Online Bachelor’s Degrees and Programs
Pursuing an accredited online bachelor’s degree can help you take the next step in your career – without leaving your home. Through your program, you’ll attend online lectures, study from home, manage a busy schedule and interact virtually with professors and classmates.
An online college degree may appeal to those who want more flexibility in completing their education, or who want to take classes while working full time or parenting. Choosing where to enroll online will likely be challenging, but below you’ll find tools, advice and other resources to make your search easier.
U.S. News evaluated several factors to rank the best online bachelor’s degree programs, including graduation rates, faculty credentials and support services available remotely.
How to Choose the Best Online Bachelor’s Program for You
Choosing an online undergraduate program is an important decision. The best online program for you is one that fits your needs, budget and schedule.To find your best-fit program, use online resources and put in the research. In a 2020 survey by Aslanian Market Research and Wiley Education Service, online reviews and opinions of friends and their employers were the most influential sources of information among prospective students.Think about your desired area of study and how it can set you up to enter different industries. Cost, flexibility and format of an online program are other factors that come into play when selecting a program. Make sure the programs you’re interested in are fully online or in your ideal format.Then review admission requirements and application fees and compare the availability of financial aid. Look into details about the school, like what fees you have to pay on top of your tuition – including book, course material and online delivery fees – and information about student services and the faculty. The availability of support services for online learners can show how much a school values the student experience. Students who are switching from in-person learning to an online format may need technical support, for example.
How Much Does an Online Bachelor’s Degree Cost?
Online programs can save students money on transportation, housing and study materials when compared with some on-campus programs. Though some institutions do charge distance education or technology fees. Tuition for an online undergraduate degree at many private universities costs less than one earned on campus. The average per credit price for online programs at the 168 private colleges that reported to U.S. News for the 2019-2020 academic year was $488. This was lower than the average tuition price for on-campus programs at ranked private colleges, which was $1,240, among the 113 colleges that reported this information. At public schools, tuition rates may differ for in-state and out-of-state online students. Among the 170 ranked public colleges that reported this information to U.S. News, the average tuition for in-state, in-district students for an online bachelor’s degree was $316 per credit for the 2019-2020 academic year. The tuition for in-state students studying on campus was an average of $311 per credit, among the 93 ranked colleges that provided this information. Attending a public school in your state can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of earning your degree. Note that tuition prices may be program specific or format specific. Students can reduce the cost of an online degree in a few ways. For instance, they can transfer earned college credits or enroll in an accelerated program. According to the 2020 Aslanian Market Research and Wiley Education Service survey, 87% of undergraduate students entered their online program with transfer credits from an average of one to two institutions – primarily from in-person learning.There’s also a format, called competency-based education, that allows students to pay a set price per billing period. Students demonstrate proficiency in specific skills to progress faster through the material and spend more time on new information. Scholarships for online students can also help reduce the price of school. In addition, working students may be eligible for employer tuition reimbursement – where employers pay for some or all of the tuition. The 2020 Aslanian Market Research and Wiley Education Service survey found that of the undergraduate students enrolled in fully online college-level programs, 53% were employed full time, and 20% were employed part time.
How to Apply to an Online Bachelor’s Degree Program
Prospective students should note deadlines for things like the school’s admissions application, financial aid and test score submission, as online program academic calendars and deadlines may differ from on-campus offerings. You must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for federal loans, grants and work-study jobs. Nearly all students who apply for financial aid qualify for some form of it. Because of the complex nature of the FAFSA and financial aid, many schools have advisers to guide prospective students through the process. Online students likely need to fill out the Common Application, which is accepted by nearly 900 schools, including some colleges located outside the U.S. Applicants typically have to submit an essay or statement of some kind. Prospective students with work experience should emphasize their professional skills in their application. Admissions officials look for essays that showcase an applicant’s personality, and a good way to do that is by including a powerful anecdote.Letters of recommendation are often required from undergraduate online students. These may come not only from teachers and school counselors but also current or previous employers who can speak to a student’s work ethic.Students may need to submit SAT or ACT scores, their high school transcript, and, depending on the program’s requirements, the student’s prior work experience and previously earned credit hours.Students coming in with college credits may be able to forgo taking the SAT or ACT if enough credits transfer.
How to Fund Your Online Bachelor’s Degree
To receive financial aid, you must fill out the FAFSA, which is available online on Oct. 1 each year. Prospective students should check school and state grant deadlines and apply as early as possible for their best chance at getting financial aid.Many online programs require students to meet specific credit-hour requirements to receive certain amounts or types of aid. Therefore, whether a student is enrolled part time or full time can affect that person’s ability to qualify for financial aid.The FAFSA requires basic information such as students’ contact information and Social Security number as well as their latest federal income tax returns and bank statements. Undergraduate students who are younger than 24 years old – and not married, veterans or active-duty military members – need to file as a dependent and provide their parents’ financial information. A dependent student is assumed to have the support of parents, so the parents’ and student’s information is assessed to get an idea of the family’s financial strength. Students not in contact with their parents can still fill out the FAFSA as a dependent, in some circumstances, but should get in touch with the college’s financial aid office after submitting. Students who are at least 24, or who are younger than 24 and meet certain legal requirements, are considered independents and use their own financial information.Next, fill out other financial aid forms, and apply for scholarships. Many colleges offer their own source of financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, loans and federal work-study jobs. Though, some online degree programs may not offer work-study opportunities, as many online students are already working full time.Good places to search online for scholarships include organizations tied to a discipline. Also, the U.S. News Scholarship Finder has thousands of options you can search. Online learners may be eligible for the same scholarships available to on-campus students, and there may even be additional scholarships for online or adult learners.Applicants will receive a Student Aid Report from the Federal Student Aid office after submitting the FAFSA online. It’s an opportunity for applicants to review or correct any information on the FAFSA, including adding or removing colleges.Each school calculates an applicant’s financial need, which determines financial aid eligibility. Students then receive an award letter stating what financial aid the school is offering. They can compare their award packages based on the aid they are eligible to receive, the school’s tuition and other costs.To continue receiving financial aid, applicants need to fill out the FAFSA for as long as they’re in school.
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