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Find the Best Online High Schools

Read this guide to learn about and choose the best online high school for you or your child. We compared national and regional accreditation services, payment options, curriculum and educational tools, including conference software and virtual textbooks.

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    Whitmore School
    Read 148 Reviews

    Whitmore School is an accredited online high school and was founded in 1994. With a 24/7 program available for students, our students can enroll anytime and start at their earliest convenience.

    Epic Charter Schools
    Read 129 Reviews

    Epic Charter Schools are online public schools for kids in Pre-K through high school. Epic is a public school, so it is tuition-free and accredited by Oklahoma State Department of Education.

    K12
    Read 132 Reviews

    Founded in 1999, K12 is the largest for-profit online education company, with 58 schools including free public and tuition-based private schools and supplemental curriculum providers. K12’s available schools vary by state.

    Penn Foster High School
    Read 28 Reviews

    Penn Foster offers students the ability to customize their curriculum and schedule to meet their academic and other needs. Users can choose between online and print textbooks so they can learn in the way that's best for them.

    The Keystone School
    Read 26 Reviews

    The Keystone School offers customized educational programs online. Students can enroll in a comprehensive program or take individual courses not available at their brick-and-mortar schools to supplement their education.

    Connections Academy
    Read 14 Reviews

    Connections Academy is a tuition-free virtual academy. It offers courses in select areas for students from kindergarten through high school. Users can input their zip codes to find out what services are offered in their area.

    James Madison High School
    Read 35 Reviews

    James Madison High School allows traditional high school students, homeschoolers and older people who have not yet received a high school diploma to study at their convenience and fulfill requirements to graduate.

    Laurel Springs School
    Read 21 Reviews

    Founded in 1991, Laurel Springs is a fully accredited, online private school for grades K-12. Laurel Springs assists students to enter their top choice for college and has a current college acceptance rate of 91 percent.

    Florida Virtual School
    Read 15 Reviews

    Florida Virtual School is an online school that offers coursework for K-12 students in the United States. Homeschooled students and those in public and private schools can take courses.

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      Choosing an online high school program

      A high school diploma is of vital importance, as 90% of jobs in the US are inaccessible to a high school dropout. Unfortunately, some of us simply cannot go to a physical school or traditional homeschool for a number of reasons. The solution is an online high school, and we can show you how to choose the best one.  

      1. Study the virtual school’s accreditations

      National and regional accreditation is vitally important when choosing your online high school. The proper accreditation ensures online high schools are in compliance with federal regulations and are using high standards of academic quality. The difference between an online high school with the right accreditation and one without also means your diploma could be illegitimate in the eyes of college admissions and job hiring professionals.

      • National accreditation: There are national accrediting bodies for online high schools, the most recognized being the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
      • Regional accreditation: Regional accreditation is more common in the online high school industry. AdvanED, the world’s largest educational accreditor, is the parent organization of the following regional accreditors: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS-CASI), North Central Association Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA-CASI) and Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC).
      • State accreditation: Some online high schools are public schools and are accredited by the states in which they operate, just like their brick and mortar counterparts.

      2. What is the online high school’s curriculum offerings?

      Many families choose online high school due to the need for alternative education. Whether you need to learn a skilled trade or want to finish out the rest of your remedial studies, online high schools can offer curriculums tailored to the needs and goals of each student.

      • Honors/AP classes: Gifted students, especially those in underserved areas, can benefit from a full range of Honors and AP classes offered by online high schools.
      • Vocational Technical training classes: Students who would like more preparation in specific areas, beyond a general high school curriculum, may find appropriate classes for credit at online high schools.
      • College preparatory: These courses are ideal for students planning to attend a 4-year college or university. Remember, colleges around the country accept online high school graduates as long as the diploma is from an appropriately accredited school.
      • General studies: Geared toward students planning to attend a community or technical college, or who are going to join the military or workforce after graduation.

      3. Look for alternate ways to earn credit

      With some online high schools, students can get credit from previous education, life, and work experiences. Make sure to approach the school’s admissions and see if they offer any of the following, this may be able to save time and money.

      • Credit for experience: Some online high schools offer credit for life and work experience. This is especially attractive for older learners and learners employed in the trade they are studying. Usually, an assessment is necessary to earn credit.
      • Transfer credits: Often, a student's credits from other accredited high schools can be transferred, especially if the previous schooling credits earned in remedial classes like basic math or science course. In some cases, an assessment test may be necessary.
      • Earn college credit: Some online high schools offer students the ability to earn college credit while still in high school. These credits can be used towards a high school diploma as well as a college degree.

      4. Ask about all payment options

      Payment options can be a big factor for future students, especially if the student also happens to be the breadwinner splitting time between work and school. However, many online high schools offer different types of payment options from flexible payments to sliding payment scales to public opportunities that may even make your experience free. Don’t be afraid to speak with the financial aid and billing departments about payment questions, as well as these options.

      • Free tuition: Some online high schools are public and therefore free of charge.
      • Flexible course purchase: While some programs require payment of full tuition for an academic period, other online high schools allow for payment of individual courses if a student just needs supplemental course work.
      • Financing: Some online high schools offer financing which can often be free of interest and financing charges.
      • Scholarships: Those needing assistance with tuition and equipment costs may be able to find online high schools that offer scholarships.

      5. Inquire about academic support

      A student's success can often be traced back to the support they receive in their educational journey. This is also true in the world of online high school. For those returning to school after a few years (or decades) of absence, you may need extra help to acclimate back into school life.

      • Academic counselors: Most online high schools provide parents and students with an academic counselor. The counselor works with families to create an education plan that meets the goals and needs of the student.
      • Peer support: Students at online high schools can often find many ways to enjoy peer support either through forums, chat rooms, social media and sometimes in-person community events.
      • Teacher support: Families may turn to online high school as a way to provide their child with more one-on-one support from teachers than is possible in the traditional academic setting.

      What are the different types of online high schools?

      Education Management Organization (EMO)

      These virtual schools are operated by an organization focused specifically on education. EMOs can be non-profit but are more often for-profit.

      Public

      Virtual schools operated by states and school districts are tuition-free public charter or magnet schools, chartered by the state to provide education. Many districts contract with an EMO to provide students with an online curriculum option or other educational support services.

      Private

      Some private online high schools serve students who need a flexible schedule not available in traditional schools. This includes Olympic athletes, musicians, actors, artists, or those dedicated to an alternative schedule that conflicts with traditional high-school hours. Many private online high schools are aimed at gifted students and often serve as a feeder program into major universities. There is a tuition charge which can be significantly higher than the other types of online high schools.

      Online high schools FAQ

      Can you get your high school diploma online for free?
      Yes, it is possible to earn your high school diploma online for free. Before choosing an online school, thoroughly research the program to guarantee you know what you’re getting into. Make sure the online school of your choice is legitimate and accredited before registering for classes. Accreditation is important because other schools, organizations and companies may not honor certain free online diplomas.

      If you are a minor and your area offers government-funded public and charter online high schools, you can attend those for free too.

      How much does online high school cost?
      Online high school can cost anywhere from $0 to over $10,000 per year. When comparing online high schools, remember that annual cost is just one factor, along with the program’s qualifications.
      Is online high school a good idea?
      Yes, online high schools are a good idea for many people, including those who:
      • Didn’t have the opportunity to earn their GED diploma
      • Do not thrive in a traditional high school environment
      • Have special situations which require flexible learning opportunities

      These students may also benefit from tutoring.

      Do colleges accept online high school diplomas?
      Yes, almost all colleges accept online high school diplomas from accredited programs. Accreditation is key to determining whether or not an online high school program is legitimate or a scam.
      Can you start online school in the middle of the year?
      Most online schools allow you to begin classes at any point in the year. However, certain programs may be on a set schedule due to the teachers’ plans or curriculum.
      Is online high school accredited?
      Yes, many online high schools are accredited. Be sure to verify that an online high school is accredited before enrolling. Nearly all colleges accept high school diplomas from accredited online high schools.
      Is online school year-round?
      With the flexibility of online school, students can attend these programs year-round. Online schools often allow students to customize their course schedules to meet their educational and personal needs.

      Not sure how to choose?

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        Online high school expert reviews

        Whitmore School

        Whitmore School by CompuHigh started in 1994 by parents looking for alternative education options for their children. The accredited school’s mission is to put students in charge of their own education.

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        Epic Charter Schools

        Epic Charter Schools are free, public schools for students in Pre-K through 12th grade. It lets students complete their classes online, but it doesn’t require students to spend a certain number of hours online each day. The school also hosts in-person activities, like field trips, prom and a graduation ceremony. In-person events usually take place in Oklahoma City.

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        James Madison High School

        James Madison High School is a self-paced school that provides full academic support — including teacher support, a blog and a question and answer forum. James Madison is an accredited school and has graduated tens of thousands of students.

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        K12

        Founded in 1999, K12 Inc. is a for-profit education corporation. As of 2017, it is the largest online school company, operating 58 separate virtual schools with nearly 77,000 students enrolled in the 2011-12 school year. K12 owns free online public schools, tuition-based online private schools, and online supplemental courses, and is accredited by AdvancED, the largest homeschool accrediting agency. Interested caregivers can use the search feature on K12’s main page to find what offerings are available in their home states.

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        The Keystone School

        The Keystone School is a private, tuition-based online school. Started in 1974, The Keystone School was one of the first in the industry to develop distance learning and online schooling. The Keystone School has had students from all 50 states and nearly 100 countries.

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        Laurel Springs School

        Founded in 1991, Laurel Springs is a private online school with a large course offering and full academic support. It is designed as a college preparatory school geared toward the personal interests and the aptitudes of each student. Laurel Springs also focuses on community and building a sense of school pride.

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        Connections Academy

        Connections Academy is a virtual education organization that provides a free public online school for grades K-12, as well as a tuition-based online private school. Connections Academy is a division of Connections Education LLC.

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        Penn Foster High School

        Accredited in 1972, Penn Foster High School is located in Pennsylvania and licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools. The school has a focus on lifelong learning as well as traditional high school education.

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        Florida Virtual School

        Florida Virtual School is an online school located in Florida, but open to students throughout the United States. Classes are free to Florida residents and available on a paid basis for those outside the state.

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        The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.