Planning to Attend University Online While on Active Duty? Here Are 3 Things You Should Look for in an Online College

Attending college online while you're on active duty gives you a great head start on civilian life after deployment. Not all online universities cater to military personnel—after all, civilians rarely have to deal with being deployed halfway around the world at a moment's notice, so universities that cater only to civilian learners often don't have programs in place to accommodate deployment or time zone differences. It's important to choose an online university that has programs in place for active duty military personnel. This helps you graduate on time with minimal hassle. To help you find an online university for military personnel that might work for you, here's what you should be looking for.

1. Regional and National Accreditation

Accreditation is a process that ensures a school is teaching courses at the level of rigor expected of a university education. When you choose an online university that's accredited, you can be sure that you're getting a thorough education—you don't have any such guarantee when you attend an unaccredited school, and this may make it more difficult for you to attend graduate school or find employment after you are discharged from the military.

Universities are both nationally and regionally accredited. For four-year universities, regional accreditation is typically considered the more important of the two—regional accreditation bodies for universities include programs like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for universities located in the southern part of the US.

However, a lack of regional accreditation is not always a deal-breaker, especially if you're planning to attend an online vocational college. Many regional accreditation boards don't accredit vocational schools. You should, however, ensure that schools are at least nationally accredited by a reputable accreditation board—this ensures you're getting a valid college education.

2. Flexibility with Deployment Schedules

What happens if you're deployed to somewhere without reliable internet access in the middle of a semester? Will the online university work with you and let you drop your classes and resume them later without penalty?

Online universities for military personnel are understanding of the fact that deployments are out of your control. When you're looking at prospective online universities, you should make sure that you won't be penalized for leaving in the middle of a semester. The university should also offer multiple start dates throughout the year, which allows you to resume your courses as soon as you return from deployment. This helps make sure that you're not stuck waiting for courses to begin again, helping you to graduate with minimal delay.

3. College Credit for Service and Training

Online universities for military personnel often have programs in place that allow you to obtain college credit for the skills you learn during military service. If you work in logistics, management, or technology, for instance, you should be able to get equivalent college credit for the training you underwent for your active duty position.

This is a huge boon for military personnel who want to graduate from college quickly—every class you receive credit for is one that you don't have to take, and receiving several course credits because of the skills you've learned during active duty can significantly cut down on the time needed to graduate.

Keeping the above three tips in mind will help you find an online university for military personnel that both provides you with a good education and makes it easy for you to attend by working around the obligations you have as an active-duty service member. If you're unsure about whether or not a prospective online university meets these requirements, it's best to call the admissions department and ask—an admissions counselor will be able to tell you if the university is accredited and whether or not they have programs in place for active-duty service members.