The High Schooler’s Guide to Choosing an Online School

For many students and their families, enrolling full-time at a traditional four-year college is prohibitively expensive. The prospect of having to take out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans is leading more and more students to question the value of attending a brick-and-mortar university immediately after high school. In order to save time and money, many of these students are investigating their options to pursue their degrees online.

These days, there are thousands of high-quality online schools that high school seniors and recent graduates can choose from. The search for the right accredited course or program can be daunting, but all it really takes is a little research and a great guide to help you along the way.

An immediate benefit of enrolling in online courses or degree programs is saving on student travel and living expenses. Let's face it, living with mom and dad for your first few years out of high school may not be be ideal, but in the end, not having to pay expensive rent at a dorm or apartment could save you and your parents thousands of dollars each year. This is especially the case for students who are looking to attend universities outside of their own state. The cost of travelling and moving alone could end up setting you back hundreds, or even thousands of dollars before classes even begin.

The sticker price of tuition at online schools is also generally a fraction of what students can expect to pay at a traditional college or university. And we're not just comparing the cost of online schooling with the typical tuition rates charged at notoriously high-priced school like Harvard — two-year colleges are getting more expensive, as well. Nowadays, an incoming freshman at a community college can expect to pay at least $3,000 per year in tuition costs alone.

An added benefit of taking online courses through education portals is the possibility of transferring credits earned online to traditional colleges and universities. This allows graduating seniors to cost-effectively get many required courses out of the way before committing to the expense of attending a traditional college or university. Even better news is that free online course providers, such as Coursera, are currently offering courses with college credit recommendations.

As more and more graduating seniors become aware of the benefits of online courses, traditional college prep options are losing their appeal. Though helpful for building college readiness, Head Start and Advanced Placement programs also rely on outdated methods of assessment and learning, such as test taking and memorization. Online courses offer high schoolers and recent graduates a more authentic taste of the academic rigors and expectations they'll need to meet in college.

Recently, several online course hubs, such as Coursera and 2U, have been leading the way in encouraging traditional colleges and universities to offer more courses and degree options online. While several prestigious universities have been offering massively open online courses (MOOCs) to students over the last several years, a majority of these courses did not offer college credit for their completion.

According to this informative article by Steve Kolowich at Inside Higher Ed, many of these same universities are beginning to experiment with the prospect of offering online courses with college credit. Unfortunately, cost and admissions criteria still remain complicated factors in their ability to offer these online courses on a wider scale. Fortunately, the fact that many prestigious universities are beginning to investigate the benefits of offering an online education is certainly a step in the right direction.

Online Education Database (OEDb) is a great resource graduating high school seniors can use to boost their research into online courses and degree programs. Like traditional college ranking outlets, such as U.S. News & World Report, the OEDb offers several features that students can use to research and locate the right online school for them.

One great feature of OEDb is the Degree Finder, which students can use to locate an accredited online program in three easy steps. For example, let's say you want to find out what your options are for an online bachelor's degree. In the first box of the Degree Finder, select Bachelor's. Then, in the next box, select a category or "field" you are interested in pursuing. Finally, in the third box, select a subject area that interests you that falls within the selected category. Once you click Search, OEDb will provide you with an online school recommendation based on what you choose.

As you begin or continue your research into online schools with the OEDb, keep a checklist of features you're looking for in a program. For instance, if your plan is to ultimately transfer and complete your degree at a university or you want to apply your past credits to a new program, be sure to thoroughly research the school's transfer policies before enrolling.

Also, be wary of time commitments and tuition costs of the online schools you research. While most online degree programs can be less expensive than their traditional counterparts, there are some online schools that are actually more expensive. Knowing how much time you will have to commit to an online program is also important; most, but not all, online courses allow students to complete work at their own pace.

Preparing for college as a graduating high school senior can be stressful and overwhelming. If you're among the tens of thousands of college-aged students who is not quite ready to commit to a higher cost, tightly-scheduled degree program, online coursework is probably for you. So whether you're looking to enhance your college applications, gain an introduction to college-level work, or satisfy some of your prerequisites, our online degree finder can help. Please explore our site to learn more.