There is no doubt – higher education is changing in our world. With the rising cost of college, and the more advanced technologies available, more students are opting out of the traditional college experience in favor of earning online bachelors degrees.
Online Education Trends
“Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States” is the annual survey of higher education by the Babson Survey Research Group. The team discovered an inverse relationship between struggling higher education enrollment and increasing online enrollments.
The study shows that the number of students taking online courses has grown to 5.8 million nationally, which is continuing a growth trend that has been consistent for thirteen years. In fact, thirty-three percent of college students are enrolled in at least one online course.
“The trend of increasing distance education enrollments in the face of declining overall higher education enrollments suggests an important shift in the American higher education landscape, with contemporary learners leaning into online options. The majority of academic leaders recognize this and understand online learning is critical to their institutions’ long-term strategy.”Kathleen S. Ives, executive director of the Online Learning Consortium and CEO
Colleges and universities have been forced to adjust to this trend and now offer a tremendous amount of online classes and degrees. In the past, online bachelors degrees were considered “not as good” as diplomas earned on campus. However, as the trend in online education continues to grow, most universities now offer online degrees that are equivalent, or even better than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
What is a Bachelors Degree?
A bachelors degree, also known as an undergraduate degree, is a degree that is earned by college students who complete a particular undergraduate program.
Although the time it takes to complete a bachelors degree varies, most programs required a minimum of 120 credit hours for graduation. It typically takes a full-time student four years to complete their bachelors degree program, however, completion time can range anywhere from three to seven years.
Students who begin their program with previous college credits and who take a full-time load can complete their degree in three years.
The Rise of Online Degree Programs
Online Degree Programs have dramatically increased in popularity over the last ten years, and it is no wonder as to why. In general, online bachelors degrees are both more affordable and more accessible, making a bachelors degree easier to attain for even the busiest of students.
With the flexibility to complete coursework from anywhere at any time, students are finding that they can work on their degree from the comfort of their own home, while having a family, or even while working full-time. The degree that used to be a far-off dream is now a doable reality for many students.
Bachelor Degree Career Options
A bachelors degree remains the path to a higher level, and often, higher-paying jobs. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36% of occupations require a bachelors degree or higher to even be considered.
There are 174 different careers available to those with a bachelors degree in hand that are projected to grow by approximately 10% from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average 7% growth rate for all occupations.
Also worth noting is the unemployment rate for workers with bachelor’s degrees is only 2.7%, which is much lower in comparison with those with less education.
Who Should Earn an Online Bachelors Degree?
Anyone! As previously noted, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 36% of occupations require a bachelors degree or higher, and there are 174 different careers for those who earn a bachelors. These jobs will grow 3% faster than the average.
These jobs include education, healthcare, business, social sciences, psychology, information technology, engineering, fine arts, and many more. There are also many careers that require a higher level of education, such as a masters or even a doctorate degree. Without a bachelors degree, you will find the road to an advanced degree a dead end.
Not all occupations require bachelors degree. Some jobs only require an associates degree or just a high school diploma.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with a bachelors degree will earn an average weekly salary of $1,248. For comparison sake, those who only have an associate degree earn $887 per week, and those with a high school diploma earn $746 per week.
The average worker in the United States earns $969 per week, so those with a bachelors degree will earn $279 more per week than the average worker.
Why Choose Education?
Education is not all about the numbers, there is also something to be said about being educated. Thinkers and philosophers have mulled over the topic of education for as long as man has been on the earth.
Education offers a deeper understanding of our world and the knowledge of how to conduct ourselves wisely. It forms us into more well-rounded humans beings, which provides a broader acceptance of those around us.
Let’s look at what some famous people have said about education:
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin
“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius
“Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
“With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.” ― Malala Yousafzai
What Is the Growth Rate of Online Bachelors Degrees Programs?
The number of students enrolled in online bachelors degrees programs has grown each year. According to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group done in 2016, over 30% of higher education students are currently taking at least one distance course.
“The growth of distance enrollments has been relentless. They [enrollment] have gone up when the economy was expanding when the economy was shrinking when overall enrollments were growing, and now when overall enrollments are shrinking.”Julia E. Steaman, co-author of the study and research director of the Babson Survey Research Group
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there were approximately 6.6 million students enrolled in distance education in the Fall of 2017. This number makes up 33.7% of higher education students. These numbers are only going up.
Now that we are looking at a post-COVID19 world, online education will only continue its boom. In fact, now there are many wondering if online education will become the new normal.
What Are the Advantages of Online Education?
There is no doubt that online education is the way of the future. It continues to rapidly grow and develop. What started as distance learning through the mail has certainly come a long way.
Communication technology now allows for live interactions between faculty and students and has spread across the globe. Students from all over the planet connect through technology.
Colleges and universities use Learning Management Systems such as Canvas, Blackboard, or Renweb for discussions, assignments, forums, enrollment, grading, faculty-student interaction, and video lectures.
Technology has opened the door to e-learning opportunities for millions of working people so they can earn a degree while continuing in the workforce.
Individuals can literally learn when, where, and how they want. That can be at a coffee shop in the middle of the day, at a park in the afternoon, or at home at midnight. The accessibility and flexibility are limitless. Not only has online learning made degrees accessible, but they arguably offer an affordability advantage as well.
Consider the cost of traditional brick-and-mortar education. The price tag of higher education includes the cost to educate, administer, maintain the campus and facilities, and house students.
With online learning, technology cuts the campus costs; it also means more students per teacher. Online education claims key advantages over traditional education: accessibility, flexibility, and affordability.
Even quality, which is often cited by skeptics, is no longer a factor. Online learning has led to advances in learning delivery: mastery learning, flipped classrooms, and project-based learning, to name some.
The Disadvantages of Online College
What then are some disadvantages to online college? The chief disadvantage (and this is debatable depending on the degree and institution) is that online programs are less personal rendering the learning effective.
Another potential disadvantage depending, on the person, is that online learning requires self-motivation and discipline and some students simply don’t have it.
Though there is less face-to-face interaction and real-world personal contact, many find online degrees desirable and effective. At the end of the day, you’re looking to earn your bachelors degree at the highest quality, the best price, and schedule that best fits your life.
How Long Does It Take to Earn An Online Bachelors Degree?
The NCES reports that 44% of first-time bachelor’s degree recipients in 2016 completed their bachelors degree in 48 months or less. For those aged 23 or younger, one-half graduated in 45 months or less, as compared to those aged 30 or older who completed their degree in 162 months or less.
This makes the average completion time 52 months or just a little over four years.
There are numerous factors that go into degree completion time.
Bachelor’s degree programs that are offered at semester-based schools usually require 120 credit hours, while schools that operate on a quarter system tend to require 180 credits to graduate.
Don’t shy away from schools on the quarter system though! The number of credits required doesn’t affect the completion time much. Whether on semesters or quarters both are designed to be completed in approximately four years.
Keep in mind that bachelors degree programs are structured to finish in four years.
Students who are taking an average, full-time course load, which is 30 credits per year, or 15 credits per semester, 10 per quarter, will finish in four years.
High school students who complete classes for college credit obviously cut down on the amount of time they will spend. The chosen field of study is another factor to consider when talking about completion time. Some subjects require more coursework than others.
Because of the ultimate flexibility of online learning, students who are enrolled in online bachelors degree programs tend to break the four-year norm.
The ambitious student can stack their classload and finish in record time. But, online students typically have other responsibilities like family and work, and therefore have the option to take classes at a pace that fits their lifestyle demands.
What is an Accelerated Online Bachelors Degree?
The ambitious student will be pleased to find that it is possible to earn an online bachelors degree in as little as two years with various accelerated degree programs.
Programs vary from college to college, and only a small number of accelerated degree programs are available; but for those who find the right program, it can be a great option.
Accelerated online bachelors degrees are a wonderful way to save money. Students are required to accomplish just as much work, it’s just at a faster pace. The degrees require the same amount of credit hours and in the end, students will receive the same bachelors degree as their traditional counterparts.
This exciting option works well for motivated students who don’t have other obligations. The simple reason is that the intensified workload renders it difficult to hold down a job at the same time – if you plan on sleeping that is!
What Are the Types of Bachelors Degrees?
There are three main types of online bachelors degrees: Bachelors of Science (BS), Bachelor of Arts (BA), and the Bachelors of Fine ARts (BFA). Most fields of study are available in both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science pathway.
It depends on the degree-granting college; however, many colleges offer both BA and BS tracks in subjects like psychology, criminal justice, marketing, education, business, accounting, economics, and human resources.
There is also crossover in subjects like art, music, theatre, and dance that may be offered as either BA or BFA tracks. There is rarely a crossover between BS and BFA degrees.
Bachelors of Science (BS): A Bachelor of Science degree is a more focused bachelor degree and primarily is concentrated in both technical and scientific fields. Courses tend to involve hands-on, specific training.
Those who are on the Bachelor of Science track must allow for limited classes outside of the subject area, and follow longer course sequences. They also involve more research-related courses.
These degrees also tend to be longer than Bachelor of Arts in terms of how many credits are required. BS degrees are usually in subject areas like nursing, computer science and information technology, biology, mathematics, physics, and engineering.
Bachelor of Arts (BA): A Bachelor of Arts is focused on liberal arts studies and is usually the primary type of degree granted at liberal arts schools.
The curriculum includes studies in humanities, languages, social sciences, fine arts, and other liberal arts. Typically, students are required to complete a base of liberal arts studies in their first two years before they go onto complete more focused studies in their subject areas during their last two years.
While students must complete course sequences in their academic major, they are often less extensive than both the BS and BFA tracks. Examples of BA degrees include writing and journalism, English, communications, anthropology, religion, sociology, and political science.
Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA): A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is for students seeking a degree in either performance or visual arts. Usually, BFA degrees require studio work and/or live performances that are an integral part of the student’s final grade. This includes degrees in photography, art history, poetry, dance, art, music, and theatre.
Because these requirements can be rather extensive and hands-on, a BFA degree may take more than the typical four years to complete and are difficult to find in an online format.
What is an Interdisciplinary Bachelors Degree?
In recent years, bachelors degrees that can be individualized have grown in popularity. Interdisciplinary programs, however, focus on a broad base of training and learning.
This liberal learning fosters creativity, problem-solving, imaginative solutions, and integrated approaches. These liberal traits can be overlooked in specialized learning.
Interdisciplinary bachelors degrees come in many forms. They can be referred to as Individualized Degrees, Interdisciplinary Studies, or Integrated Degrees, but they all amount to the same thing.
The premise is to further connections between disciplines and develop skills of analysis and critical thinking. An Interdisciplinary Degree can come in the form of a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.
The basic difference between them is the BA requires additional language courses and the BS requires more research courses. If you choose this route, you will be pleased to find the flexibility to study what interests you and possibly discover a career path along the way.
What Jobs Can I Get With a Bachelors Degree?
The job options are nearly endless:
- Computer and Information System Manager
- Engineering Manager
- Advertising and Marketing Manager
- Computer Hardware Engineer
- Aerospace Engineer
- Computer Network Architect
- Airline Pilot
- Laboratory Technician
- Financial Manager
- Sales Manager
- Human Resource Manager
- Software Developer
The list could go on and on. Business, engineering, health professions, educators, the jobs are bountiful for those with the golden ticket – a degree in hand. Click here for the top online degrees that will lead to employment.
Even jobs that don’t require a bachelors degree will give you more consideration than candidates who have undergraduate education but no bachelors. Holding a bachelors degree means you are much more marketable on the job front.
Looking for the highest-paying jobs you can get with an online bachelors degree? Check out our list!
What Is the Highest Paying Job I Can Get With My Bachelors Degree?
Here are the highest paying jobs in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics that typically require a bachelors degree for entry:
- Chief Executive $183,270/yr
- Computer and Information Systems Managers $139,220/yr
- Architectural and Engineering Managers $137,720/yr
- Airline Pilots, Co-Pilots, Flight Engineers $137,330/yr
- Petroleum Engineers $132,280/yr
- Marketing Managers $132,230/yr
- Financial Managers $125,080/yr
How Much Do Online Bachelors Degrees Cost?
One of the most important questions to consider is cost. The cost of an online bachelors degree varies greatly depending on what college, degree, and pace the student chooses.
According to data collected from U.S. News and World Report, the average cost of tuition for an online bachelors degree is $38,496 to $60,593. Typically, public universities are cheaper than their private counterparts. Students who are looking for the prestige of the big-named universities will pay more, which is an important factor to consider with it’s own set of pros and cons.
Students who are looking to save money will find plenty of affordable options as more colleges are catering to those who want to reduce expenditure. Tuition, however, isn’t the only cost to consider.
What Other Costs Are Involved When Paying For An Online Bachelors Degree?
College advertisements can be misleading. It is important to note that at first glance, the price listed by many colleges is for tuition only. There are always other costs that students need to factor in when forming a budget.
The good news is that students working towards an online bachelors degree often have fewer costs than those who attend the brick and mortar institution.
Here is a breakdown of other potential costs:
- Textbooks: There will always be course materials that are required, however, more and more colleges are requiring digital materials. This is especially true for online students. Required content is also being made more available through videos, podcasts, and forums rather than heavy textbooks. But, students need to consider the costs of books when making a budget. According to the College Board, the average student pays $1000 for textbooks! Check this infographic out. The good news is that cost has been decreasing for many years due to open sources and online education.
- Technology: Whether on-campus or online, students will need a computer and access to the internet while earning their bachelors degree. The cost of a laptop ranges anywhere from $250 to $2500. The most frugal of students may be able to survive their undergraduate work by only working in a computer lab on campus, but there is no doubt that the online student must have a computer. Some good news is the number of colleges offering free laptops.
- Living Costs: There are so many factors to consider when thinking about living costs. Online students who live at home with their parents will obviously save more money than those who live in a dorm. Dorms may be cheaper than living on your own, as utilities and internet costs are a comprehensive part of dorm price. Online students must make sure that they have adequate internet accessibility, another price to factor in while making living decisions. Regardless of the living situation, it is important to add living costs to the overall price tag.
- Fees: Have no doubt it, there will be fees! More often than not, the price tag that colleges list is for tuition only. There are always fees involved. The good news for online students though, is that there are significantly fewer fees for online students in comparison with on-campus students.
- Commuting Costs: Online students will save big by not driving to campus on a regular basis. Some online programs require face to face meetings once a month or once a semester, which is a factor that should be considered. Also, students who don’t have adequate internet at their place of residence may need to factor in the cost of traveling to a coffee shop or place where they will be studying.
- Other Expenses: It is important for students to consider other costs involved. Tuition and fees are not the only expenses incurred while earning a bachelors degree. While not living on campus saves money on dorm and meal plans, students still have to eat and live. For the student who is serious about making a reasonable budget, it is important to add in the cost of groceries, toiletries, clothing, and other daily living costs. Check out our feature on factors that impact your choice.
Online vs On-Campus Bachelors Degrees
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This is the question of the age! With the explosive growth of online education, many have stopped to ponder the question of which one is better. Or, most importantly, is my online degree worth the same, or as good as an on-campus degree?
There is a certain stigma that surrounds online education, implying that it isn’t as good as it’s brick-and-mortar counterpart. Online education has come a long way since it’s start, and even further in the last few years with the rise of smart technology.
Information put out by the University of the Potomac states that there are over 275 accredited online universities. Additionally, the same study reported that 67% of college professors believe that videos, blogs, podcasts, and other online learning tools are essential to education.
But is this education better? The simple answer is – absolutely! In most cases, online classes are taught by the same professionals who are teaching on-campus. The coursework mirrors what is happening on campus, and the same amount of work and requirements must be completed for graduation.
Opponents point to the downside of online students lacking the collegial learning and interaction of class time. While this may be true to a certain extent, oftentimes, online programs offer a cohort of students who are on the same pathway to build this collegial component.
Additionally, while they may be missing out on the social interaction of the on-campus experience, this can be a benefit as it cuts down on the distractions that the college campus offers.
In short, online education is up to par with its on-campus counterpart.
Online vs. On-Campus Bachelors Degrees At a Glance:
Online Bachelors Degree:
- A flexible schedule that allows you to work from home while balancing a job or family
- Study at your own pace, going back over material that you need more time to learn
- Complete work anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection, allowing for flexibility and even travel while studying
- Minimizes costs including many on-campus fees, meal plans, accommodations, parking, and commuting.
- Overall, more convenient.
- Lack of face to face social interaction that can be difficult for extroverted students
- Higher drop-out rate
- Can take longer to complete the degree due to lack of focus, the distractions of life
- Missing out on the “college experience”
- Possible internet and technical difficulties
On-Campus Bachelors Degree:
- Hands-on, face to face learning and interaction
- Development of relationships, both with faculty and peers
- Collaborative environment, and an opportunity for the “college experience”
- Access to everything the campus has to offer – libraries, fitness centers, computer labs, and other resources
- Lower drop-out rate
- More costly, especially for those who live on campus
- Inability to work at your own pace, making it difficult for those with jobs, families, or other obligations
- Larger class sizes, making it easy to get lost in the crowd
- The distraction of the “college experience”
- Synchronous learning can be difficult for those who want to work faster or slower than the norm
Hybrid/Blended Bachelors Degree:
- Offers the best of both worldsStudents can form face to face relationships with both peers and profs
- Can save money on parking, commuting, and other on-campus costs
- Students can take classes that they need more time with or that are more difficult online, allowing them to work at their own pace
- Switching back and forth may be difficult for students who struggle with organization
- Many degrees or colleges don’t offer this format
- Meeting the necessary requirements for Wi-Fi in order to access their online classes
- Missing out on the pros of both options
What Financial Aid Can I Get For My Online Bachelors Degree?
According to studentaid.gov, “Financial aid is money to help pay for college or career school. Grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships help make college or career school affordable.”
It is important to note that the term “financial aid” does not always mean free money. Often, this comes in the form of loans, which must be paid back eventually. The first step to receiving financial aid is to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
We can’t say it enough, fill out the FAFSA! According to this article and related infographic published by NerdWallet, students missed out on $2.3 billion worth of free federal grant money by not filling out the FAFSA.
Once a student has filled out the FAFSA, the next place to look for financial aid is through the college they will be attending. Talk to the financial aid officer, see if there are any scholarships, work, or loan opportunities that apply. Check with the department where you are enrolling in.
Sometimes, there are options for particular departments to sponsor a few students. This could be you! Don’t write yourself off, it never hurts to ask!
Lastly, we recommend you ruthlessly scour the internet for private scholarships. There are also scholarships that are local to your state, county, town, work, or high school. Trust us, they’re out there!
Start here with our helpful resources:
- Best Scholarships for Online Students
- 20 Scholarships for Students with Learning Disabilities
- Biggest College Scholarships
- Best Liberal Arts Scholarships
- Best Social Work Scholarships
- Best Education Scholarships
- Biggest Scholarships for Women
- Best Trade School Scholarships
- Best STEM Scholarships
- Biggest Scholarships for LGBTQ Students
- Biggest Scholarships for Black and African-American Students
- Best Art and Design Scholarships
- Biggest Scholarships for Latino and Hispanic Students
- Best Computer Science Scholarships
- 10 Scholarships for Students on the Autism Spectrum
- Best Counseling and Psychology Scholarships
- Best Law and Criminal Justice Scholarships
Let it be known, finding scholarships takes work and diligence. But it does pay off in the end. Students who are willing to put in the hours searching for money will find their bachelors degree costing much less than the initial price tag.
Am I Eligible For Financial Aid?
Eligibility requirements for the FAFSA include:
- Must be a citizen or eligible non-citizen of the United States
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Have a valid Social Security number
- Maintain satisfactory academic progress
- Enrollment in an eligible program
- If you are a male, register or already be registered with the Selective Service System and are not currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces
- Not have a conviction for illegal activity
How Do I Apply For An Online Bachelors Degree?
You’ve combed through lists of colleges and universities and narrowed it down to several that meet your criteria. What is the next step?
Simply choosing a school is not all there is, you must now apply for your school of choice and be accepted. This is a process that requires time and dedication over the course of at least several months.
Here is everything you need to know about applying to an online bachelors degree program:
High School Juniors and Seniors
Your application process starts now. It actually begins before you even know what school you want to attend. This is the time when high schools offer (or require!) standardized testing.
The United States offers two standardized college admissions exams, the SAT and the ACT. These tests have been around since the 1920s, and are a crucial component to getting into college.
The SAT is a multiple-choice and short-answer test covering mathematics and reading comprehension. Currently, the highest score possible on the SAT is 1600 total points, 800 points for each section. In 2019, the national average for the SAT was 1059. This score is down nine points from 2018, when it was 1068.
The ACT covers four areas ― reading, mathematics, English, and science reasoning. There is also an optional writing section.
Each section of the ACT is graded on a scale of 36 points, resulting in a total score. The optional writing section is graded on a scale of 12 points and is not added to the composite score. Both the ACT and SAT are considered comparable, and high school students who are looking toward college should take them at least once, if not several times.
It is important to note that some colleges and universities accept scores from both exams, but others only accept scores from one and not the other. Once you know what schools or schools you are interested in, check their testing requirements.
Phasing Out SAT and ACT
Interestingly, at the time of writing, there are universities that are no longer requiring an SAT or ACT score. The State of Oregon recently released a statement that all public universities in Oregon would join a growing movement of colleges and universities and no longer require an SAT or ACT score for admission.
The philosophy behind this movement is that standardized test scores are not a reliable indicator of a student’s performance in college. To further complicate the issue, since the COVID-19 shutdown, colleges and universities are waiving the required test scores for the incoming freshman class in Fall 2020 as the tests weren’t able to be administered.
The bottom line is to check the admission requirements at your school/schools of choice! Also, if it is a reasonable option, take the SAT or ACT. You may be pleasantly surprised and earn yourself a scholarship based on your score.
Transfer and Adult Students
First things first ― check the admission requirements for your school of choice! Adult students may need to take the SAT or ACT, but there are schools that waive these tests for adult students.
The best advice we can give in this situation is to get in touch with an admissions counselor. There are so many scenarios and possibilities, an admissions counselor can walk you through the process, sorting out what is best for your particular situation. Admissions counselors are experts at helping students get into college.
In the meantime, look through the checklist below and start collecting the required pieces to make the process as simple as possible.
Again, there are so many scenarios out there, it is difficult to pinpoint a deadline, but it is important to know that they exist. The traditional start time is in the Fall, with the admissions deadline sometime in the early Spring.
The good news for online students is that many online programs offer numerous start dates throughout the year with rolling admission, meaning colleges are offering admission all year long. Again, it is vital that you check into your school of choice and identify their deadlines.
What Do I Need To Apply?
- Resume: For some, this may be your first go at writing a resume. A resume will summarize your scholastic and professional background and achievements. This is not meant to go into extensive detail. It is just a snapshot of what you have done. Resumes are recommended to be one to two pages max. High school students should include past jobs or descriptions of volunteer work, sports achievement, school leadership positions, and other experiences that reflect their ability to work with others. Adult students who have been in the workforce should focus more on their work, listing their prior three or four employment positions. A resume will require you to list contact information from former employers. Make sure the contact information is up-to-date.
- Letter(s) of Recommendation: Most colleges will require at least one letter of recommendation. These should not be from a family member or friend with whom you do not have a professional relationship. Ask employers, teachers, coaches, or volunteer leaders. This can take time! Start early to provide ample time for your references to write the letter.
- Essay or Personal Statement: This component varies greatly from school to school, but most colleges will require some form of writing. Some ask potential students to write a synopsis of their academic and career goals, others offer a specific writing prompt. Some applications will ask for one or two writing requirements, but others may require as many as five or six. These prompts range from expressing opinions on various subjects to speculating on a particular topic, to sharing a personal experience. Walk through the standard essay-writing process. Brainstorm, make an outline, write, edit, and be sure that your final draft accurately reflects what you are trying to communicate. Share your essay with a teacher, parent, or friend who can help you edit your final draft and make sure that it is up to par.
- Official Transcripts: These are almost always required, regardless of the school you choose and can take some time to acquire. Don’t put it off! Official transcripts contain a full record of your grades in each course, as well as your grade point average (GPA), which is a full number score of these grades. College admissions officers use official transcripts to decide if the student meets the academic standards of their particular institution. Most applications will only require official transcripts, not unofficial transcripts. In order to be official, the transcript must be printed on official stationery, sealed in a tamper-proof envelope with a seal stamped on the outside, and in some cases, mailed directly from the school. Most schools charge a processing fee in order for these to be processed. Again, this takes time, so don’t procrastinate!
- Interview and/or Campus Visit: Colleges want to make sure that a potential student is a good fit. While interviews are not always required, many schools will at least want to talk to the student over the phone if not in person. This can range anywhere from an informal chat about the student’s achievement and academic goals to a formal interview that mirrors a job interview. A campus visit is not a required part of the admissions process but highly recommended. Students who are going to be living on campus are looking at a potential four-year commitment. They need to make sure that this is the right place. This aspect is not nearly as important for online students, in fact, some online students may never see their college campus.
How Do I Choose a School?
Commitment. Any student who is looking into earning a bachelors degree must be ready for commitment. An online bachelors degree requires a substantial investment of both time and money. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, and choosing the right program requires research and careful analysis.
Here are a few important factors to consider:
- Price: Really, the question is, just how much are you willing to spend? What is your budget? Is the program within your budget? What kind of scholarships and financial aid can you get? Be sure to calculate all potential expenses, not just tuition, in order to reach an accurate estimate. This is probably the most important factor to consider. With the average student graduating with $31,172 in student loans, which leads to an average monthly payment of $393, and an average of 10 to 30 years to pay off the debt, the price must be considered!
- Convenience: Although online students will complete the majority of their coursework at home, some programs require occasional campus visits. This is vital to consider when looking into a program. If you are required to be on campus for certain courses, for example as classes with lab components, how easy is it to get there? If there are classes required on the weekend, can you travel to the class? If there are campus visits required, hopping on a plane on a regular basis isn’t an option for most students. Also, you may prefer to visit campus in order to take advantage of the facilities such as the library, gym, writing centers, and other resources.
- Flexibility: How flexible do you need your program to be? Are you a working student or someone who has a family? You will need more flexibility than a student who is committed to being a full-time student. Self-paced or asynchronous courses allow students to move through the curriculum at your own pace. This means that the program can be finished in less than four years, as long as you need, up to seven years. But some programs are much more synchronous or structured. This type of program is no problem for students who don’t have many outside commitments. Evaluating the level of flexibility you need is a major part of choosing a program that is right for you.
- Intuition: It may sound cliche’, but don’t underestimate the value of your gut feeling. Earning a bachelors degree is a tremendous time and monetary commitment, and it takes heart. If you feel uneasy about a particular school, that should be factored into your decision. It will make your education that much harder if you don’t feel strongly towards a particular school. On the other hand, if you feel really positive about a school, pursue that option. Even if at first glance, it may not be as economical or flexible, try to make it work. Details could fall into place. Those feelings of positivity may be the factor that is the last step in making the right decision. If you are religious, pray or meditate on what is the right decision for you. Consult your friends and family to see what they recommend. Oftentimes, others have great insight into what is a good fit for us, even better than we can evaluate ourselves!
We also have this feature on factors to consider when choosing a college you may consult as well!
How Do I Choose My Major?
No one wants to begin paying for a college education with no direction. There are those people who have goals and know exactly what they want in life. But that is not the majority of people. Even students who start convinced that they are going to major in one subject change majors partway through their college career.
In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, one-third of college students change their major at least once. Making a decision about your major is important, but it isn’t signed in blood.
The first few years of college will be primarily consumed by taking general education requirements that are the base of any major. These include English, writing, history, math, and sciences. By the time these classes are complete, most students have a feel for what they are interested in. Maturing has occurred and students are in a place where they feel that they can commit to a major.
Choose what you love, what you are passionate about. Remember, a major leads to your career, and you want to do something that you feel strongly about. Consult your academic advisor and college professors, they serve as vital mentors.
For more helpful information about choosing a college major, check out our helpful resource!
What Is a Bachelors Degree Completion Program?
Sometimes, there are challenges in life that disrupt even the best-laid plans. This is especially true when trying to follow through on the four-year commitment that undergraduate degrees require. Life happens. Online bachelors degree completion programs are set up to help students resume their degree wherever they left off and finish.
Designed to begin at any point in the degree path, these programs are ready to help students figure out the best-individualized path to their bachelors degree. They offer academic advising to examine prior coursework and determine which credits can be transferred in, and then lay the groundwork for the courses that still need to be completed.
Once the necessary number of credits has been determined, an advisor works alongside the student to lay out a timeline to completion. These types of programs are readily available online, as universities recognize that students who need this option more often than not have obligations other than school.
Students who have attended community college and have an associate’s degree will find these programs especially useful. Their degree can easily transfer into a bachelors degree track. The hard work that students have put into earning an associates will pay off with a bachelors degree.
What Is the Difference Between Public and Private Colleges?
One of the hardest decisions students face is in finding the best school for their individual needs. There are literally hundreds of colleges and universities out there, each offering their own smatterings of options and opportunities.
There are two types of schools – public and private.
Public universities receive the majority of their funding from the federal government. These tend to be the large state schools, and students will encounter huge enrollment numbers and large class sizes. They also tend to have more to offer in terms of opportunities, research, and resources.
Private colleges are financed through donors and grants and student expenses. In general, private colleges tend to have smaller student populations, which leads to smaller class sizes.
These basic differences leave several questions for consideration. Private colleges generally cost much more than state universities, so students need to be prepared for the price tag. Don’t let that be too big of a deterrent, however, as many private schools offer larger scholarship opportunities and financial aid packages.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, average tuition rates for the 2016-17 academic year were $17,237 for public institutions and $40,925 for private institutions. These rates are figured for students who are living and attending classes on campus.
Online students are often charged different tuition rates than on-campus students. We have found that the cost tends to be much more comparable between online public and private universities.
What Is the Difference Between a College and a University?
The terms “college” and “university” seem to be interchangeable. But are they? As a potential student looks through the vast number of available four-year institutions, there are both colleges and universities listed. Both grant undergraduate degrees and should be considered.
Often, colleges refer to smaller schools that focus on undergraduate education. They are broad in nature, and many times are liberal arts schools. These types of schools are uncommon outside of the United States.
Universities, on the other hand, tend to be larger institutions that conduct research and grant both undergraduate and graduate-level degrees. But universities are not always large. Take, for example, Marymount California University, which has a total enrollment of approximately 1,000 students. Size is not always the determining factor. Officially, an institution is granted university recognition when it starts to offer graduate degrees as opposed to only undergraduate degrees.
There are exceptions, however, and colleges can be granted university status based on other conditions that vary state to state. All in all, when students are searching for the perfect place to earn a bachelors degree, don’t disregard either option. There are plenty of great choices in both categories.
What Is Accreditation and Why Does It Matter?
If there is any warning in this article, let this be it – be sure the institution you choose is accredited! Especially in the world of online colleges, there are schools out there that aren’t accredited, and it can lead to a whole host of problems. No one wants to spend a year of their life and thousands of dollars earning a degree that isn’t from an accredited institution.
Let’s face it, a degree is to give status and recognition of the accomplishment of undergraduate education. Accreditation status is absolutely vital when selecting a school.
In order to be considered a legitimate educational provider, a school must hold accreditation from an official, accreditation-granting agency. Basically, accreditation is quality assurance for higher-level institutions, and it is granted once a school’s academic programs, faculty members, and resources have been carefully proven over a period of time.
There are three levels of accreditation.
National accreditation is most often awarded to technical and vocational institutions, as well as for-profit schools. The Department of Education currently recognizes 10 national accreditation agencies. Critics have noted that the standards for receiving national accreditation are lower than those used to grant regional accreditation, rendering regional accreditation more desirable.
Regional accreditation is overseen by six different agencies operating in various areas of the country.
The third type of accreditation is granted to various subdivisions of colleges and universities that are dedicated to teaching one core discipline – law, education, nursing, business administration, public policy, etc.
At the end of the day, be sure that the school you choose has some sort of valid accreditation, ensuring that the hard work and hard-earned dollars spent are worth the effort!
What Effect Will COVID-19 Have On Online Bachelors Degrees?
Our world changed in 2020 with a global pandemic and shutdown, unlike anything that has ever been seen. Now, for the first time, most people in the world are staying home most of the time.
People are working from home, schools are shut down, and business is being conducted remotely. No one really knows the long-term effect, but the one effect we can all be sure of is there is a different world on the other side.
At the time of writing, colleges and universities are deciding what Fall 2020 is going to look like. And the big question – will students be allowed to come to campus?
The pandemic has forced schools to move to online education more than ever before. During the Spring 2020 term, schools were forced to move all of their coursework online in a matter of weeks. Will they go back? As of now, we don’t know. But we do know this, there are now more online options than ever, new companies developing better technology, and a new demand for online learning.
If you are a student who wants to pursue an online bachelors degree, the time is better today than ever before.