Preparing for Online College



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Preparing for Online College

If you are considering applying directly from high school to an online college or university in the United States, your post-secondary planning process should begin early. Online colleges and universities--or particular programs within an institution--can be more competitive and rigorous than you might expect; therefore, it's important to plan your high school courses accordingly. Your area of interest will determine what you should take. If you are considering a science or technology-based program, you should load up on courses in math, chemistry, physics and computers to ensure that you are well prepared for the schools that make your list. Communication skills are always important, in virtually every field, so don't forget your English! In general, English and math are the most-often required courses for all fields of university and college study. If you are going into a more general program--or don't know yet what you plan to study--then go for breadth: take courses across the curriculum in science, social science, humanities, creative arts and technology.

Taking the required courses, though, isn't necessarily enough; you should also keep your grades up. Some online colleges and universities in the US have open admission, but the online divisions at on-campus colleges and universities sometimes have the same undergraduate admissions requirements as the whole institution. Which involves a minimum cut-off average for general admission, and possibly competitive grade point average (GPA) for more in-demand programs. The competitive GPA can change from year to year as it is based on the quality of the applicant pool and space available in the specific program.

In addition to your academics, there are several additional things you can do to prepare for success in your application, regardless of whether it is for an online university, community college or career college program:

  • Undertake to read and study independently. This is a good way to develop interests, expand your knowledge and improve the vocabulary and reading comprehension skills needed for your program. This will also help you if admission requirements include a phone interview, since you will be able to impress the interviewer with the knowledge you have built up of terms and issues specific to your area or program of interest.


  • Since lots of students have good grades, many admissions committees base their decision partly on a student's personal qualities. These qualities can be developed through participating in extracurricular activities. Consider joining or even starting school clubs, whether related to your area of interest or not (of course if it is related to your proposed field of study, all the better!). This is also a good way to develop demonstrated leadership skills, which are also an important aspect of any competitive application.


  • Prove your work ethic and time management. Online studies takes a lot of commitment, discipline and plain old hard work. Therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- is an achievement often regarded highly by admissions committees. It's a good idea to show that you know how to manage your time effectively, even when balancing multiple responsibilities.


  • Validate your commitment. Show the admissions committee you are serious by attending a summer camp or community course related to your proposed field of study. Showing that you are committed to pursuing your study interest can show your dedication and likelihood of success ion the program.

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