Online, or distance education is becoming more and more available to students. Not only are colleges and universities utilizing online platforms to deliver content, but some elementary, middle and high schools are offering this as a viable option for students as well. In an attempt to customize content to meet the needs of diverse learners, many schools offer fully online elementary and high schools.
Specifically, for those seeking a high school diploma, there are options to get a high school diploma fully online at home. For several reasons, the traditional high school experience, inside a school building, is not ideal. Whether it’s a traditional high school diploma, or an equivalent degree, if you are wondering if you can get your high school diploma online at home, yes, it’s possible.
Additionally, for a variety of reasons, some students in high school are unable to earn a traditional high school diploma, so some opt for a GED, or General Education Development. While not completely equivalent, the GED and high school diploma both indicate that a student has successfully completed the requirements for high school.
Why Is a High School Diploma Important?
It is widely documented that workers without a high school diploma are the lowest earners within the economy. Workers without a high school diploma make roughly $25,000 less per year than workers with a high school diploma.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, students who earn a high school diploma will earn approximately $10,000 more each year versus someone who did not complete high school. Greater marketability plus high earning potential make a high school diploma a good investment for your future.
Additionally, the majority of unemployed workers are those without high school diplomas. While most students intend on completing high school, external factors may interfere with completion. In these, and other cases, online diplomas may be a more viable option.
College Acceptance of Online Diplomas
Generally, a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for college admissions. Most colleges or universities will also accept the GED. Whether it’s traditional or an equivalent, a degree showing that you have earned all necessary high school credits is required for college acceptance.
While getting a traditional high school diploma is optimal, there are other options for students. It’s never too late to go back and get your diploma. The high school equivalent or GED is one option. You may also consider registering as a non-traditional student which may have flexible admission qualifications.
Across the board, the minimum standard for college admissions is a high school diploma or equivalent degree. Along with that, colleges and universities also consider grades, awards or recognition and involvement in extra-curricular activities.
Beyond the Diploma
If the online high school you attend is an accredited online school, most will accept a diploma from it and recognize it as a traditional high school diploma. However, just because you are getting an online degree from home and a high school diploma, doesn’t mean you still can’t have extra-curricular activities as a part of your high school portfolio.
Consider opportunities to volunteer in your community or continue to pursue the musical instrument you played in elementary school. Awards and student recognition also happen in online schools so keep those in mind. Apply for scholarships, too.
Remember that you will need to take standardized tests. You may opt for the practice version of the SAT, referred to as the PSAT or take the ACT. It’s best to take these at least once during your junior year of high school and then again in the early fall of your senior year. You will need these test scores for admission into college, community college or some other post-secondary schools and programs.
All of this, combined with your online high school grades and diploma, will create a complete application package for the college or university you hope to attend. Most accredited online high schools will have information, resources or even support personnel to help with your plans for after high school graduation and beyond.
While an online diploma is a good option for many students, it’s still not an option for some. For students who may choose not to pursue a high school diploma or equivalent degree, they may want to consider trade or vocational schools especially if there is something specific that they are skilled in or interested in learning more about.
Can You Get a Diploma at Home?
For a number of reasons students may prefer an online degree option for their high school diploma. Sometimes, it’s because of the flexible schedule online schooling offers. Many students in high school are working part or full-time jobs or are pursuing job skills training at the same time.
Also, online high school programs often have flexibility in the pacing, giving students the freedom to go faster or slower depending on the content. Self-paced learning is ideal for some students. Also, online learning may add to flexibility in terms of students’ ability to choose the process or product of content.
What Is a Correspondence or Online High School Diploma?
A correspondence high school diploma is usually an equivalent degree such as the GED, and not a traditional high school diploma. Students earn the diploma through online courses or by correspondence, in which content is completed by the student and then returned to the school via the traditional mail system.
Some correspondence high school diplomas may be earned through a traditional high school. This option may be a hybrid approach, in which the students do some independent and online study along with some face-to-face interaction. Additionally, several independent providers also offer this service.
Home-School High School Diplomas
In some cases, students are home-schooled, which means that they are taught at home and not at a traditional school. As with many online school options, families may choose home schooling as a way to customize both the pace and the content that the students will learn.
Although students are essentially learning at home, often from a parent as a teacher, they are still earning high school credits. Evidence of mastery of content is required for home school students to continue on to the next grade. This is often done in collaboration with the local department of education. Sometimes home school students will take the traditional standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT.
Once a home-school student completes all the necessary units required for high school completion, they will earn a high school diploma. In some cases, the home-school student may receive a diploma from the local high school, although this is rare. Typically, the family creates a diploma from a standard template and the conferring of the document is symbolic.
Are Online High School Diplomas Legitimate?
Online or correspondence high school diploma programs are often legitimate providers; however, it is important to know what to look for when selecting a school or program. The first thing to look for is accreditation by an online or distance learning accrediting body. Having this type of accreditation will ensure you are getting what you pay for.
Next, look for what is offered to the student. Schools or programs that offer a variety of courses or even some type of career preparation will likely ensure students are better prepared for post-school opportunities.
Lastly, cost is important. Don’t be fooled by really high or really low costs. The more you pay doesn’t always mean better quality, and cheaper isn’t always the best deal. You might also consider looking at other student reviews of their experiences at the school.
Obtaining an accredited, recognized online or correspondence high school diploma is not impossible, but it does take some research. One of the most important things to look for is accreditation by a U.S. Department of Education approved accrediting body.
One to look for is AdvancED. AdvancED is an accreditation body that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The following online schools are accredited by AdvancED: International Connections Academy, Whitmore School, University of Missouri High School and International Virtual Learning Academy.
Can You Get an Online High School Diploma for Free?
To support the diverse needs of high school students, many states are offering a fully online, accredited, free high school option. Many school districts are opting for a virtual school which follows the same standards as traditional brick-and-mortar schools including state certified teachers.
This is a highly popular trend, and it’s expanding. According to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, it was reported in 2015 that there were more than 1.3 million students enrolled in some type of distance learning courses at the high school level.
During the 2013 to 2014 academic year, it was also reported that 29 states across the country had full-time online high school options for students. As the demand increases, more states will be offering this online service delivery option.
Content Delivery Methods in Online High schools
Virtual schools may offer online independent study in which students access the course information and take end-of-course assessments at their own pace. This is often referred to as asynchronous learning as students are working at their own individual pace.
Some content may be delivered via a discussion board in which students are expected to post comments or questions on a specific topic or a prompt from the teacher. This opens up dialogue between and among students and diversifies the discussion to include various opinions and experiences from students.
Others, offer real-time teaching through an online platform such as a live video stream. This type of delivery requires students to be at their computer and engaged with the learning. In this case, all students are learning together at the same time. This method of lesson delivery would be considered synchronous learning.
Many schools will utilize various forms of multimedia to bolster the delivery of content and meet the needs of diverse learning. For example, the use of online text, videos, discussion boards and photograph imagery may all be used.
Lastly, some type of learning management system is used in an online high school. This is an online framework that allows for the posting of content, communication and posting of grades and student performance. Examples of learning management systems include Blackboard and Moodle. You can find a home-school high school diploma template online, too.
Admission Requirements for Online High School
Admission requirements for online high schools are typically similar to traditional high schools. Prospective students must have evidence of completing eighth grade. This usually includes grades, transcripts and some sort of standardized test scores such as the PSAT. For home- schooled students, they may have to provide verification that all necessary courses have been completed.
Who Can Attend an Online High School?
As long as a student has the appropriate admissions requirements to attend a traditional high school, she should be admitted to an online program. Students who attend online high schools are often home- school students or traditional students who are seeking more flexibility in their school schedule.
Melanie Forstall has a doctorate in education and has worked in the field of education for over 20 years. She has been a teacher, grant writer, program director, and higher education instructor. She is a freelance writer specializing in education, and education related content. She writes for We Are Teachers, School Leaders Now, Classroom, Pocket Sense, local parenting magazines, and other professional academic outlets. Additionally, she has co-authored book chapters specializing in providing services for students with disabilities.