What to Evaluate in a Program

Whatever your preferences or expectations are, you obviously want to find the right program for you and this is something that’s different for everyone. What works for one person might be someone else’s worst nightmare.

So yes, you want to consider what programs are being offered, which modality they’re being taught in, how credits are offered, and all additional factual information.

However, there’s also an emotional “feel” factor to this that’s completely unquantifiable. 

It's not just about finding a program, but finding a program you'll complete.

And what does that look like to you?

It starts by doing your research and asking the right questions, but also trusting your intuition. Choose a program that will care for you, support you, and guide you through the process.

If you know that you strongly prefer in-person learning, you'll need to look within your region when exploring your options.

What’s nearby?

How far are you willing to commute?

When you’ve weighed these questions, you also need to factor the programs back to the “Does it Fit?” equation.

What Modality Works for You?

It’s also important to consider which modality or learning format works best for your learning style, schedule, and availability.

More specifically, will you learn online or in-person?

Getting an online education is typically more convenient, but it’s not for everyone. When you’re not physically present with your instructors and classmates, you really have to be self-motivated and that’s not always an easy thing to do. You’ll need to have the initiative to keep going even when there’s nobody around to motivate you.

You’ll have to learn and master the technology through which the course is given. This isn't impossible to learn, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Many higher ed institutions are offering hybrid experiences, where students will have the option to learn in-person, online, or a combination thereof. If it's important that you can meet your instructors and classmates, form relationships, and feel that college experience, the in-person option could make sense for you. If it's important that you balance your schedule and have the freedom to learn on your own time, the online option could make sense for you. If all of those are important, then the hybrid experience could be the“best of both worlds” option for you!

Learn from Others

Exercise your due diligence and take the time to research these programs thoroughly. If you can, speak to graduates of the specific program you’re considering and invite them for a cup of coffee or a video chat. Ask them questions like:

  • What did you like most about your program?
  • How have you applied the skills you learned?
  • What were the biggest challenges you faced in this program?
  • Would you recommend this program?

Leverage your network! Word of mouth is super valuable and an underutilized resource. Once you start asking around, you might be surprised at who knows someone who completed your program of interest and can lend their experience.

In your research, you’ll come across all kinds of application requirements, deadlines, course credit regulations, and things of that nature. Of course, all of those things are super important and need to be taken seriously.

However, at this stage, you’re trying to see which program is right for you. Not the other way around.

You might be able to find a program that’s cheap and convenient, but if it doesn’t have a solid support system to guide you along the way, there’s a very small chance of completing that program.

So as you do your research and have your conversations, ask yourself this question:

Is this the school that will help me finish my degree?