Once you’ve decided online college is the right path for you, there’s yet another important decision you will have to make: which school to attend. With hundreds of schools across the United States offering online degree programs, the amount of options is nothing short of overwhelming. Students have several options for narrowing down their school choices.

Evaluating a Program’s Reputation

Most students are seeking a college degree for at least two reasons: to develop their knowledge and skills and to enhance their résumé. To accomplish these goals, it’s important that students attend schools with programs that are accredited and that have the respect of prospective employers. The first step of evaluating a program’s reputation is to find out if the program is accredited by the appropriate accreditation organizations. Accreditation of online college degree programs matters because it ensures that you are getting a quality education. Unaccredited programs might not cover in full the curriculum you will need to know to succeed in your chosen field, and employers are unlikely to give much weight to a degree earned from an unaccredited college program when considering you as a job candidate.

Other factors, like reputation of the school as a whole, also affect the program’s reputation. While more employers now consider accredited online degree programs as equal to traditional college degrees, they may give more weight to schools whose names they recognize.

Researching Your School

There are many assumptions about choosing an online degree program, but making a wrong assumption could derail your educational plans. Before committing to a school, do your homework. Going to school online often saves students money, but at some schools, the cost is equal to or more than the cost of a traditional degree. Likewise, some students choose online college to graduate early, but not every online program will help you graduate sooner. Finally, make sure that the program you’re considering actually qualifies you for your intended career. For example, the education degree program at some schools does not actually prepare students to become classroom teachers, but these students may sink thousands of dollars into earning that degree before they learn that their degree won’t help them land their desired career.

Using Technology to Choose Your School

Students should always check their school’s accreditation and research the tuition and course schedule. However, some students want more options to narrow down their decision about online college – and, fittingly, they use the Internet to help them. Sites like Admitted.ly match students to schools based on unusual factors, like number of body piercings or churchgoing frequency, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, while LinkedIn’s new University Finder tool analyzes users’ profiles to determine which schools match up to which employers.

Whether you evaluate a school based solely on accreditation, reputation and research or you use a new Internet tool to decide, you should always prioritize what factors matter most to you personally. Education isn’t one-size-fits-all, and different college choices are right for different students.