The Ultimate Guide to Online Colleges

The best online colleges and universities are rapidly expanding their curriculum to accommodate a new era of distance learning students. Today’s busy college students are looking for flexible online degree programs that fit even the busiest lifestyles, and they are signing up in increasing numbers to take online college courses. Some students may study online for a Master’s degree or become part-time Ph.D. doctoral students to further their existing careers. Others may be just starting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or earning the college credits to finish a program and get the degree or certificate they have always wanted.

Choosing An Online College

Choosing An Online College

The number of online college programs in the United States is staggering. How will you know which school to choose? That’s where we come in. We have ranked the top online college degree programs in the country in many categories. Our research editors apply strict methodologies to all schools considered in our online college rankings. Only the very best online colleges and universities make the cut. A spot in our online college rankings cannot be bought or negotiated.

We congratulate the schools that have earned inclusion in our rankings. Like my grandma used to say, “if you’ve got it, flaunt it!” Schools that appear in our rankings are presented with an exclusive ranking badge that gives them full bragging rights — the numbers don’t lie.

A common misconception about online colleges and degree programs is that they are easier than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. If you have heard “online college is easy!” — nothing could be further from the truth, as accredited online college degree programs are just as rigorous. Some students actually find online courses to be more difficult than traditional college courses, as attending college at your own pace requires a lot of self-discipline — which, let’s face it, not everyone has in abundance.

However, if you are organized and focused, there has never been a better time to get a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree online. Excellent online Ph.D. programs are also available from prestigious colleges and universities.

Thank you for visiting Online College Plan. We hope you find our online college rankings helpful in your school search!

Gerri Elder, Research Editor

Online College FAQs

When it comes to choosing a college, especially an online college, you’re going to be full of questions. That is why we have an extensive FAQ Section answering your most common questions and some that you may not have thought to ask. Below, you can read a list of our most common questions about online schools, and you can always check out our comprehensive list that features more than 100 different questions.

Our extensive list of FAQs has questions sorted by topic, field, and more.

Choosing the Best Online College

As we’ve mentioned, there are many online colleges and universities to choose from — So many that it may seem overwhelming. Take a deep breath. We know this is a big decision, and the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a daunting process to find online schools to consider. Ranking the best online colleges and universities is primarily what we do. We provide specific criteria and methodology for each online college ranking we produce.

Our main best online colleges rankings page lists our core library of online school rankings by specific degree programs, including trade schools, location of schools, master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, Ph.D. programs, and other specific criteria.

But, if you’d like, you can take a look at all of our rankings right here. Our largest and most comprehensive ranking is a great place to start as well, we’ve curated a list of the Top 100 Best Online Colleges across the country.

The Top 100 Best Online Colleges

Best Online Colleges

Our largest ranking of online colleges objectively identifies the top 100 best online colleges in the US!

As with each of our online college rankings, all schools were researched and graded based on data and specific criteria, which are fully explained in the stated methodology. If you don’t know where to start with your college search, this ranking will give you information on the top 100 online schools in the nation — all on one page. Read More…

Fastest Online College Programs

Fastest Online College Programs

In a hurry to get your degree so that you can move forward with your career? You might be interested in our ranking of the top 35 fastest online bachelor’s degree programs and ranked them.

We have ranked the online colleges with the best career services because it’s important to be able to find a job after completing a degree. The colleges and universities that made this ranking have career services advisors who go above and beyond to help make sure graduates find employment within their fields.

Likewise, all of the schools listed in our ranking of the Top 20 Best Online Colleges for Students with Autism strive to provide the highest level of educational services to all students.

We also ranked the most affordable online bachelor’s degrees because nobody wants to carry the burden of tons of student debt after graduation. These programs are all of the highest quality and offer the best price that can be found for accredited online bachelor’s degrees.

Online Schools with the Best Websites

Another important online college ranking we feature is the top 50 online colleges with the highest student satisfaction rates. It is abundantly important that you are satisfied with the school you choose and the quality of education it provides. Without a competent and rigorous course of study, career advancement may be more difficult to achieve. The colleges in this ranking have had a higher rate of student satisfaction year after year than any other schools.

While browsing our collection of online college rankings you can also check out the Top 50 Online Latino and Hispanic-Serving Higher Learning Institutions or the Top 20 Online Historically Black Colleges and Universities – HBCUs. Also, don’t miss our featured list of truly free online degree programs that many students may already qualify for, but not realize — and these unique and valuable higher education opportunities should definitely not be missed.

Our primary goal is to provide you with powerful information about online college and university course offerings so that you can make informed decisions about continuing your education and earning your degree online.

Rankings by Degree Level

If you are looking for an online doctorate degree program, our Top 20 Best Colleges With Online PhD Programs is a great place to start! You can also check out our main rankings page to easily find what you’re looking for.

College Rankings By State and Location

online colleges by state

We now list online degree programs by location. If you want to know what the best online colleges near Phoenix are or explore what the University of Phoenix has to offer, we’ve got you covered. If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for the best film schools or online colleges near Los Angeles, your search is over.

We’ve listed the college and university locations by state to help you locate the college ranking you are looking for quickly.

You can click the state you live in below to find the best online colleges that are right in your backyard.

Or is there a specific city calling your name? Maybe this list has what you’re seeking:

Don’t see where you’re looking for? Check back soon because we’re always expanding our rankings to give you the best information that we can.

College Rankings By Degree and Career Field

Here is a quick list of our rankings by career field for those who know what they’re interested in doing with their professional life:

Online Computer Science and IT Degree Programs

online computer science degrees

Our online computer science and IT degree programs rankings page leads to the best tech programs offered online. These are popular fields of study with good reason; the demand for technical expertise continues to grow in the modern world.

Online Nursing and Healthcare Degree Programs

online nursing degree programs

Online nursing and healthcare degree programs are also extremely popular. This field is also growing at an incredibly rapid pace. Nurses and medical professionals of all types are in high demand, which makes for a wonderful job outlook upon graduation and also offers a lot of variety. We also have a collection of 30 free online tools for nursing students and healthcare professionals.

Business Degrees and Online MBA Programs

Undergraduate business degrees and online MBA programs are also in high demand because they are perfect for busy professionals who want to quickly advance their careers.

Online Degrees in Education

online education degrees

Our online degrees in education page lists our school rankings for administrative and teaching degrees for those who desire a career in education.

Online Degrees in Accounting

Our Online Degrees in Accounting explains the field of accounting and lists our rankings and resources on the topic for students considering a career in accounting.

Also, if there is a certain career that you’re interested in right now, we have a variety of Career Profiles so you can learn more about the education you’ll need, the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, salary and promotion information, and more.

Affordable and Free Online College Degrees

If you are looking for free and affordable online degree programs, we have listed them all in one place for you. Incredibly enough, there are actually free online degree programs with no strings attached. We have also ranked the top 50 online community colleges for financial aid assistance to further help all students find affordable education and degree options.

Specialty College Rankings

We also offer a lot of different specialty college rankings, offering prospective students the best perspective when it comes to school selection.

Top Guides to the Best Online Colleges:

More Information About Online Colleges

free online college courses for senior citizens

We have a ton of additional Resources that you can take advantage of. We have several guides for students who are Christian, Single Parents, or part of the LGBT+ community. We also have a guide for senior citizens who want to earn an online degree.

If financial planning isn’t your strong suit, some of our resources can help you manage your money, find scholarships, and even make sure that you’ve filled out your FAFSA just right.

Maybe you’re not in college yet and would benefit from learning about the pros and cons of online college, having a handy college planning checklist, or using these free tools for SAT prep, ACT prep, and general tools for aspiring college students. We also have found the 50 best scholarships for online college students.

We have also created guides to help students like you with planning your schedule, test prep, studying, and getting hired.

Online College Articles

The articles section of this site features the truth about free laptops for college, a combined SAT and ACT test prep guide, and 12 secrets colleges don’t want you to know. If graduation is approaching, you will also want to brush up on your interview skills, so we prepared this guide to help.

You’ll want to take good care of yourself while earning your degree, so we’ve put together 35 Blissful Tips For Sleeping Better in College to help you rest easy.

Online College Infographics

Data can be beautiful and at times, an illustration is the best way to convey an idea or information. On top of all of the student and career resources, college guides, and articles we have available, we’ve also created several infographics for more visual learners.

Our infographics on topics such as student loan debt, an interesting take on plagiarism, and the most lucrative online Master’s degrees.

College Planning Calendar

Our popular Complete College Planning Calendar can also be found here, as well as Easy Scholarships for quick college cash.

Some of our latest infographics focus on the best degrees for working mothers and the best degrees for veterans.

If you are a blogger or webmaster and would like to share our online college graphics with your visitors, we have made it simple for you. An embed code is provided just under each graphic so that you may easily publish it on your website.

Online College and University Profiles

online colleges and degrees

We have examined, researched, and evaluated hundreds of schools on our journey to find the very best online colleges and degree programs. We have profiled the colleges and universities that we receive the most questions about and listed them here. If you have a question that we did not cover in a school profile, we have provided a link to the college or university for your convenience.

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