5 things to look for in an online program

financial advisor talks to client

Deciding where you are going to earn your undergraduate degree can be a daunting task. In the online space there are hundreds of options from schools around the world. So how do you figure out which one is right for you?

“Pursuing your bachelor’s degree online is a significant investment of your time and money,” says UW–Madison Online enrollment coach Darren Martin. “It’s important to do your homework before making your decision.”

The enrollment coaches at UW–Madison Online have put together five things you should evaluate when looking for an online program to earn your bachelor’s degree.

  1. Reputation — Your undergraduate degree school becomes part of your personal brand. It is one of the first things employers will look at on your resume. Choosing a well-respected institution will not only help you stand out, but it will also guarantee you are getting a high-quality education. Here are some things to consider.

    How is the school accredited? In higher education you want your institution to be regionally rather than nationally accredited. UW–Madison has been accredited since 1913 by the Higher Learning Commission, an organization that accredits institutions in a 19-state region, and received reaffirmation of accreditation in 2019.

    Is the program ranked? It’s important to know what other entities are saying about the program. “Rankings can sometimes be confusing,” says Heather Danielson, a UW–Madison Online enrollment coach. “My best advice is to make sure the publication is ranking the program on areas that are important to you. Look at the criteria for the rankings, too.” WealthManagement.com ranked UW–Madison #2 in top colleges for financial planning.

  2. Quality of faculty — If you want to be the best, you need to learn from the best. With online education, students can learn from professors on the cutting edge of their field, no matter where they are. Be sure to consider the faculty members’ areas of research, how they are ranked in their field and any professional recognition they’ve received. Danielson adds, “One of the most important questions to ask is, how are the faculty in the classroom? This is key for your success. Faculty at UW–Madison Online are engaged and want to be teaching online.”
  3. Quality of students — While admissions criteria of a top-ranked institution can be intimidating, it guarantees that you will be in classes with smart, talented people. The holistic admissions process at UW–Madison Online ensures you will be learning alongside bright, skilled and well-rounded students. You will work with these students on group assignments, and they become your professional network when you graduate.
  4. Student experience — Online learning should not be a solitary experience. You should be connected and engaged right from the start and all the way through graduation. “At UW–Madison Online you are a Badger from day one,” says Martin. “From when you first show interest you are assigned an enrollment coach like me that helps create an individualized education journey. I then introduce you to your academic and career coach who will be there for the rest of your journey and help unlock all the benefits and services available at the university.”
  5. Flexibility — Many online students have jobs, family and other obligations, so flexibility is a must. Since you may be juggling many priorities while earning your degree, you need a program that allows you to choose whether or not you go full- or part-time, determine the number of courses you will take and learn at times that fit into your schedule. UW–Madison Online gives you options that work with your life commitments.

So how do the programs you are looking into stack up? For more information on UW–Madison Online or to talk with an enrollment coach, email uwmadison@online.wisc.edu, or call 608-400-7459.