You want to find the best online degree program, but you don’t know how to go about it. There isn’t a list where you can just look up the answer, because the answer varies from person to person. US News publishes a list of “The Top 100 American Colleges” every year, but even then there are really several lists. Who decides what college is best, and what criteria do they use?
In this instance, you decide which the best online degree program is, because what’s important is which program is best for you. What factors are important to you? Are you looking for the best online degree program in a particular field? Are you looking for the best online degree program for the money? Or are you looking for the best online party college? (There isn’t one—online colleges don’t party. Have you ever been to a virtual party? People just post happy messages with emoticons.)
Eliminate the obvious
To figure out which is the best online degree program, start by eliminating programs that obviously won’t work. For instance, if you want to get a degree in business, and a school doesn’t offer that, it doesn’t matter how good the school is, it isn’t the best one for you. You’ll almost certainly want to eliminate programs that aren’t accredited by a recognized accreditation agency.
Decide what you want
Next, decide what you want in a program. Make a list of the features that are most important to you. You might look at academic excellence. You might ask yourself if the courses are relevant for you. Maybe there are some people you’d particularly like to study under—are they on the faculty? What about cost? How does the school use technology to provide online education?
After you know what you’re looking for, browse the internet and pick out four or five online programs that have what you’re looking for. Take some time with this. Don’t just read the Google ads. Go to each college’s website and look around to see what they have to offer. (Hint: I’d be very leery of an online college that doesn’t have a website.)
Evaluate each college according to the features you are looking for. It might be useful to make a little chart, like this:
College A College B College C College D Academic Reputation
Give each college a number on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale, and then add them up to see which is the best online degree program for you.