You can take 3 steps before an online program

Being a prospective online student can be stressful. You may investigate seemingly endless options for programs, and even when you find a perfect match, your journey is still only just beginning.

There are a few things prospective students can do to find a best-fit online program that will, at the same time, help them transition into returning to school.

1. Research the program and its student culture: As a prospective student, you should find reliable information about the school, its culture and its support environment. Engaging with relevant online groups – for example, on social media – can give you insight into that culture and provide you with a sense of how it may feel like to be an online student in a particular program or class.

[Learn how to use social media to choose an online program.]

For example, the College of William and Mary Mason School of Business offers online MBA virtual open house tours where prospective students can learn more about the program and decide if it’s a fit for them. The school publishes podcasts and videos where prospective students may find their possible future professors discussing different topics. Taking that step may also give you more knowledge of the school, which can even assist you in writing your admission essays.

That knowledge of the online program’s culture can help you even after you get accepted. You may feel more confident in your first classes because you are somewhat familiar with the environment, or you might recall professors you saw online.

2. Prepare an “elevator” introduction: During online MBA admissions interviews, you want to be memorable to the interviewer or the committee to increase the odds of getting accepted. Prospective students should consider taking the time to create and polish short biographical introductions, or “elevator” speeches, covering your background and, more importantly, your professional aspirations. Having thought through who you are and who you want to be might help you write your admissions essays as well.

And that speech will help you even after you start the online program, where regular student interaction is key. Many online programs require students to post introductions at the beginning of each class. With your prepared speech, you will have a polished introduction that will help you stand out.

[Discover how to interact successfully with online instructors and classmates.]

3. Consider hardware and software requirements: Some programs require students to have specific software and hardware to be able to complete assignments. As a prospective online student, you might want to consider those requirements beforehand.

For example, some programs need software that runs only on a particular operating system, and you might have to either buy a new computer or find another way to access it. Other schools may instead provide all needed equipment. Depending on your technical skills, you may feel more comfortable with either option, but it’s an important point to consider.

After enrolling in a program, it is important to remember those software limitations and to have a plan to overcome them if needed.

The takeaway: Prospective online students have a lot to consider when picking a program, but there are steps you can take to help you both get into a school and get started as a student.