Are you thinking about pursuing an online degree? It can be a more convenient option for anyone who’s trying to juggle working full-time, family life, and trying to pursue an education. And thanks to the global pandemic, more people are choosing to enroll in virtual programs than ever before.

But with so many colleges and universities that are offering online degree and certification programs, it can be difficult to know where exactly to start. Here are four tips for choosing an online college.

Find Out About Accreditation Before Enrolling

Accreditation is the single most important factor to take into consideration when choosing an online degree or certification program. Whether you want to obtain your California Teaching Credential, enroll in a Registered Nursing (RN) program or become a real estate agent, it’s important to make sure that the school you’re attending is accredited. If your program isn’t accredited, it won’t be recognized.

Most colleges and universities display their accreditation status on a page of their website. You might also have to check under the specific program you’re interested in. If this information isn’t easy to find, consider reaching out to a program coordinator or check out the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for more info on the 60 accrediting agencies.

Consider Choosing an In-State School

As with any other college or university, it’s important to consider the cost of tuition when it comes to online programs. Online college is expensive — sometimes even more expensive than a traditional college.

One way to combat the high cost of tuition is by choosing an in-state college or university. You will be offered reduced-cost tuition when you attend a college in the state you live in, just as you would if you attended an on-campus in-state college program. On the flip side, attending an out-of-state college or a private university would end up costing you more — even if the program is an online one.

Not only will your education be more affordable when you choose an in-state college, but you’ll also be able to meet any educational standards or requirements your state has for the career you plan to enter. 

When you choose an in-state school, you might also be able to meet with your instructors during their office hours to go over any difficulties you’re encountering in your online courses. In addition, you’ll have access to the school’s on-campus tutoring services and other resources that can help ensure your education is a successful one. 

Consider a Hybrid Online Program

There’s another benefit to attending an in-state college: hybrid online degree programs. These programs allow you to take some courses on campus if desired. With these courses, you might be required to take proctored exams and attend a small number of lectures throughout the year. 

Check Out the College’s Stats 

It’s important to choose an online college that will help benefit you in the workforce. In addition to choosing a high-quality, reputable college that will impress your employers, it’s important to check out the college’s statistics.

Be sure to take a look at graduation rates, which should be at least around 60%. If the college’s rates are significantly lower than this, it might say something about the quality of instructors or resources available to struggling students. 

Employment outcomes are also important to take into consideration. It’s best to aim to find a college with a high post-graduation employment rate. Another factor that could be telling is the student loan default rate. It might not seem relevant to employment, but the percentage of students defaulting on their student loans may say a lot. Student loan default rates above 10% could indicate that students aren’t finding gainful employment after graduation. These and other stats matter — and should be a determining factor when it comes to choosing an online college. 

These are just four tips to keep in mind when choosing an online college or university. No matter what online school you choose, following this advice can help ensure a successful outcome.