High School Diploma Online
Most people are familiar with online college and university courses, but did you know you can earn your high school diploma online?
The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reported that as of 2013-2014, there were 478 online schools in the US. The concept was more popular in Ohio, where there were 38,169 online students, and Pennsylvania, where there were 36,596.
Online high school appeals to many types of students, including:
- Students with commitments to sports, music or acting that require an alternative schedule
- Gifted students who need a broader selection of honors or AP courses
- Students with disabilities or health issues that require regular or on-going treatment
- Working adults who have not yet earned a high school diploma
- Military families or those who travel
Online high school programs give students access to a wide variety of courses that they can complete when their schedules allow – at any time, from anywhere. The format provides convenience and flexibility.
If you think online high school may be a good fit for you, read on to learn more about what you can expect.
There are so many types of online high schools! What’s the difference?
There are four types of online high schools: public, charter, private and college/university affiliated.
Online public and charter schools are funded by the government, so they are free to students, and are typically regionally accredited. The programs must adhere to strict governmental guidelines, so the course selection may be limited. Also, most online public schools are only open to students who reside within their community. Virtual Virginia is an example of a public online high school; it operates under the Virginia public school system. Online charter schools have a bit more flexibility in terms of course offerings and who can attend, but their funding may be less stable.
Private online schools are usually open to students nationwide, or even worldwide. They offer a broader selection of courses – from AP courses to career training courses – and students can tailor their learning experience. For example, students at the International Virtual Learning Academy can choose from seven different learning environments, with options focused on honors courses, career training, foreign language immersion, Christianity and more. The costs of private high schools can vary widely, and it’s important to look for one that is accredited to be sure you’re earning a legitimate diploma.
College/University affiliated online high schools such as Stanford Online High School, University of Texas at Austin High School, and Brigham Young University’s Independent Study garner a lot of attention. These programs are usually regionally accredited. Along with the prestigious title, the schools usually offer high quality education and impressive dual-credit opportunities. However, they often have strict admissions standards and high price tags.
Do most colleges accept online high school diplomas?
Yes! Online high school diplomas earned through accredited institutions are regarded the same as those from traditional schools.
College admissions counselors will be able to see that you attended an online high school, but that fact is unlikely to carry much weight. They will be much more interested in your GPA, standardized test scores, involvement in clubs, organizations, or community service projects, and other application details.
Will online high school credits transfer to a traditional high school?
As long as you are attending an accredited institution, your credits should transfer easily to any other high school. However, the decision to accept or deny transfer credits is ultimately made by the receiving school.
How do I know if an online high school is accredited and what does that mean?
It’s very important that you choose an accredited online school. To be accredited, a school must meet certain standards of quality.
Since it’s the number one indicator that an institution is legitimate and credible, most schools that are accredited mention it right on their website. If you can’t locate accreditation information on a school’s website, contact the school directly to ask. You can also call your state attorney general’s office for information about the legitimacy of a particular online high school.
Is online high school hard?
That’s a tricky question. The curriculum and academic rigor of online high school is the same as that of a traditional high school, so if you find traditional school difficult then it’s likely you will feel the same about online high school.
The difference is in the format. Learning online can be a lot different than learning in a traditional classroom setting! Since you will be independently responsible for your own education, you will need to be self-motivated, organized, computer literate, and have strong communication and time management skills. If these attributes don’t come naturally to you, you may find online high school challenging at first, and it may take some time to adjust.
What are the admission requirements for online high school?
Requirements vary by school and program, but most online high schools require that the student be at least 14 years of age, and have a school transcript and test scores to verify that he or she has completed eighth grade.
Often there are also technology requirements. At Liberty University Online Academy, for example, students need to have a computer that is 5 years old or newer and meets certain specifications regarding processor speed and memory, additional hardware including a printer, scanner, webcam and microphone, and software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, and Java. Requirements like these will vary both by program, and by course.
Is online high school free?
It depends on the program. Public online high schools – both district and statewide – are funded by the government and are free for students. Private schools and schools affiliated with colleges and universities, however, typically have tuition requirements. Those fees will vary by program.
For example, for those on a full-time Standard High School Diploma track at Excel High School, tuition is $99 per month. For those on a full-time University Prep High School Diploma track, the cost is $189 per month. Costs vary for part-time enrollment. Some other schools may charge by the course, by year or as a lump sum for the entire program.
Students at public and private online high schools can save money when it comes to the “extra” costs of schooling. Many online programs use digital textbooks, which saves on book fees. Class assignments and projects are submitted virtually, saving on supplies. And of course, there are no travel expenses or gas costs to consider.
Do I have to be a full-time online student or can I just take a few online courses?
You can enroll in an online high school exclusively and attend full-time, or you can take courses here and there.
Oftentimes students use online courses to supplement their traditional education. Perhaps a student wants to take an honor or AP course that’s not offered at his or her high school. Or, a student may enroll in a Credit Recovery program to make up a course because they missed too many days due to an illness or injury, or because they are at risk of failing a course or not graduating on time. Still some other students take individual online courses so they can work ahead at a faster pace than their high school allows.
Do online high schools offer AP courses? …Training courses? …Other specialized classes?
Yes! One of the perks of online high schools is that you can get a more tailored education.
Many online programs offer an abundance of honors and AP courses. For example, in the APEX/Honors track at International Virtual Learning Academy, students can take AP courses in the following subjects: English Literature & Composition, Calculus, Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, US History, US Government & Politics, and Spanish.
Laurel Springs’ Gifted & Talented Academy offers honors and AP courses as well as opportunities to conduct in-depth research projects and exhibitions tailored to each student’s learning level, regardless of chronological age.
Some online high schools offer highly specialized courses, and unique options for non-core credits. Forest Trail Academy offers electives in Theatre, Dance History Appreciation, Television Production, Entrepreneurship, Foundations of Business, Anthropology, Criminal Justice, Environmental Science, Zoology, Astronomy, and many, many more – courses you would typically expect to find only at the college level.
You will find different opportunities at each online high school, so it’s important to search around and find the one that is the best fit for you.
Will online learning be lonely?
This is a concern for many students, but while socialization may be much different for online learners, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking.
Many online programs offer chat rooms and discussion boards – some live, some not – where students engage in conversations related to the course work. Some courses even incorporate live video chats and telephone calls. The International Virtual Learning Academy has introduced online “high school cubs,” where students can meet others with similar interests and/or learn something new outside of the virtual classrooms.
Online students can also find social interaction outside of their schooling by joining local clubs and organizations, getting involved in community service projects, or holding a job.
Will I have to be online at a certain time each day?
Not necessarily. There are two different instructional models for online learning: synchronous and asynchronous.
In a synchronous learning format, you will be required to log on during your scheduled class time, which will enable you to interact and discuss the covered topics in real time. Asynchronous programs, on the other hand, are self-paced, meaning you will complete your work on your own schedule.
If you decide to pursue online high school, be sure to choose a school that offers the learning format that best suits your needs.
Is online high school a good option if I don’t plan to go to college?
There are many online high school programs that aren’t pathways to college.
For instance, at Smart Horizons Career Online High School students complete high school coursework and receive training in the field of their choice. Options include Office Management, Child Care, Education, Homeland Security, Hospitality and more. Upon completion of the program, students will receive their high school diploma and a credentialed career certificate in their chosen career path.
Getting your high school diploma online does not necessarily mean you have to transition to college right away, or at all.
If you are an athlete or a performer, come from a military family, or have other scheduling conflicts that make it difficult to regularly attend a traditional high school, online high school may be the answer. If your high school doesn’t provide the courses you’re looking for, an online program may be able to meet your needs. If you have to make up credits, or are returning as an adult, online high school may be the way to go.
Earning a high school diploma online is becoming an increasingly popular option for students from all walks of life who simply need convenience and flexibility in their education.