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Correspondence Schools: How Do They Work?

Correspondence schools provide students with formal training via mail, targeted at people living in remote areas, people with disabilities and people who have no Internet access. Though programs initially used only postal mail, some correspondence schools also provide coursework over the Internet.

Correspondence schools offer distance learning education at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Prospective students should look for accredited schools in order to ensure program quality.

How a Correspondence School Works

Correspondence schools deliver lessons for short courses and full degree programs through postal mail, but some now also use the Internet and CDs or DVDs. Students complete coursework and examinations, then return them to the school to be graded or reviewed before receiving the next lesson in the sequence. Examinations and quizzes are generally not proctored. Correspondence school students do not have access to a campus library and procure any supplemental resources or research material on their own.

Correspondence School Program Offerings

Correspondence schools can teach almost any subject that does not require one-on-one or hands-on training. Some programs help students obtain a high school diploma or offer GED prep, though the GED itself is not available through correspondence courses. At the postsecondary level, schools offer vocational training or programs in a variety of academic subjects, including the following:

  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Business management
  • Business administration
  • Electronics
  • Theology

Precautions When Choosing a Correspondence School

While many correspondence schools offer credible, widely-accepted credentials, some diploma mills - institutions granting degrees while requiring students to complete little or no coursework - also operate as correspondence schools. Prospective students can ensure the credibility of a correspondence school by examining the school's academic requirements and verifying that the school is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, such as the Distance Education and Training Council (DEAC), which maintains a searchable database of accredited correspondence schools.

The U.S. Department of Education's Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs also provides lists national, regional, hybrid and specialized agencies that accredit correspondence programs meeting standards for academic rigor. Correspondence high schools may be approved through state boards of education.

Correspondence schools allow distance learners to complete coursework in a variety of subjects without leaving their homes. It is important to consider a program's credibility before enrolling.

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