How to Identify and Avoid Diploma Mills

Posted on October 09 2012

Enrolling in a virtual high school is sometimes a good option for those who have special circumstances or special needs. You may be a working mom who would like to improve her career prospects by getting a high school diploma. You may be a gifted student who would like to graduate high school early. You may be an athlete whose schedule is primarily composed of regular practices and drills, as well as competitions.

Whatever your circumstances, you don’t have to miss out on quality education since you can get an online high school education. The American Academy is a virtual high school that provides over 100 quality courses, taught by qualified and licensed instructors. It is also accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission. It has met the stringent standards to ensure that you are truly learning.

Sadly though, there are some unscrupulous companies that offer degrees for a fee. You don’t have to read through lessons, submit projects or take tests. There are very little educational expectations but then, viola! You still get a high school diploma. The question is whether or not this diploma is recognized by colleges and employers. More often than not, these institutions are not accredited by legitimate educational boards.

Making the mistake of enrolling in a diploma mill will result in waste of not just money, but also your precious time. Also, if you have already been hired by an employer on the basis of your high school diploma and it is discovered that you obtained it from a diploma mill, this may result in some embarrassment for you at best or worse, getting you fired. So before you plunk in your tuition, it will be best to make sure that you are enrolling in a legitimate online high school, rather than a diploma mill.

Here are some red flags that point to a diploma mill:

  • There are promises of earning a high school diploma in as little as 30 days or even 6 months. Earning credits will be based on the number of credits you complete. With an accredited online high school program such as that offered by The American Academy, completing enough credits to earn a high school will require considerable time.
  • Other promises may sound too good to be true as well. These promises include a high school diploma with very little coursework required, or a program that allows you to create your own curriculum.
  • Tuition fees are computed based on a completed degree, rather than on a per semester, course or credit basis. Tuition is given as one bill.
  • The online high school has no physical address where you can send your correspondence or a phone number you can call. Be forewarned if all you get as a physical mailing address is a P.O. Box or a house number. Even with a legitimate-sounding address, it will still be helpful to check that it is an actual office, rather than a virtual office in charge of forwarding their mails.
  • The focus is on “credit for life” or your past work and life experiences rather than on learning and choosing courses from a comprehensive curriculum.
  • Scant information on the curriculum or course syllabi. There may be listings of available courses, but these may not have descriptions or course syllabi.
  • The school has a similar name to that of a high respected educational institution. This is to lend the diploma mill the notion that they are legitimate.
  • Unprofessional-looking websites. If the website looks poorly designed and bears some grammatical and spelling errors, you should start checking the school out more deeply. Since the website is an intrinsic part of an online school’s operations, it should be professionally designed.