Many people these days are opting to take a class online either as part of a degree or just for fun and enrichment. Whether you're trying to apply to an accredited online program attached to a known college or just looking into a class at a fun enrichment site, here are some tips for enrolling in an online program.
- Buyer beware. The first thing to do if you're going to enroll in an online class is know what you're getting into. Many reputable colleges from all over the country have online programs these days and provide great and convenient educational opportunities. Other places, not so much. If you're trying to get an online degree, you'll need to do research into the reputable online college sites. If you're just trying to take a recreational class, you might not even be interested in "real colleges" but might opt for many of the fun online recreational and enrichment programs that don't claim to be major "universities." Look into those, too--don't send your money down a rabbit hole.
- Read the site, including the fine print. Many online schools, both professional and recreational, allow people to register right online. Read the site carefully and see what their policies are. I work for a recreational and enrichment site, for instance, where the policy is quite easy: Contact the administration, choose a class, send payment. Some other classes, especially those connected to big universities require a lot of other stuff: Transcripts, test scores, statements of interest, or other official forms. So check out the site, make note of what you need, and take down email addresses and phone numbers of contacts you may need to make. Also, read the fine print. Most reputable online sites will have a lot of information about finances--making payments, getting financial aid, refund policies, etc. As you're looking at how to enroll, check out how to pay--and how to safeguard your money.
- Ask questions. After you have seen what the online class is all about, if there's more information you still need to know, ask for it. Don't enroll in an online class without all the information you need to feel comfortable about your choice. Do you know what your responsibilities will be? When will information be sent to you? What will you have to submit? What will you get in return--a certificate, college credits, etc.? Make sure, during the enrollment process, that you ask what you need to know.
- Organize your information. If you're enrolling in a recreational or enrichment site's class, chances are you won't need to do much preparation. But if you're applying to a class at an accredited college, for credit, you may need transcripts, your social security or other identifying information, proof of high school graduation, scores from the ACT, SAT, GRE, or TOEFL or other stats. As you are about enroll, you'll do yourself a favor by getting all the information together and having it on hand when you submit your forms. Sometimes, you may have to send away for scores or transcripts, so be prepared for that, too.
- Submit the paperwork and get confirmation. Send in your forms as directed. Whether online or by mail, find out how the school will acknowledge receipt of your materials. Most colleges send an email or a postcard letting you know all your materials are in order and you are officially enrolled. If time goes by and you still don't know your status, call and ask. And then comes the hard part--taking the class!