- Researching an Online University
- Online vs Campus Based
- Schools and Programs
- Distance Learning Articles
- Why Me?
For the most part, any online university wants you as a student. During the application process they are vetting you more to ensure you will be a good paying customer as the expense of serving students is considerably less than a bricks and mortar based university, and the cost of acquiring a new student is high. Students are money in the for-profit distance learning niche, and more students equals more money. If you meet the not terribly stringent requirements, you should be accepted, however certain degrees do require the proper background (e.g. certain prerequisites) and if you don’t meet the criteria, you will not be accepted. This is not to diminish the value of an online degree or online universities in general; for many purposes they may be exactly what you need, and I am not making a qualitative statement about a degree acquired through a distance learning program. But they are competing with other online universities for the same students, so school X is going to try to get you, a viable lead, to enroll with them before you can go off to school Y, hence the push to get you enrolled once they have all your application materials.
Keep in mind that just as much as you are being interviewed, you are also doing the interviewing. You have not just the right to be inquisitive, but to make sure you are choosing the right school. You have to do your due diligence to make sure you are getting a decent value for the cost of your degree.
1. Interview your interviewer.
Feel free to ask your interviewed any sensible questions so that you will have a good understanding of the school, what is has to offer, and what would make it a good choice relative to another school. This will also make you look good as a prospective student as if you are inquisitive and interested, they will consider you a good candidate.
2. Ask your interviewer why they work for their school.
Before I even worked in the distance learning space, I applied to about 20 different online schools so that I understood the market, and how the schools applications worked. While they were all different in terms of their process, the one thing I found valuable was asking them why they work for their employer. If the interviewer believes in the mission statement of their institution, it may be insightful as someone who is just there for the paycheck may be an indication that they are just looking forward to your tuition and have no developed a culture of academia. Finding a school that views itself as a school rather than a company will go a long way.
3. Ask what makes their degree more valuable than their competitor.
I once asked this question while chatting with the adviser on the phone and it was met with silence. You would think that they would at least have been supplied with talking points, but not so. Any good school should know what differentiates them from their competitors, whether it be cost, the quality of their faculty, or their ability to assist you in the job market after you graduate. If they cannot tell you why their school is worth your time, it may not be the place for you.
4. Ask about their current and past students.
Do many of their students go on to jobs at top notch companies? Do they track their alumnae and provide any information about their career opportunities or do they have a strong emphasis on a particular industry? This can be valuable information for you if you have a specific type of position in mind after you receive your degree.
5. See if they have deals or assistance through your employer for tuition reimbursement.
Do they offer any deals on tuition for up front payment of your tuition? Will they work with your employer on volume tuition discounts (you would be amazed at how often this actually happens, particularly employers who operate in very tight niches).
6. Be attentive and ask questions.
You don’t need to go overboard, but if your interview is a snooze-fest, they will be less likely to be helpful when it comes to tuition questions and logistics of applying, being accepted and enrolling.
7. Prior to the interview, determine how formal it will be.
For some online universities, the interview is a formality and they place their emphasis on your background and educational/employment experience. For others, a formal interview is part of the process, and you may be declined admission if your interview is poor.
8. Be prepared for some of the basic questions so you have an answer.
Your interviewer may ask simple questions such as “why are you looking at our university?” Do a mock interview with a friend or family member and brainstorm what may be simple questions so that you won’t be stumped when it comes time to sit in the interview seat. Review the school’s website and read its mission statement, look at the courses, and be informed. You want to look like someone who does his or her research rather than someone who just wants a piece of paper, even if the latter really is the only reason you are applying.
9. Speak clearly and offer complete answers to questions.
“Yeah” is not an answer to a question. When you are talking to your interviewer make sure that you speak well and offer something in return when asked questions. You don’t have to sound like you’ve memorized the dictionary, but you should be articulate enough that they will know that you have the skills and the desire to earn your degree. They don’t want to waste their time on students who drop out after one or two classes, so being an active participant in the interview rather than acting like a fly on the wall will take you a long way.
10. Don’t lie.
It’s not worth it. If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to, or about your background, don’t try to bluff your way through it or hide something that they can find out about you. They will value honesty and devalue dishonesty. You don’t need to disclose any more than you have to if you have made a mistake in the past, but if they don’t trust you, and have good reason to, they will not want to let you to enroll as they will see you as a potential problem, rightly or not.
While there are many more tips to share, those are the fundamental tips that should provide enough for you to get through any interview. You need not be nervous, as long as you don’t do anything completely off the wall, and you meet their requirements, you shouldn’t have a problem being accepted. And you have a duty to yourself to ask your own questions and make sure that institution is the right one for you and will help you achieve your goals.