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Going Back to College: Frequently Asked Questions
(Continued from page 3)

What is College Accreditation, and Why is it Important?
Accreditation is a voluntary, independent review of educational programs to determine that the education provided is of uniform and sound quality. Being awarded accreditation ensures that an institution has been evaluated and that it met set standards of quality determined by the accrediting organization granting the accreditation. A college or university's accreditation is maintained by continued adherence to the set criteria. The most recognized type of accreditation in the United States is regional accreditation, in which a school is accredited by one of six geographically dispersed agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). (For more information, see the Accreditation FAQ. )

Can I Get Financial Aid for Distance Education?
If taking distance or online classes as part of a program at a traditional, regionally accredited institution, you will be assisted by the Federal and state financial aid received for the full program. If it's an online only program offered by a traditional institution, you may be eligible for federal assistance. For more information, see the Financial Aid FAQ. For additional questions about distance education, please see Should You Get Your Degree Through Distance Learning?, Online Education Gets Accolades and How Do Employers View Online Degrees?

I Want to Return to College, but am Not Sure Which College to Attend or What Career or Degree to Pursue. Where Do I Start?
To start on a program to earn a college degree, or to complete a course of study, you need to:

a. Take inventory. How many college credits do you have? What non-credit courses did you take? What are your skills? Even if the subjects don't seem applicable to a major, they might count as elective credits toward a degree.

b. Determine your goal. What field of study are you interested in? What kind of degree?

c. Chart your course. Research colleges and universities to find the best program for you, whether it is a traditional campus based program, a campus and distance based program, or full distance degree.

d. Outline your academic plan (each step to your goal.) What do you need to do? Transfer credits? Take remedial courses or exams? Have experience evaluated?

For more information, see Going Back to College: Getting Started.

How Do I Find Out What Education/Training I Need for a Specific Career Field?
Look up your chosen field in The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). It provides educational and training requirements by occupation.

I Have Chosen my Major, but Need More Information on Careers in My Field Once I Graduate. Where Can I Find Information About Careers Related to My Major?
Visit the Career Planning section. It will help you find careers related to your chosen major, and locate employment statistics and salary projections for your selected field of study.

What if I Never Took the ACT/SAT or Had a Low GPA in High School/College?
Usually, adults aren't required to take admissions tests (i.e., the SAT or ACT), although they do need to take graduate admission tests such as the GRE or GMAT if attending graduate school. Many colleges offer a placement test instead of admission test scores for older students, and don't consider high school performance or outdated test scores, especially with transfer students from community colleges. Keep in mind that as a transfer student, most institutions will consider past academic performance and grade point average upon application, and often require a minimum grade point average for acceptance. (For frequently asked questions about the ACT and SAT, including old test scores, see the ACT and SAT Web sites.)

Some students ask if they can begin again with a "clean slate." Most colleges will require a record of previous coursework. If it is not provided by the student, it usually becomes known later (often through the financial aid system) and a student may be dismissed for academic dishonesty. (This issue has also been discussed in our online forums.)

If your past academic history is below par, don't despair. Colleges know that adult students often improve their performance when returning because they take their education seriously and are very motivated. Such students are often given the opportunity for a new beginning. Also, even though you may not have done well in the past, old courses can be a source of college credit to your new degree. Remember that the poor grades themselves won't transfer to the new school—only the credit.


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