When the search is on for a good online college program you’re going to want to get the broadest possible idea of what that programs is like. While academic advisors and instructors have a vested interest in seeing their program survive, other students who have taken classes can be more open about their experience with the program.

There’s a good chance that the institution will not readily share with you names of their students, but they may have an alumni or graduate club that you could visit and ask students about their experience with said online college. The school may even have a program where they get testimonies from students. Chances are these students are only going to say good things, but do your best here are some questions you can ask a student or past student. You may even try posting these questions on an online forum such as Yahoo Answers to see if anyone else has attended the online college in question.

Start with a general open-ended question to let them lead the conversation such as, “What was it like attending this school?” By starting here you let the student give you what stands out in their mind. This is valuable information.

What was your favorite thing about this school or program? If they don’t have something that stood out as great, then you may have some clue into the program. Then again, you may also be getting some insight into the student themselves. Try to distinguish between an overall downer attitude about school and a negative experience with this college in particular.

Was there anything you would change or didn’t like? It’s more probable than not you’ll get an answer to this. No program can please everyone all the time. Even if they aren’t passionately against this or that aspect of the program, they are likely to share with you some candid things for you to consider.

On a scale of 1-10 how good do feel the curriculum is? Would you recommend it to others? If you contacted this student through the university’s testimonial group, chances are they’ll say yes, but you can ask them to share why they gave the answer they did. This will help dive deeper into their overall experience.

How would you rate the instructors? Keep in mind that even students can have a slanted view of the class or instructor. If they didn’t get along with the teacher that doesn’t mean that the teacher is a poor teacher, it could mean that the student is very disagreeable, didn’t do homework and expected to still get a good grade. Try to get a sense of the student’s motive behind their response.

These and other questions can give you a good sense of a student’s experience in the online college you are looking into. Feel free to come up with some of your own and make sure to thank them for their time. Most students are willing to share with you what they thought of a class. Take it for what it’s worth, combine it with the other information you are getting and let it help you settle on the college experience that’s right for you.

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