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Online Colleges - A Guide for Students

Online college student

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, online college courses continue to rapidly grow in popularity, opening doors to opportunities and benefits. In this guide made for students, we will explore what is beneficial for online colleges and universities in 2023 - looking into the advantages of online undergraduate or graduate degree options, accreditation, financial aid, and more.

Online Colleges - A Guide for Students

Online schools have experienced unprecedented growth in recent years, with a 2.2% increase in enrollment for online colleges in the spring 2021 semester alone. In 2019, 42% of graduate students were enrolled in an online program, and approximately 11.8 million college students enrolled online classes in 2020 (in part due to the pandemic).

Online Programs Overview

This popularity is fueled by the numerous advantages and opportunities afforded to online students, and the increasing number of available online programs for undergrad and graduate students. Also, undergrad and graduate certificates, bootcamps, and vocational programs are also coming online at a growing rate.

Online degree programs can open doors to increased knowledge, subject mastery, networking, career preparation, job qualifications, and even graduate school applications, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling life. Additionally, online learners can benefit from cost savings associated with reduced transportation and campus housing expenses. In short, it's cheaper to attend online programs.

Online courses cover a wide range of fields, with common areas of study for online undergraduate and graduate degrees including business administration, criminal justice, education, and healthcare. Websites like ours offer excellent resources to help locate information regarding top online study programs in many disciplines in our school rankings articles.

Featured Online Programs: Find Your Degree

Accreditation plays a big role in ensuring quality of online colleges.

Top online schools offer a range of resources to prepare students for life after graduation, such as access to career counselors.

The types of online degrees and programs available are vast, ranging from associate degree options to doctoral degrees and certificate programs. This variety allows students to find the perfect program for their career aspirations and educational needs.

When choosing an online college, factors such as accreditation, program offerings, and synchronous or asynchronous learning options should be considered to ensure the best possible educational experience.

Are any online colleges worth it for today's students?

Overall, online colleges are definitely worth it if students take the right steps and put in the required effort, compared to attending school on campus. When researching potential programs, pay close attention to factors like accreditation, faculty, program reviews, and alumni success.

Taking the steps and following the guidance in this article can help ensure that an your online degree can be a valuable return on investment.

Online learners are increasing in numbers compared to on campus students, given that online colleges offer numerous benefits including flexibility to complete assignments, and can afford many cost savings compared to traditional on campus college. This includes more numbers of accredited institution options in higher education offering degrees online, making the best online colleges in many subjects synonymous with the best colleges for on campus students for the same degree.

Accreditation shows the quality of the best online programs by guaranteeing that a school or degree program meets established standards of academic excellence. The same college or university accreditation is applicable to online and on campus programs.

Prospective students out of high school and adult learners alike should consider factors such as accreditation, range of programs, learning format (asynchronous and synchronous), and associated costs when choosing an online college for a positive educational experience. Many online students get the benefit of schedule flexibility. Talk with an academic advisor for program more details of how the college or university offers supported online degrees.

Why Choose an Online College?

College Students


Online programs offer a level of flexibility and convenience that traditional on campus students don't have. For instance, online programs allow students to study from any location and work around their individual schedules. This flexibility can be especially beneficial for those who are unable to move or need to accommodate work schedules while taking online courses.

Online classes offer greater flexibility compared to in-person classes. Students can select a learning space that is most conducive to their comfort and convenience. This allows for a more personalized and efficient learning experience that caters to individual needs and preferences.

One of the key advantages of enrolling in an online college is the lower cost. Obtaining an online degree can be more economical than a traditional on-campus degree, as students save money by not incurring the costs associated with on-campus housing and meals.

Will employers respect my online degree?

Yes. Employers are increasingly recognizing the value of online degrees. Many acknowledge that a degree from an accredited online college is of equivalent value to one earned from a traditional on-campus program. As such, an online degree can open doors to new career opportunities and advancement. Online degree programs can offer significant value due to their positive graduate outcomes, which are the same as on-campus outcomes in many subjects.

Online programs are widely available

Online college degree programs also offer the benefit of program availability. Students can access the most suitable program for their area of study, regardless of the school's physical location. This eliminates geographical barriers and expands the range of programs to which students have access, making education options available to out of state students.

By choosing an online college, students can enjoy a host of benefits including flexibility, cost savings, access to a wide range of courses and programs, and the assurance of receiving a quality education through accreditation.


When it comes to accreditation, it is crucial to ensure that the online college you choose is accredited by a recognized organization. Attending an unaccredited program can have negative consequences, such as the inability to transfer credits, lack of recognition by employers and other educational institutions, and possibly affecting eligibility for financial aid.

The importance of accredited online colleges and universities

Accreditation plays a crucial role in choosing the best online college.

The government has several organizations to oversee education quality; the Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation are two of them. They deem which schools meet established standards of quality. Consequently, the degree earned will be more likely to be recognized and valued by employers and other educational institutions.

Accreditation is important for guaranteeing the quality of education. It is a process conducted by an external authority, such as the U.S. Department of Education or the non-profit Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to ensure that a school or degree program adheres to certain standards of quality. An example would be The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges(SACSCOC).

When selecting an online college, prospective students should verify that the school is accredited by an organization acknowledged by either the U.S. The government has several organizations to oversee education quality. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation are two of them. This ensures that the school meets established standards of quality and rigor, and that the degree earned will be recognized and valued by employers and other educational institutions.

Attending an unaccredited online school can have serious consequences. For example, students may be unable to transfer credits from other institutions, and their degree may not be acknowledged by employers or other educational institutions if they wish to pursue another degree. Attending an unaccredited program could have a major impact. Eligibility for financial aid could be put in jeopardy as a result.

Accreditation serves to validate a program to employers and other institutions. By attending an accredited online college, students can be confident that they are receiving a quality education that will be recognized and valued in the job market and beyond.

In order to confirm that an online degree program is accredited, students should research that the program is accredited by an organization recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

By researching that the online college or degree program is accredited, students can be confident in the quality of their education and the value of their degree in the job market and beyond.

Types of Online Degrees

The types of online degrees and programs available are numerous, with a large number of colleges and universities offering a wide range of interests and career goals for undergraduate and graduate students. Students can choose from associate degree options to doctoral degrees and certificate programs.

Associate degree programs

Associate degrees are typically two-year programs that provide an opportunity to transition into a bachelor's degree program or start a career in a variety of professions, such as registered nurse, web developer, dental hygienist, or paralegal. These programs offer a solid foundation in a specific field while also allowing for further education if desired.

Bachelor's degree programs

Bachelor's degrees are more comprehensive, covering a wide range of fields. The six most commonly earned bachelor's degrees in 2020-21 were in business, health professions and related programs, social sciences and history, biological and biomedical sciences, psychology, and engineering. A bachelor's degree typically takes approximately four years to complete, whether pursued online or in person.

Master's degree online programs

Master's degrees are postgraduate qualifications that typically require 1-3 years of study to complete. These programs can open up the potential for higher remuneration in your chosen profession and often involve more specialized courses, such as statistics, research methods, and the history and systems of psychology.

Doctoral degree online programs

Doctoral degrees are the highest level of academic qualification and require the submission of original research demonstrating expertise in the relevant field. Obtaining a doctorate degree can provide access to tenure-track teaching roles at renowned universities and other authoritative roles in one's field of study.

Certificate online programs

Certificate programs are designed to provide instruction in professional areas. These programs offer specialized training and education in a specific field, often as a supplement to an existing degree or for individuals looking to gain new skills in a particular area.

With a wide range of online degrees and programs available, students can find the perfect fit for their educational needs and career goals, all while enjoying the benefits of online education.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Online College

When choosing an online college, there are several factors to consider in order to ensure the best possible educational experience. One of the most important factors is accreditation. By selecting a college that is accredited by a recognized organization, students can be confident in the quality of their education and the value of their degree.

When selecting an accredited online college, it is important to evaluate factors such as graduation rates, faculty credentials, and support services available remotely. By focusing on these factors, students can better control that they choose a college that will provide a high-quality education in their subject.

One consideration is whether the learning is synchronous or asynchronous. By determining the learning delivery, students can choose the online college that best suits their needs and learning style.

Another key factor to consider is the range of programs offered by the college. This includes the types of degrees and programs available, as well as the specific courses and subjects covered. By reviewing the college's program offerings, students can more likely they find the perfect fit for their educational needs and career goals. For example, an online associate degree in Data Science is offered by Southern New Hampshire University, and can be a good segue into their bachelor's degree program.

Online programs - synchronous or asynchronous

Synchronous or asynchronous learning options are also important to consider when choosing an online college. Synchronous learning involves attending classes in real-time with other students through online video services, while asynchronous learning allows students to complete coursework at their own pace, utilizing pre-recorded lectures.

By determining their personal learning preferences, students can choose the most suitable learning format for their individual circumstances.

Tuition and Costs

The estimated average undergrad tuition of attending an online bachelor's degree program ranges from $38,000 to $60,000. The average in state tuition at a public university, for a four year bachelor's degree is between $25,00 - $102,00 for an on campus student. Check with your school for the average undergrad tuition.

Costs beyond tuition, such as books, course materials, and online delivery fees, should also be researched when assessing online colleges. This will help students gain a fuller understanding of their financial commitment and ensure they choose a college that fits within their budget.

In addition to costs, students should also consider the quality of student services and faculty available at the online college. This includes access to resources such as academic advisors, career counselors, and support services that can help student success.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements and application fees are another important factor to consider when assessing online colleges. By comparing these factors across different colleges, students can gain a better understanding of the admissions process and make a more informed decision about which college is the best fit for them.

By taking the time to consider these factors, prospective students can better make an informed decision about which online college best suits their needs, resulting in a more positive and rewarding education. Most colleges and universities will require a high school diploma or GED for admission.


See our article Can You Go To College With A GED?

Tips for Succeeding

In order to succeed in online colleges and universities, it's important to create a productive learning environment. This can be done by identifying a tranquil study area, limiting distractions, and arranging a comfortable workspace. By creating an optimal learning environment, students can better focus on their studies and absorb new information more effectively.

Establishing a schedule for completing and reviewing assignments is also crucial for success. By dividing tasks into smaller sections, setting due dates, and incorporating breaks into their plan, students can manage their workload more effectively and stay on track with their studies. A steady routine can be helpful. By setting a regular study schedule, scheduling breaks, and rewarding themselves for completing tasks, students can maintain motivation and stay on track with their academic goals.

Reviewing learning objectives is another important strategy. By regularly reviewing course materials, asking questions about topics, and taking notes, students can gain a more thorough understanding of the subject matter and are better prepared for assessments and examinations.

Improving time management skills is essential. By establishing deadlines, ranking tasks according to importance, and utilizing a calendar to monitor progress, students can better manage their time and ensure they complete their coursework in a timely manner.

In addition to these tips, it's important for students to stay organized and maintain a strong work ethic. By keeping track of assignments, staying focused on their studies, and dedicating sufficient time to their coursework, students can ensure they succeed in their online learning endeavors.

7 Characteristics of Successful Students

See our article The 7 Characteristics of Successful Students.

Financial Aid for Online Students

Online students are eligible for financial aid, including federal financial aid. Financial aid can come in various forms, including federal aid, grants, and institutional scholarships. With numerous options available, it's important for students enrolled online to research and apply for the financial aid that best suits their needs.

Scholarships are available for online students, offering financial assistance to help cover the costs of tuition and other educational expenses. In addition to scholarships, students may also be eligible for federal grants to cover their tuition costs for online college. Determining eligibility for institutional grants and scholarships often requires students to submit an essay and official transcripts. By demonstrating their academic achievements and commitment to their education, students can increase their chances of receiving financial assistance, including academic scholarships.

Financial Aid Resources

The initial step to obtaining financial aid for online college is to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is used to assess financial aid eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. The FAFSA is available annually on October 1 and requires information such as contact details, Social Security number, most recent federal income tax returns, and bank statements.

College-specific financial aid information can be found on the school's website. Students should complete forms for grants, scholarships, and loans offered by the college in order to maximize their financial aid opportunities.

In order to ensure they receive financial aid, students should review school and state grant deadlines and apply for them in a timely manner. By staying informed and proactive about financial aid opportunities, students can alleviate the financial burden of their education and focus more on their academic success.

For more information, see our article Financial Aid Guide for Online College Students.

Career Opportunities with an Online Degree

An online degree offers numerous career opportunities in a variety of fields, with potential salaries and job outlooks that are often comparable to those of traditional on campus degrees.

Best Online Degrees for Careers

See our ranking of the 20 best online degrees for careers, which lists eighteen online bachelor's degree options, and two master's degree options that have the highest earning income potential.

For example, business administration is listed as the online bachelor's degree with the highest income potential. Most of the positions with highest earning potential are in management positions in business. Next are computer science, aviation, engineering, and marketing, etc.

Obtaining a master's degree can also open up the potential for higher income. For example, Industrial Organizational Psychology and Nurse Practitioner are two online degree subjects with some of the highest earning potential.

With specialized courses and advanced knowledge, a master's degree can lead to increased career opportunities and growth. Similarly, obtaining a doctorate degree can provide access to tenure-track teaching roles at universities and other roles in the field of study. The highest level of academic qualification demonstrates expertise and dedication, making doctorate degree holders sought after in their fields.

With an online degree, the possibilities for career advancement and growth are large. By choosing the right online program and investing in their education, students can unlock new opportunities and build a successful future.

Online education can provide opportunities and benefits for today's students. From the flexibility and convenience of online learning to the variety of degree programs available, online education helps students pursue their education goals in their own way and on their own time.

By choosing an accredited online college, researching financial aid opportunities, and applying the tips for succeeding in online learning, students can better achieve success in their studies online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is SUNY online legit?

SUNY's online degrees are legitimate and highly respected, as the university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). SUNY is one of the nation's most respected leaders in public higher education, ensuring students can trust their programs.

SUNY's accreditation from MSCHE is a testament to the quality of their online degrees. The university has a long history of providing quality education and has been recognized for its excellence in teaching, research, and service.

Can I do college full time online?

Yes, there are many different online colleges and universities that offer full-time programs for students. With careful planning, it is possible to pursue a college degree online while managing your other commitments.

What is the best online university in the world?

Based on its student outcomes, affordability, and expansive program offerings, the Penn State University World Campus can be regarded as the best online university in the world. With numerous fully online degree programs offered, prospective students are sure to find an option for their educational needs.

Are online colleges accredited?

Most online colleges are accredited, meaning they have met the standards of an accrediting agency that evaluates their curriculum and faculty. The US Department of Education recognizes several accrediting organizations and lists schools approved by them on their website. While some online programs may lack institutional accreditation, reputable colleges will still receive programmatic accreditation from nationally recognized agencies.

Featured undergraduate and graduate online schools: