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Diploma Mill Warning Signs

It would be really nice to be able to pay a fee and receive an online degree in a few weeks instead of having to spend much of your time studying for two years and up. Think of all the time and money you would save. It seems too good to be true though doesn’t it? Of course if it seems too good to be true, it is. Diploma mills offer such degrees and they are useless to you since they are not recognized by other legitimate institutions nor are they recognized by employers. That means that whatever amount of money you do pay is wasted rather than money being saved in the end. There are real stories about people who have lost jobs, and in at least one case, a woman had to pay back extra salary that had been paid to her by an employer who was led to believe that this person had a higher degree than she actually had. This cost her much more than cost of the phony degree from a diploma mill.

The question that many people ask is, “How do I know if a school I am considering is a diploma mill? Here are some of the warning signs that you should watch for.

  1. Is the school on the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation list of accredited schools? Checking one or both of these lists is the easiest way for you to determine if the school you are interested in is one that you should seriously consider. If a trustworthy person such as your parents, a guidance counsellor, a professional association, or your employer has recommended a school, then you will not be wondering if it is a diploma mill. If you are wondering, you need to check one of these lists.

  2. Does the school offer you a degree based completely on life experience? If you find such a school while searching online, leave that website without bothering to waste any more of your time. Legitimate schools do not offer degrees based only on life experience. Some do offer some credit for life experience, but they still require a great deal of information about that life experience and usually also require some proof that you have learned a set amount of knowledge. They will often give you tests or exams or require a learning portfolio and/or give credit for college courses you have completed.

  3. Does the school send you any degree you want within a very short period of time? A few weeks is not enough time to determine that anyone is qualified to earn any kind of degree, so how would the school determine that you are qualified for a bachelor’s or master’s degree in just a few weeks? If it sounds too good.....

  4. Is the name of the school very similar to a recognized school? Often a diploma mill will set up their school name to sound extremely similar to a well known school so that people will think that they are actually dealing with that well-known and legitimate school.

  5. Are the fees charged per degree? Legitimate schools charge students per course or per semester that they study – not per degree that they earn.


It is not really difficult to determine if a school is a diploma mill. There are some cases where a legitimate school has not yet earned accreditation. In such a case, however, the other signs listed will not be present. You will still have to take courses, study them for more than a couple of weeks and pay for each course you take. It is part of your responsibility to research the school you want to attend to make sure it is not one which will cheat you out of your money and out of your education as well. There are plenty of legitimate online schools for you to attend without wasting your time and money on the illegitimate ones.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Elizabeth Stuttard. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Elizabeth Stuttard. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger for details.



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