Choosing an Online University – 5 Things to Consider
By Margo Myers, Margo Myers Communications
This seems especially timely with Veterans Day here!
Through my PR work with Brandman University, workshops with the Springboard Academy, and people connected to the Seafair Board, I come into contact with a lot of military veterans, and those who are about to transition out of the military. Many are considering college degrees – both Bachelors and Advanced, and I wanted to share this information from Brandman University about things to consider as you decide which university to attend. Margo Myers
Online university programs are convenient for non-traditional students juggling work, school and family, but also offer a number of benefits for former and current military students. Service members are particularly transient, often moving from base to base. Online programs allow troops to study anywhere, be it Washington, California or Iraq, and the ability to complete degree programs after serving. Online programs also allow students to study at any time of day – a perk for veterans accustomed to working unconventional hours.
Not all online university programs are equal. Before choosing an online university, it’s important to do your homework: look up as much information about a school, ask friends and fellow veterans, and read objective news coverage about the universities you’re looking into. Here are some things to consider as you do your research:
Explore Accredited Programs. There are many online providers offering courses to willing participants, but not all programs come with a stamp of approval like accreditation. Although students may be able to receive a quality education, degrees without reputable accreditation may not be as appealing to grad schools or employers. Educate yourself about accreditation before you look into schools – you’ll want to choose a school that is regionally accredited.
Strong Student Support Services Specifically Focused on Veterans. Online students require different support services than traditional college students. Be sure to ask about services available to online students such as technical support, online writing assistance, tutoring, executive coaching, etc. Also ask about services specifically to support veteran and military students, such as a military relations office, financial aid counseling to ensure you tap all benefits (Post 9/11 GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon Program, veteran scholarships, etc.), and other support services if you have been injured or suffer from PTSD.
Review Graduation & Loan Default Rates. Research core institutional data, such as graduation rates and student loan default rates – you want to select a school that has a strong track record for student completion. Some schools are not eligible for federally-funded financial aid or GI Bill benefits because they do not have a strong graduation rate, or because they have a high student loan default rate.
Designated ‘Military Friendly.’ Publications like Military Advanced Education (MAE), GI Jobs, and U.S. News & World Report offer objective, third-party reviews of colleges and universities, so be sure to seek out information from these sources. U.S. News recently released rankings for ‘Best Online Programs for Veterans’ and MAE publishes an annual ‘Guide to Top Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities.’
Prepare to Make a Commitment. College and graduate school students already face a lot of pressure to stay on top of their studies and attending online requires commitment and dedication, especially if you are still serving active-duty. Be sure to take advantage of all student support services available. Make class part of your regular routine; put class schedule into your calendar and schedule blocks of individual study time just like you would an appointment or meeting; put reminders for important due dates into your calendar as well.