Tips for International Students Attending Online U.S. Colleges and Universities

College degrees that can be obtained through distance learning or e-learning are a popular option for international students. It is a convenient and cost-effective way for individuals who are looking to move forward with their education. Several universities and colleges worldwide offer online programs with a wide array of degree courses to choose from. From undergraduate degrees to graduate programs, studying online is an opportunity worth exploring for its numerous advantages.

Educational Advancement at Your Fingertips

Earning an online degree from an accredited online institution is no different from earning it from a traditional school system. You will have the flexibility that you need to continue with your full-time job while continuing to advance your education. At the end of the day, you will have the degree that will get you that overdue promotion. We need to adapt to the changing demands of globalization, and an online degree is a step in the right direction.

Why the United States?

The United States hosts the world’s largest international student population. According to the data recorder by SEVIS by the Numbers, there are more than 1 million students who choose to study in the US. Owing to the high-quality education offered in the country, students from around the world flock to get a degree in the country. This is not surprising as the United States has been a top destination for international students.

Offering online degrees to international students has benefited the world. The convenience that it offers is the most attractive aspect of the program. To many, staying in their home country is the best part. It’s no secret that the strict and often tedious process of immigration is a deal breaker to most students planning to study abroad. Additionally, with finances to manage, students attending conventional colleges end up with thousands of dollars in student loans by the time they graduate.

With world-class institutions in the United States offering thousands of academic programs, the education opportunities in the country is unmatched. It is now possible to receive a degree from universities abroad without the need to leave their home country. Earning a degree from a university abroad while living at home is a freedom international students get to enjoy.

A commonly held misconception is that online learning diminishes a student’s opportunities to communicate or connect with other people. The truth, however, is that in online education, teachers go to great lengths to stay connected with their students wherever they are in the world. Similarly, students are free to send questions via email or phone and through the online campus portal. Because of this, both students and teachers are well-acquainted and end up building a productive relationship. Online courses do not cause detached learning or a disconnect between them.

Tips for International Students

Distance education is a great way to experience US education system without securing a student visa and leaving home. You may choose from full-time degree programs on all levels. As it is with traditional colleges, international education also lets you enjoy the opportunity to pick your field of choice to study.

Arriving at the decision to pursue an online degree in the US isn’t without its challenges. An international student needs to face an overwhelming myriad of choices of schools and degree programs offered in the country. Considering the remarkable coverage of distance learning, finding the right balance is key to a successful online education.

You are eager to learn. You understand the significance of your efforts. You recognize the value of getting an education in the United States is without having to leave your home country.

But the pressing question is: is online learning for you?

For potential international students who are looking into the programs offered in the US, we are here to make your educational journey less stressful. To help you make the best decision, we offer a list of tips for you to consider. Here are the things that you should take note before you get started.

Set your goals.

It may sound cliché but setting your goals helps you get to a good start. We have all heard it: planning and tracking your progress as you go is important in making sure that you reach your objectives. This is especially true in an online environment that allows you to take control of your time. So, how do you make sure that you keep your focus on your goal throughout your online program? Set your goals. Set SMART goals.

Pursuing a higher degree is a serious commitment. You need to have the right motivation behind finishing your degree. This is where your goals come in handy. Did you know that research proves that goal setting promises positive effects? It conditions the brain into believing that you are more than capable of achieving the goal you’ve set no matter how big or small.

There is science behind setting goals! So, go on. Jot down the goals you want to achieve. Decide on the things you wish to accomplish and continue working towards them. The possibilities in your educational advancement are endless. You just have to set things in motion.

Evaluate your academic needs.

Setting your goals readies you for your academic journey. However, do you know what you need in terms of your academics? You need to have a clear picture of what it is that you are aiming for in this aspect of online college. education. If you are eyeing for a promotion in your job in finance, get an advanced degree in finance. On the other hand, if you want to gain a competitive advantage in software design, pursue an online degree in the said field.

Aligned with your academic needs is the best way to go about your studies. Career advancement is a sure benefit of a competitive academic background. The survey proves that online students experience improvement in their employment status. Because of the highly-technical and practical skills, you learn from an online degree, you will have the advantage amongst your peers.

Research your options.

One of the very first steps in taking charge of your international education in the US is finding a college or university that fits your needs. When deciding on the school to attend, make sure that your priorities and goals match with that of the school. There isn’t a tell-all ranking system for all colleges and universities in the United States. You need to evaluate how these institutions, in all their promise of world-class education, can benefit you.

Research your options and make sure that you settle with the best school for you. Apply to institutions whose requirements keep up with you academic background and primary interests. Academic, financial, and personal factors are three things you should also consider. If the college or university you decide to enroll in meets these, you will know that you are in the right program.

Check if your college of choice is accredited.

The United States does not employ a ranking system that evaluates all the colleges and universities that operate in the country. There is no sole agency that takes control and supervision of higher education institutions. Colleges and universities in various states are generally left with considerable independence and autonomy over their operation and programs. In this respect, American educational institutions are able to exercise and adapt to diversity. Because of this, the American education system generally offers not only high quality education but also an environment that is culturally diverse–including in the online setting!

The Importance of Accreditation

In order to ensure that educational institutions comply with a certain level of quality, the practice of accreditation system came to be. The goal of accreditation is to make sure that online programs available in US colleges and universities are of world-class quality. Most importantly, accreditation is the primary way for institutions to inform the public that they provide quality education.

Accrediting agencies are 3rd party, private educational associations that cater to either regional or nationwide accreditation. Accreditation follows evaluation criteria developed by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). The commission is composed of 10 members who are elected by member institutions and appointed public representatives.

You have to make sure that the institution you are considering is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency in the country. A college or university that is “accredited” implies its successful compliance with the the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Education and the accrediting agency. Earning a diploma from an accredited institution secures your credentials. Meanwhile, attending an unaccredited institution lowers your chances of being accepted by post-graduate institutions and employers.

Unsure about the accreditation level of your online college of choice? Take the necessary steps and look in the right sources.

Ensure that you are financially capable.

Let us be honest; when it comes to securing a college education in the United States, money is no small matter. Students in traditional colleges struggle to earn enough to finance their studies. This is especially true for international students. Spending for a student visa to enter the country is just the tip of the iceberg. They need funds for housing and board, health plan, and other necessities to accommodate their dream of an American education. While it is true that there is financial assistance extended to international students, moving to the US just to earn a diploma from a reputable institution is a huge financial decision.

Online U.S. college education: a wise investment

Fortunately, distance education requires less investment from international studies. US institutions offer a wide range of programs with varying costs of tuition and fees. Minus the living expenses, distance education can save you a considerable amount of money. All you have to worry about is actual academic fees. However, some online programs require a period of on-campus stay. So do not forget to set your budget for that. It goes without saying that you also need to account for the costs of your learning materials and import duties.

Take advantage of free courses

Take advantage of free Massive Open Online Courses. MOOC is the best way to test the waters of online US education. These is an initiative by the government in partnership with various MOOC providers such as Coursera and edX. It is a new way of providing learning opportunities without breaking the bank for aspiring young people from around the world.

When it come to online college education in the United States, evaluating your finances should be on top of your priorities as you weigh the best options for your education and career. If you are serious about studying in your online programs offered in US colleges, you need to start planning your finances as early as possible. Be willing to spend for your online education but learn to invest wisely in it.

Be prepared.

Now that you have decided to enroll in an online course, it is time to prepare. You will feel out of place at first, which is totally normal. The first day of school jitters is not exclusive to on-campus students. All you need to do is prepare for your online class and for the entire distance learning semester.

Before anything else, assess your readiness. Do you have the necessary skills for online student success? Do you have a laptop or computer and a reliable internet connection? Have you read through the entire course syllabus?

You need to have the right answers to all of these questions.

If you are self-motivated and an independent learner, online learning will suit you. Secondly, you must own a laptop or computer. If you do not have one, make sure that you have access to it when you need to be online. Moreover, a stable internet connection is one of the most important things you need. Online classes will require you to stream videos, upload papers and homework, and be present real-time. Seriously, the quality and speed of your internet connection can make or break your online education. Lastly, read through the syllabus as it lays out the groundwork for your online education journey. Take your time to familiarize it. Remember, knowing what to expect will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Check if support is available.

One of the biggest concerns in online college education is the availability of support. A college or university that makes virtual support available to your 24/7 is essential for overcoming academic and technical challenges in your online journey toward completing your degree. Online students may require career advising or tutoring anytime, too, which calls for 24/7 access to virtual support. Recognizing this need, Penn State recommends that a help desk be online and active at all times to accommodate different time zones.

Unique Demand for Virtual Support

Because of their unconventional learning environment, online learners develop unique demands. The need for access to online support arises at practically any time of day. As such, learning resources and services must be readily available to an online student. Access to self-help resources is especially necessary.

At some point, you will hesitate to avail of the support available to you. This is where computer literacy comes in. Since you chose to study online, and in a US institution, you need to be comfortable with technology. Studying online becomes a great experience when you take advantage of the virtual services and support designed to guide you.

Many people surmise that online learning can be a lonely affair. The truth is, international students, do not have to worry about the distance. It is every online college program’s mandate to provide excellent support from tutors and professors. You experience an efficient feedback loop to ensure smooth communication. You can also arrange a personal appointment with your tutor or teacher.

Work your way around the online campus.

Just because you are attending a virtual campus does not mean that a campus tour is not possible. An online learning environment makes campus tour all the more important. Acquaint yourself with the resources available to you online. Most institutions make on-campus facilities and resources available to online students.

Here’s a sample virtual campus tour at Colorado Tech:

Before you begin with your classes, familiarize yourself with your virtual environment. Keep the welcome kit that you get upon enrollment. You will find your login information and an invitation to your orientation inside. Navigate through the pages and tabs on the virtual campus. This way, you will know which button to click when you need to submit your assignment or find an eBook you need to read.

Of course, get to know the software you will be using for the entirety of the program. You will be using various applications and software similar to those used in a common workplace. This is where your computer skills will be put to test. The fastest and the most effective way for you to learn how to use the programs as well, to use them.

Get to know other international students.

Being an international student is not an easy feat to conquer. You will need to adjust to a new country, culture, and people. This is on top of the fact that you left home to pursue your dreams.

Fortunately, online international students do not need to go through this process. Earning a degree from the United States college or university without the need to leave home is an opportunity not to be missed. However, despite the fact that they are home, they are not insusceptible to the feeling of isolation.

Misery loves company, as the old adage goes. To fight off this situation, an important tip is to find support from those who understand you best in this respect: fellow online international students! Befriending an international student may come easy in a traditional campus–just as it does an online environment. In fact, studies reveal that online learning has “more social continuity than a campus-based education”.

There are various opportunities to connect with other students. For one, International Students Day Virtual College Fair is the perfect venue for it. This activity is made possible by EducationUSA in partnership with the countries most reputable institutions including Cornell University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, NYU and over 120 other colleges and universities from all corners of the world.

Learn to work with a team.

Distance learning puts a huge premium on collaboration. Teamwork is highly encouraged in online programs. As an online student, you will need to improve your work ethic. Aside from being an active learner, you have to be a team player. Group projects are a common exercise that professors give to their students. Online professors are no different. After all, it is through group projects that students one their interpersonal skills; an important life skill.