Every year, an increasing number of students pursue some or all of their college education online.
Whether it's at online-only schools or through distance-learning programs from traditional colleges, these Web-based programs offer a wide array of options and a ton of flexibility—especially for part-time, returning, and nontraditional students.
If they're from properly accredited institutions, online credits can help you earn your general requirements faster, and if you're looking for a mid-career change, you can pursue a new degree during one or two nights a week. Fortunately, the increasing presence of online degrees also means an increase in scholarships geared specifically toward online students.
[Explore the U.S. News Best Online Education Programs rankings.]
First and foremost, many general scholarships and federal financial aid programs can be applied to tuition at accredited online institutions. Check out the resources at studentaid.gov to find out more, and be sure to talk with your college's financial aid office about available options. We'd also recommend finding a few alumni to talk to; it takes a little more work for online campuses, but it's worth it.
Once you've decided to pursue distance learning, and you've checked out your grant, loan, and general scholarship options, it's time to delve into specifics. The GetEducated.com Distance Learning Scholarship is an excellent place to start. Offered twice a year, with application deadlines on March 15 and October 15, this $1,000 scholarship is open to students anywhere in the United States who have a 3.0 GPA or better in an accredited online degree program.
To apply, you'll need to write a 500-word essay on what your degree will mean to you. And while you're on the site, check out GetEducated.com's other resources, which include guides to various degree programs and lists of known scams.
[Invest wisely when enrolling in online education.]
The SR Education Group's Guide to Online Schools is another excellent resource for researching distance learning programs. And, just like GetEducated.com, they also sponsor their own set of scholarships. Currently, there are four $2,000 scholarships available: the Military Scholarship, Women's Scholarship, Community College Scholarship, and Single-Parent Scholarship are awarded every two months with rolling deadlines, so check the site out to find out when you need to apply.
If you're pursuing online classes at a traditional university, you're likely to qualify for many of the scholarships in your college's and department's general funds. In addition, some schools also offer online-specific awards. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus is one of the widest-ranging programs in terms of financial aid, offering more than a dozen scholarships that are funded by the school's endowment and open especially to distance-learning students.
Similar ranges of scholarships can also be found via colleges that are mostly or entirely online. The nonprofit Western Governors University, for example, funds 10 separate scholarships for incoming students, which range from $1,000 to $2,500; enrolled students are also able to access a number of other programs.
[Learn more about paying for an online education.]
National University, a nonprofit institution with several campus sites and a host of online degrees, provides scholarships for new, continuing, and transfer students. And the for-profit Walden University, an online college focused on social change, offers undergrad and graduate scholarships to students all the way up to the doctoral level.
These are a few highlights from the growing world of online education. If you've decided distance learning is the right fit for you, they're excellent places to start your search for colleges, degree programs, and scholarships.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.