Life is busy. Not everyone has time to get their bachelor's degree in a traditional setting--in a college or university classroom. If you want an undergraduate degree but don't have the time or means to go to classes several times a week, distance learning may be the answer for you. Enrolling in a distance learning program need not be a hassle if you take a few precautions, organize yourself, and follow the procedures of your school of interest.
- Know what you want and find the place offering it. The first thing you need to do if you're going to enroll in a distance learning program to get that undergrad degree is have a solid knowledge of what you want, what you can do, and how you want to go about doing it. What kind of degree do you want? In other words, what's your major? Do you want to study science, history, math, education? These days, there are hundreds of options, even for people taking courses in a distance learning format. You need to know what you want to study so you can find the school with the right program for you. Or, on the other hand, you need to know if you're undecided. Plenty of people start their undergrad education with an undeclared major. Just be sure the school you pick has some of the options you might eventually consider so you don't leave yourself stuck when it comes time to actually pick a path.
Once you know what you want to study, there are many other things to consider, such as cost, time commitment, and the reputation of a school. You should take serious time to consider these things, too, as you look to enroll somewhere as an undergrad. Simple Internet searches, a phone call to the admissions office of a local college, a conversation with your high school guidance counselor, or even a talk with the human resources manager at your job can help you find colleges and universities with distance learning programs. Then it's up to you to find the one that fits your needs.
- Check credentials. The last thing you want to do is spend years of your life and thousands of dollars on a distance learning program that isn't legit and won't be respected by potential employers or provide you with a real education. Make sure to check the accreditation of your program of choice, once you pick it. Call the school if you have any questions. Don't get sucked in by a "diploma mill." If you want a real undergraduate education, go to a real undergraduate program. You can read about diploma mills at the Federal Trade Commission. And you can check the government database of accredited colleges at the U.S. Department of Education.
- Check and follow the procedures. Every distance program has its own requirements for enrollment. Make sure you follow what they ask you to do, how and when they ask you to do it. Things they might ask for include SAT or ACT scores, high school transcripts, and a completed school application form including essays and letters of recommendation. If you are applying for financial aid, there are requirements for that, too. Again, not all programs ask for all these things, so you really need to be diligent about finding out what your specific program asks for. Make a checklist, call the admissions office, write the due dates on your calendar--whatever it takes for you to get all the paperwork into the right hands. Don't let administrative snafus slow down your pursuit of your degree.
- If you need to, speak to an advisor or admissions counselor about course selection. Once you are accepted to a program, there are many things to keep in mind when you select your first courses: What do you want to take, what do you have to take, and are some courses more helpful than others for your major? You may be able to figure these things out by just looking at the course catalog or website, but, you also might need a little advice as you enroll. Don't hesitate to contact your school of choice and speak to someone who can help you pick that first batch of courses. In a "regular" college setting, no freshman would go through that process without some help. So, be sure to reach out for it if you need it. In fact, many distance programs may require you speak to someone before you begin course selection.
Once you select your classes and get confirmation of enrollment there's only one thing left to do: Hit the books!