After a few years of community college, I had gained enough credits to transfer to a university. Since my GPA, after 15 courses was at 3.78, I knew that I could very well have applied to some competitive institutions around the United States. However, due to the fact that I have a mini-farm that I would have had to travel with, and the downturn of the economy, complicated by the ever-rising prices in gas, I decided that the most logical and economical choice was to apply at a university that offered online degrees.
One of the foremost things to research when choosing an online college or university is to check their credentialing status – this is not only an indicator of the validity of the rigor of their programs, but is essential that they be credentialed by one of the four main regional accrediting bodies in the United States in order for any institution – “brick-and-mortar” or online – to be eligible to receive federal financial aid for tuition payment. The six regional accrediting bodies in the United States are:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association on Schools and Colleges
It is very important that you check the credentialing status of any school before applying. Not only must a school be credentialed by one of these six regional credentialing agencies in order to retain eligibility in receiving financial aid, but it is a qualification for being admitted into any other subsequent universities for other coursework or graduate study. In addition, many employers state in job descriptions that any degrees obtained must have been conferred by a regionally credentialed institution only.
After researching a few institutions, I chose to apply to Troy University (formerly Troy State University) for several reasons. First, since they were the state university of Alabama, I knew that there was a minimum standard in the quality of education I would receive. Second, they offered several different concentrations and minors for my chosen major of Political Science. Last, they do not charge out-of-state tuition like some other institutions (I live in California). Troy also has their own sports teams that you can actually watch and track on ESPN – in this way, you have more of a connection to the institution. Their teams are known as the Troy Trojans and their mascot is called “T-ROY”.
Attending Troy online was not easy – all the online courses at Troy progress on 8 week terms, within 5 terms a year. The workload is so grueling in an 8 week term that two classes are considered full time. On top of the reading and assignments, there are also conversation forums, which take place of the absence of face-to-face contact with other students and teachers – these forums also must be completed in order for students to be eligible to receive federal financial aid. Though the schedule is hard to keep up with and the work sometimes challenging, it is a great way to learn discipline and time management. The only real drawback to Troy is that the list of degrees they offer is limited; as a result, when I wanted to change my major to Environmental Science, I had to transfer to another institution, American Public University, who offered such a program. However, Troy University is a good school that provides a quality education and I credit the school with helping me to develop more in-depth critical thinking skills.
There are many good online schools, as well as many brick-and-mortar institutions that also provide online education; however, intensive research is the key in obtaining the knowledge of picking the best university or college that is right for you. There are other factors to consider besides accreditation, selection of majors, and quality of education – cost is another important issue to consider. Many only online schools require SAT or GRE scores in order to be considered for admittance into their programs. Since my GPA was very high, Troy accepted that in lieu of test scores; however, the school is slightly competitive and normally requires SAT scores. However, every institution has their own set of requirements for admission, so the best thing to do is research as many schools as possible in order to find one that best suits your needs and your abilities.