Departments You Should Know and Love

Photo courtesy of Texas State University San Marcos

Even when enrolled in an online college program, students will need to communicate with administrative and academic departments throughout their enrollment. Oftentimes, which department to approach may not be as clear as it should be and the process can become confusing. While the School Catalog and Student Handbook will usually prove useful in general guidance, sometimes knowing the specifics is needed, especially when going to campus is not always an option.


The Office of Admissions is responsible for assisting students interested in applying for school and currently going through the initial enrollment process. This department will often organize new student orientation and assist with the completing of necessary documents such as the admission application.

Financial Aid

The Financial Aid Department is available to assist students in financing their education. Representatives are available to work with applicants and current students with completing the documents necessary for student loans, grants, scholarships. Representative can discuss why the FAFSA needs to be completed each year a student is enrolled in school, and the differences between each type of student aid.

Bursar’s Office

In some schools, payments made towards one’s education that are not a form of financial aid, such as cash payments, are handled through the Bursar’s Office. The Bursar’s Office is responsible for processing student-initiated payments and collecting the required documents and identification necessary for payment.


Students may or may not directly speak with the Registrar’s Office except regarding special circumstances. The Registrar’s Office is responsible for publishing the School Catalog and Student Handbook each year, developing the schedule of available classes, maintaining student files, evaluating transcripts from outside institutions and awarded transfer credit, and typically organizing commencement ceremonies.

Academics – Professor

The professor should be the first point-of-contact for anything related to the class the are instructing: grades, assignments, discussions, etc. In addition, the professor may prove helpful in understanding post-graduation employment possibilities and a letter of recommendation (if you perform well in class).

Academics – Dean

The Dean is responsible for overseeing a school of study and its responsibilities. School Deans are typically the ones who hire instructors, maintain academic integrity, and work closely with the Registrar’s Office for purposes of class offerings and scheduling. Direct communication with students may occur when requesting to drop a class late in the term/semester or if academic progress needs to be formally discussed.

Academic – Library Services

Multiple resources are available through the college/campus library system and most probably go underutilized solely because students are unaware they are even there. Virtual libraries are now found in most college libraries; this service provide access to multiple subscription-based online databases with articles, journals, and other publications. Tutoring services are also organized, in conjunction with academics, through most libraries to assist students struggling with writing a paper or properly citing their sources.

Career Services

The Office of Career Services provides current students and alumni with assistance in preparation for job applications, interviews, and employment. Actual resources vary from college to college (like other departments), but in general Career Services helps students construct a Resume, prepare for an interview for a position, and develop their portfolio.

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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