When searching for a new college to attend, either online or offline, the question of accreditation is bound to come up. (If it doesn’t come up, it should!) Many recent high school graduates are unfamiliar with the term accreditation or don't realize the impact that attending a non-accredited college or university can have on their future.

In this article, we're,e going to discuss the importance of accreditation, what it is, and why it matters for recent high school graduates and college students.

What Accreditation Means

Accreditation means a business or organization has applied for certification in the appropriate region. An accredited school has met the required standards set for its industry to hold the certification.

Holding accreditation indicates that either the entire Institution or its programs has been deemed qualified to provide services (within their industry) according to the accrediting body standards. In the case of higher education, choosing an accredited school is one of the best things you can do for your future.

According to the US Department of Education, "Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice."

Colleges and universities (both online degree programs and traditional) are eligible to receive accreditation that covers the entire institution or a particular program they are offering.

These two types of accreditation are referred to as "Institutional" or "Specialized”.

Schools aren't just "given" accreditation. They are required to apply, qualify, and maintain the required standards to keep their accreditations active. This means that they earned their status.

Why Accreditation Matters for Students

When choosing a degree program,, it's critical to be sure whether (or not) the school you've selected is accredited.

Here are a few reasons why:

Imagine that you've completed a whole (4) year degree program, and are ready to start your career in your area of expertise.

Now imagine that you cannot find work with a reputable company because the school you attended needed accreditation.

Not exactly the outcome that you planned for.

This is precisely what can happen if you attend a college or university with no accreditation. Companies and brands need a way to verify the validity of your study.

Tip: Reputable companies and brands prefer hiring candidates who have attended an accredited school or program.

For the reasons stated above, you don't want to go to just "any" school. You want to go to the school that is going to propel you forward towards reaching the goals that you've set for yourself.

The scenario above can easily apply if you attend a non-accredited school or program.

Some of the pitfalls of attending non-accredited schools:

  • Unable to find work in your degree area 
  • Unable to transfer credits to another school
  • The possibility of having to start over if either of the above happens.
  • In both cases, this means the unthinkable. You'll have to start all over again. 
  • Accredited schools and programs are more likely to help you achieve your goals than their non-accredited counterparts. 
This is not to say that non-accredited schools cannot provide an excellent education because many are. However, accredited schools have made the extra effort to demonstrate their commitment to providing quality education by seeking and maintaining their certified status. 

Who Accredits Colleges and Universities

Key accrediting bodies for education, including K-12 and college and university degree programs, are: 
  • The Higher Learning Commission
  • The Western Association for Schools and Colleges
  • The Distance Education Accrediting Commission

The Higher Learning Commission

Provides regional accreditation for institutions of higher learning. The HLC also maintains standards and policies for colleges and universities within their region.

The Western Association for Schools and Colleges

Provides accreditation for K-12 schools that are not-for-profit and don't grant degrees.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission

Provides accreditation for Distance Education programs up to Doctoral degree programs for higher learning institutions.

The above are examples of accrediting bodies that offer institutional accreditation. (Remember that institutional certification covers the entire "institution" and not a specific area or program.)

Specialized or Programmatic Accreditation covers a speciality or program only, not the entire school.

To learn more about these accrediting bodies and what schools are covered, visit their website for details. If the school you've chosen is accredited (and in good standing),, this is a great place to start!

Now that we've gone over the value of choosing an accredited school, hopefully, you understand the importance of selecting a school that has gone above and beyond what's required as proof of their commitment to education excellence vs a school that hasn't taken steps to become accredited.

Which route will you choose for "your" future?