How to Choose an Online High School

12 Questions to Ask Prospective Schools

College students with laptop computer
Ken Kaminesky/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Choosing an online high school is a challenge. Parents need to find a virtual program that offers an accredited diploma and provides academic support for students, all without breaking the bank. Asking the right questions will help you find the online high school that best meets your needs. Here are twelve of the most important questions to consider:

  1. What type of online high school is this? There are four types of online high schools: private schools, public schools, charter schools, and university-sponsored schools. Being familiar with these school types will help you sort through your options.
  2. Who accredits this school? An online high school that is regionally accredited will have the widest acceptance. Diplomas and credits from regionally accredited schools are generally accepted by colleges and secondary schools. Some colleges and high schools may also accept national accreditation. Keep an eye out for unaccredited and diploma mill schools – these programs will take your money, leaving you with an inferior education and a worthless diploma.
  3. What curriculum is used? Your online high school should have a time-tested curriculum that meets your child’s academic needs (remedial, gifted, etc). Ask about additional programs such as special education, college prep, or advanced placement.
  4. What training and qualifications do the teachers have? Be wary of online high schools that hire teachers without a college diploma or teaching experience. Teachers should be credentialed, know how to work with teenagers, and be comfortable with computers.
  5. How long has this online school existed? Online schools come and go. Choosing a school that has been around for longer can help you avoid the trouble of trying to transfer schools at a later date.
  6. What percent of students graduate? You can learn a lot by an online high school’s graduation track record. If a large percentage of students drop out, you may want to reconsider. Be aware that certain types of schools (such as academic recovery programs) will always have a smaller number of graduates.
  7. How many students go on to college? If college is important to you, choose an online high school that sends a lot of its graduates to college. Be sure to ask about services such as college counseling, SAT preparation, and admissions essay assistance.
  8. What expenses can be expected? Most private schools charge tuition by the semester. Public programs may provide classes free of charge, but require parents to pay for expenses such as computers, software, and internet connections. Ask about additional charges for curriculum, technology fees, graduation fees, and all other expenses. Also, ask about discounts, scholarships, and payment programs.
  9. How many students does each teacher work with? If a teacher is assigned too many students, he may not have time for one-on-one help. Find out what the student-teacher ratio is for most classes and ask if there is a better ratio for essential subject such as math and English.
  10. What additional help is available for struggling students? If your child is struggling, you need to know that help is available. Ask about tutoring and individual assistance. Is there any extra charge for additional help?
  11. What distance learning format is used? Some online high schools require students to work independently and turn in assignments by email. Other programs have virtual “classrooms” that allow students to interact with teachers and peers.
  12. Are any extracurricular activities offered? Find out if there are any clubs or social events available to students. Some schools offer extracurricular virtual programs that engage students and look good on a resume.

In addition to these twelve basic questions, be sure to ask about any further concerns you may have. If your child has special needs or an unusual schedule, ask how the school will be able to accommodate these issues. Taking the time to interview online high schools can be a hassle. But, enrolling your child in the best possible program is always worth it.