Q&A: College Admissions Officers and Online High Schools

A: Good one. While many news reports connote online learning as an unproven field, many colleges view them for what they really are: opportunities for serious students to leverage unique resources to expand the scope and depth of their studies. Colleges are always looking for students that add to their intellectual communities; the best way to appeal to admissions officers is to show a history of inquiry and academic success – the two often go hand-in-hand. The best students are self-selectors, and the sooner they become one, the better.

Accreditation is another way for prospective students to learn about whether the online high school they are interested in is well-respected by colleges and universities. There are six main regional accrediting bodies, and all of them have received the stamp of approval from the U.S. Department of Education. A school that is accredited is one that is committed to creating an excellent learning enviroment and one that holds itself to the highest educational standards. Traditional colleges and high schools have to be accredited as well, and many college admission counselors know that if a school is accredited, then the student who attended that school is committed to his/her education as well. For more information about accreditation and why it is important, visit any of the regional accrediting bodies' websites, such as AdvancEd.

If you’re still apprehensive about the perception of your online high school, you can address the experience in a supplementary essay when you apply to colleges. Stress the rigor of the coursework and your success in navigating a learning path on your own. Talk about the technology and how it gave you increased access to information. Assure them of your ability to contribute to a vibrant community. Regardless, they will understand that you’re a serious student.