Earn Your High School Diploma Online: Steps, Requirements & Tips
Posted on September 20 2019
There’s absolutely no debate: The overwhelming majority of employers won’t even consider a worker who doesn’t have a high school diploma. In fact, according to researchers from Georgetown University, only 17 percent of all jobs are currently filled by people who have not yet graduated high school — and that number drops every year.
But many current and former high school students have faced challenges in their efforts to earn a diploma. These students are often working to support their families, parenting children of their own, suffering from mental and physical health challenges, or dealing with learning disabilities. It’s very unfair to call these students “drop outs,” because in most cases they didn’t drop out. They were pushed out. And they deserve a path back to school.
Some believe that path is a General Educational Development (GED) certificate, but this test can be a challenge to pass for those who didn’t finish high school, and GED prep classes can be expensive and time-consuming.
Others looking to complete their high school education may wonder if doing so is within their budget. If you are in your late teens or early 20s, you may qualify to finish your education at an online charter high school for free (depending on your state’s law). If not, however, you will likely need to pay for your classes. (Many students don’t realize that online high schools offer financial aid and tuition assistance, and don’t even think to ask — it’s important to be upfront with enrollment counselors about your needs. They might be able to help you.)
Today, digital media and technology have made it possible for just about anyone to earn a high school diploma or obtain a GED certificate online, but there are a lot of pathways that will lead to nothing but frustration. That’s why it is vital to seek out an accredited school, such as The American Academy, which enables returning students to obtain a rewarding high school education and earn a diploma that can help them advance throughout their careers and their lives.
Would you be interested in earning a high school diploma online? Here’s what you’ll need to know to get started:
Earning a High School Diploma Online: Obtain Transcripts
Before enrolling or applying to an online high school diploma program that is not affiliated with the school you last attended, you’ll need to request official copies of your transcripts from your former schools. It’s unlikely that you’ll need elementary or middle school records — just the high school transcripts will suffice. Depending on where you attended high school, your institution could offer this service online. Almost all schools, however, will help you via phone or mail. Only a small number will refuse to help you unless you are in person; if that happens let the school you are planning to attend next know, because they will be very likely to help you deal with this situation.
No matter what the previous schools’ policies are for obtaining transcripts, it’s very important to follow those rules. Some schools can require students to offer proof of identification, others may only accept payment by check or credit card. Additionally, if there are any restrictions that could prevent you from obtaining transcripts, such as academic or financial holds, you should find out what to do to have those restrictions lifted. The bottom line, however, is that this is the essential first step, and if you want to finish what you’ve started, it needs to be done right.
Why is this so important? Because the admissions staff or the enrollment team within an online high school program need these transcripts to figure out what you need to do to complete the requirements for your degree. (If someone from a school tells you these records are not important, that’s a big red flag — that school may not be dealing honestly with you and others.) You will ultimately save time and money by not having to pay for coursework they already completed at another institution, so whatever efforts need to happen to get your official transcripts is going to be worth it in the long run. You don’t want to start over from scratch.
If you’re having trouble getting an official transcript at first, that’s OK. Most online schools will initially evaluate an unofficial transcript, but they will almost always eventually require an official transcript for students to continue and earn their diploma.
Earning a High School Diploma Online: Meet with an Enrollment Adviser
Once you submit your transcripts, you’ll be able to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with advisers and members of your new school’s enrollment team. In these conversations, you’ll collaboratively determine what classes you need to complete to earn a diploma, as well as what elective courses are available that you might want to take.
Additionally, these staff members can offer guidance and support as you navigate the process. If you have questions about classes, enrollment, tuition, or any other aspect of the program, have those questions ready to go before your session and feel free to ask any other questions that come up during your meeting.
You can meet with an enrollment adviser as many times as you like. It’s normal for prospective students learning more about an online high school diploma program to have a lot of questions. The enrollment team is happy to help. (And, if they aren’t, that’s another potential red flag. You should never feel like officials from a prospective school don’t want to talk to you!)
Enrollment advisers can also offer tips and advice for succeeding in a high school diploma program. These professionals can offer you recommendations on developing a study schedule, building relationships with instructors, and preparing for exams.
Earning a High School Diploma Online: Enrolling in Classes
The next step in earning a high school diploma online is enrolling in specific courses. Some schools may require students to complete a formal application, while others allow prospective students to research and enroll in courses right away. For example, once students at The American Academy pay tuition, they can select different courses they want to enroll in. If they’ve had a full transcript evaluation, students will automatically receive access to the courses they need to earn their diploma. Students still waiting for their transcripts to be evaluated will have access to electives and other common courses they’ll need for their diploma, based on a best estimate of what that student needs.
You may need to arrange for specific tools and materials for the online high school diploma program and classes. Because classes are delivered online, you will need to make sure you own or have regular access to a computer on which you can complete your coursework. This can include purchasing your own desktop or laptop computer, or planning to reserve a public desktop such as those at a community library. You should also make sure that you have access to a reliable internet connection. That connection isn’t just a connection to your school — it’s a connection to your future.
You might need to buy textbooks and other course materials. Because prices vary and some items may have limited availability, you should research the list of what’s needed for a course to ensure you can get those items. However, some online schools, like The American Academy, will cover the cost of all materials you need. It’s important to ask about how these sorts of costs will be covered when you are enrolling in order to avoid hidden charges.
Earning a High School Diploma Online: Succeeding in Class
Many online high school diploma programs are self-paced, meaning students don’t necessarily meet in a virtual classroom at a given time of day. Instead, they progress through a course on their own schedule. This is very different that the live video-based classes that many students were introduced to during the COVID-19 crisis — many students who did not enjoy that format came to think that they could not be good at online learning. In reality, the self-paced classes, which are known as “asynchronous courses” are a very different way to learn that many students — and especially those with lots of responsibilities besides school — enjoy and thrive in.
Even if a class is self-paced, however, many online schools still have rules about how long a student can take to finish. For example, a school can provide a three-month window to complete an algebra course, where some students finish in 20 days and others in 80, but they still need to complete the course within that three months if they want to earn credit. And, in reality, this is a very good thing. For most people, it can be hard to get things done without a deadline.
Flexible, self-paced scheduling is convenient, but it’s also important for you to set your own timelines for when you want to complete courses and the program at large. That may include completing a certain number of assignments in a week, dedicating specific days or times to complete coursework, or finishing an entire course in a given amount of time. Most students who tell themselves they’ll do their school work “when I can get to it” are going to struggle in the online environment.
Also remember that just because a course is online that does not mean it is easier to complete than an in-person class. Because there isn’t an instructor engaging in face-to-face conversations with the class, you need to make sure you contact the instructor any time you need guidance or clarification. Additionally, even though your fellow students are not sitting right next to you, you can still form valuable relationships with other classmates, and this can be a great source of support and camaraderie.
Finally, to the best of your ability, you should always make sure you are in a space and environment that allows for the highest learning potential. Working in an area that is quiet, has plenty of light, and is free of noise and physical disruption allows you to concentrate on your work.
Enhance Your Future: Earn Your High School Diploma Online
Earning a high school diploma is a big step on the path to success.
It doesn’t matter you have faced challenge and setbacks in the past. It also doesn’t matter if you are not able to attend classes in-person on a regular schedule. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out of school — at The American Academy, for instance, we’ve help people earn their diplomas after being away from the classroom environment for many decades!
Online high school diploma programs can offer a flexible, affordable, and rewarding path to a better life, but the best journeys begin with some research. Use the guidance above to make a great decision about the school you’ll attend, and then don’t look back. The past is the past — and you can graduate high school!