1. Conduct research and note important deadlines: When it comes to applying to an online college, there are multiple deadlines for prospective students to consider. It’s important to note deadlines for things like the school’s admissions application, financial aid, and test score submission.. Prospective students can find this information on websites for the online degree program they are interested in. Because online program academic calendars may be structured differently from on-campus offerings, deadlines may differ for these applicants.
2. Complete the FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important tool for many students when it comes to paying for a degree in any format, whether online, in person, or a combination of both. Prospective students must fill out the FAFSA for federal loans, grants and work-study jobs. Nearly all students who apply for financial aid qualify for some form of it. Because of the complex nature of the FAFSA and financial aid, many schools have trained advisers who can guide prospective students through the process and answer questions.
3. Fill out an application: At the bachelor’s level, the Common Application is accepted by nearly 900 schools, including some colleges located outside the U.S. It’s likely that an online degree-seeking student will also need to complete this application. The Common Application requires students to fill out basic information such as their name, address and contact information as well as answer school-specific questions. Because master’s degree applications are usually tied to a specific program in a school, the types of applications students need to complete varies depending on the discipline.
4. Write a great essay: As part of their application, applicants will likely have to submit an essay of some kind . Because many online students already have some work experience, many experts recommend that they emphasize their professional skills as part of their application and explain how their experience has prepared them for online college.
5. Ask for recommendation letters: Letters of recommendation are often required from both undergraduate and graduate online students. These may come not only from teachers and school counselors but also current or previous employers who can speak to a student’s work ethic. At the graduate level, a recommendation letter will more likely come from an employer.
6. Submit transcripts and test scores: At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, many programs allow students to waive test requirements if they have a certain amount of work experience in a related field. How competitive it is to receive a waiver varies. Online master’s degree applicants will likely need to submit a college transcript. Whether the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required depends on the school and area of study. Students may need to submit SAT scores, ACT scores or their high school transcript, and depending on the program’s requirements, the student’s prior work experience and their previously earned credit hours.
The admissions process for online college is usually similar to the process for on-campus programs. Many undergraduate online students already have some previously earned college credits and therefore may be able to forgo standardized testing, such as the SAT or ACT, if enough of their credits transfer.
At the graduate level, admissions requirements also vary depending on the discipline and school. For instance, an online MBA program may or may not require students to submit GMAT or GRE scores – this information is typically available on a program’s website. Consult an admissions officer at schools of interest to determine the exact requirements. Note that just because a program is offered online, there’s no guarantee that getting admitted will be easier.

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