How Do Colleges View Online High Schools?

As college approaches, high school students begin to wonder what they are doing or what they can do to make a specific college or university notice them. Students enrolled in an online high school may begin wondering whether their online education will affect how colleges view them. The student could be questioning if the college admissions will see their schooling as actual schooling or disregard it altogether. Due to online learning becoming more prominent today, its effects on the college application process can be a mystery. However, most college admissions officers don’t see online high school differently from a traditional in-person high school. 

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Admissions: What Are They Looking for?

College admissions officers look at several different aspects surrounding a student. They look at the student’s SAT or ACT scores, their GPA and transcript, extracurriculars, application essays, and letters of recommendation, among other things. When it comes down to it, college admissions can be unpredictable. A student could think they are a shoo-in, then end up disappointed.

At first, glance, when an admissions officer is looking at an application from a student who attends an online high school, they will wonder why. Why did the student choose to transfer to an entirely online high school experience? Some reasons that the admissions officer won’t let sway their decision are if the student has a medical condition, the high school’s climate is dangerous, or the student was pursuing a career that required flexible schooling (such as acting or professional athlete). No matter the reason, the admissions officer will want to ensure that the student is doing well and can take on the college lifestyle.  

When looking at the college application itself, the admissions officers look at the high school curriculum. They look to see whether it was challenging and would align with the curriculum they have at their school. They essentially want to make sure that the student will be able to keep up. Online high schools can have the challenging curriculum that the college is looking for. Sometimes online schools offer more challenging electives than traditional high schools, which may be even more appealing to an admissions officer. 

College or university admissions want to see that the student will thrive in their school’s environment. They want to see that students can handle their education and an upward trend of strong grades throughout their high school education. The possibility of strong grades translates from traditional high schools to online high schools. 

The college admissions essay is also a significant factor when looking at a student’s application. The essay can be a place for the student to exhibit how online schooling has not affected them, and they should be taken just as seriously as a traditional high school student. Whether that is something they write about specifically or something, they show through their writing skills. 

Colleges offer online courses themselves. Some students may even be full-time virtual students, taking all online courses to achieve their college degrees. Online courses are becoming more and more popular, especially among college students who choose to get a full-time or part-time job to help pay for their education. College admissions officers know that online courses can be just as effective as in-person courses. Colleges understand that virtual learning is a modern way to gain an education. 

Students that thrive in an online high school exemplify many characteristics that college admissions officers are looking for. A student that thrives in online learning can be organized, have self-discipline, and communicate well. Without the structure of a traditional high school setting, the student needs to adjust and keep themselves motivated. College requires that as well. Unless students commute to school and still live at home, they are essentially on their own. They don’t have teachers surrounding them or counselors keeping them in line unless they seek that help. However, even a student seeking that help exemplifies the maturity and discipline that college admissions officers want to see. 

Some students attending an online high school may even have the opportunity to take some college-level courses. Traditional high schools often offer these college-level courses as well, but not online. Taking these courses online allows the admissions officers to see how well the student can do at the college level, and adding the fact that it is an online course adds another level.  

College admissions officers also look at Extracurriculars on a student’s application. While online school students may find this aspect nerve-wracking, they should know that extracurriculars that a high school hosts are not the only thing that admissions officers need to see. Since online high schools likely don’t offer extracurriculars, students can seek them elsewhere, outside of their school. The admissions officers are looking for a student that is establishing engagement outside of the classroom. The student can partake in community volunteer work, have a job, or enjoy a hobby. These are seen as extracurriculars and can easily be done by a student attending an online high school.    

How Is the Application Process Different for Online High Schools?

One difference is that there may not be open access to a college counselor. Every high school has a college counselor in some form, whether it’s an administrative worker, a guidance counselor, or someone hired for that specific position. The counselor is physically there in the school for the student to interact with at any point, from before the application process begins to after decision letters have arrived. With online schooling, there may be an option to schedule a virtual meeting with a college counselor, or the school may not even offer a resource like that. The application process itself is the same. If the online school is an accredited school, there is not much of a difference.

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