should be part of the university community, hold office hours and be available for face to face or virtual meetings. Review their credentials and accolades beyond education; are they leaders or activists in the field they are teaching? Many schools, including Quinnipiac, have the same experienced, full-time faculty who teach on-campus leading their online programs.

Flexibility and Customization

To keep up with the changing professional landscape, educators have created customized programs within in-demand industries. Many schools offer tracks or concentrations where you can choose courses to customize your degree to fit your professional interests and goals. For example, many of Quinnipiac’s business and healthcare programs offer tracks that provide a more career-focused perspective and encourage interprofessional collaboration. Speak with your admissions representative about your program of interest and any closely related programs.

Online Innovation

Technology changes quickly, and you want to ensure the school you choose is providing resources and material that keeps you current. Up-to-date technology adds to your student experience and overall satisfaction in the online classroom. At Quinnipiac, our instructional design team takes pride in leveraging today’s best technology to improve the student experience. Through our efforts, many of our courses have earned the prestigious Quality MattersⓇ recognition for course design.

Quality MattersⓇ is a non-profit organization that measures and guarantees the quality of an online course through a QM-trained peer review process. It sets rigorous standards of quality that provides value to online students. Ask your admissions representative if their institution designs courses to meet Quality MattersⓇ standards.

Community

Ensuring that you feel like you belong to your school is an essential piece of being successful, regardless of whether you are on-campus or online. Because Quinnipiac doesn’t outsource a student’s education, the University is present throughout your academic career. You will have full access to the campus and resources as an online student such as shows, sporting events, clubs and more.

Alumni Network

As an extension of a school’s community, alumni play a big role in sustaining the communication after you graduate. Joining a school with a large and thriving alumni network allows you to continue to be surrounded by successful people and increase your professional network. You can use this network for job opportunities, job postings, and other professional events. In turn, you have the opportunity to offer your expertise. Also, large alumni associations offer benefits such as discounts on school merchandise, hotels, car rentals, even group insurance. Your connection to your school doesn’t have to end at graduation. Quinnipiac takes great pride in fostering an interactive alumni community. #BobcatNation already includes over 50,000 alumni and counting.

Military Support

Many schools offer special benefits and support for those in the US armed services and may extend those benefits to spouses. Ask your admissions representative for a military contact who can help you with your benefits or learning about programs for veterans. Many schools will also offer military discounts. Quinnipiac University is honored to be recognized as the 2018-19 number one Military FriendlyⓇ school among private universities offering doctoral studies.

Campus tour.

Consider a Campus Tour

If you are still struggling to make a decision, visit the campus. Even though you will be attending online, a tour will offer you the opportunity to create meaningful connections with your admissions representative, program director, professors and the physical landscape of the campus that you will carry throughout your time there. Most schools offer this opportunity - your admissions representative should be able to coordinate this for you.

Ready to Get Started?

Doing due diligence will pay off for you in the end. You are about to make a big decision, and having the tools to ensure you make the right decision is an essential first step on your pathway to achieving your next degree. When you are ready to get started, we are here to assist you. Begin by requesting more information about Quinnipiac and the program that interests you most.