By Alison Mistretta

There are more opportunities for pursuing an online high school education than ever, but not all online schools are created equal. School accreditation is a very important issue when you’re considering online options for your children, especially when your young learners are interested in applying to competitive universities and colleges.

Here are four things to keep in mind when you’re researching online high school options.

1. Accreditation shouldn’t be optional.

Accreditation lets you know the online school you’re considering for your kids takes education as seriously as you do.

When a school is accredited, it gives a stamp of approval on the diploma and helps families recognize it as a legitimate institution, as accredited schools must meet certain curricular guidelines, ensuring that a student is adequately prepared to take the next step in their education. Online high school accreditation can impact post-graduation opportunities for students.

2. Different types of school accreditation are valued differently.

Not all online high schools offer the same value to every college admissions department. It’s not uncommon for secondary institutions to reject credits from schools that are not accredited. While there are several different accrediting agencies, some of the most recognizable include MSA-CESS, NCAA and Advanced Ed.

3. Look to states and regions for accreditation.

Where is the online high school registered and accredited? Since there’s currently no single governing accreditation standard set within the United States, the various states and regions are usually your most reliable option for finding legitimate accrediting agencies. Also, consider accreditation agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

4. Do your research.

Before you register your child for an online high school program, consider the quality of the program. Accreditation can play a key role here as well. Here are a few factors to weigh when looking for an online high school:

  • Who is the school’s accrediting body?
  • How often is school accreditation reviewed?
  • What is the school’s standing with the accrediting body?
  • What specializations are available (i.e. engineering, math, arts)?
  • What is the rate of successful completion of the program?
  • How flexible is the school with class delivery options or individualized programs?
  • Does the school offer extracurricular activities, clubs, tutoring or counseling services?

Parents and students love online high school because of the flexibility and freedom that these programs offer. Online high schools also give highly motivated students an opportunity to get a top-notch education when the local options just aren’t competitive enough.

An online education does require a lot of additional responsibility, however, for both you and your child — and those obligations start before the first class ever begins. Make sure you’re registering with an online school that offers the quality of education that you and the eager student in your family demands.

A version of this blog originally ran on GWUOHS.com.

Alison Mistretta is Head Of School and Administrator at George Washington University Online High School. Follow them on Twitter: @GWUOHS

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