In another article “7 Questions to Ask Your Online College’s Academic Advisor” I shared a list of questions to take with you when speaking with your list of prospective online college’s academic advisors. Grab this list too you’ll have a great bunch of questions that will prepare you for what lies ahead.

  1. What’s the registration deadline? Don’t feel rushed into making this decision. The next set of classes may start tomorrow, but if you don’t feel good about it, don’t commit. Investigate your choices thoroughly and then decide.
  2. How soon do classes start? Some online schools have more flexible start dates than regular universities. Traditionally there are less than a handful of start times throughout the year.  If your online program is an accelerated one or if you’re working on a self-paced course or certification you may be able to start at any time, but find out.
  3. Is graduation a static or flexible date? Do they offer a one size fits all approach where everyone that starts at the same time graduates together? Or can you speed things up a bit by taking the classes as fast as you can learn?
  4. What are your class sizes? If a class is too large you may not be able to get needed attention from professors. Between 12 & 25 is ideal, if it’s much more you may wish to find out if there are helpers for the instructors to make sure you don’t get neglected.
  5. How many weeks are the semesters/terms? Life is more than education. You may have other plans already set in motion such as a marriage or big trip. I don’t think you should personally cancel those things for school, so if you can’t give school relatively full attention for the time period then plan on it at a later date.
  6. Do you offer refunds? Most institutions offer full refunds if something happens after you begin and decide to drop out or postpone your classes. Just because you never know when something will happen that will take priority over school, ask to see if they will allow you to defer your education, get refunded, etc. Don’t expect a refund if you’ve finished half the semester and then decide to call it quits, by this point they’ve already invested time and money into you.
  7. What’s in the fine print? Sometimes fees or other requirements won’t be explicit in the literature you receive on a website or brochure. Make sure to ask if the total cost includes services for offline students that you won’t be using or if you’ll be expected to purchase anything in addition to your tuition.

These are some questions that will help you understand better what you’re getting into. Make sure to ask them or find them in the prospective student literature. They may forget to mention some of their policies before you register, but be assured that you will be expected to abide by them once you begin. Good luck!

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