Are you intrigued by online high schools but unsure about how colleges view them? Let’s clear the air right away. 

SPOILER ALERT: Colleges don’t hold significantly different views on high school degrees based on whether they come from online or traditional settings. 

Regardless of school setting, colleges look for qualities that tell them who is most likely to succeed in their institutions. Mapping out these qualities shows that the right online high school can outperform traditional schools in making your child shine among applicants.

Accreditation Matters

Accreditation should be one of your top priorities when considering an online high school. An unaccredited high school degree is an automatic red flag for colleges. The majority of colleges filter out applications based on this fundamental criterion. 

This is because accreditation ensures a minimum standard of quality education. Accreditation is an internationally recognized badge that tells institutions, “This is a legitimate school.” 

Here is a list of recognized accrediting agencies. Checking online schools’ accreditation status is an easy way to rule out potentially low-quality options.

Are AP Courses Everything?

Once you’ve checked off which online schools are accredited, it’s time to research curricula options. 

Colleges like to see applicants who thrive despite their difficult course load. It may be tempting to select easier courses to maintain a 4.0 GPA, but colleges tend to prefer a slightly lower GPA with more advanced courses

In general, people think of AP courses when they think of challenging curricula. There’s no doubt that, if passed, AP exams make your child look better on paper. 85% of surveyed colleges said that AP courses increase applicants’ chances of acceptance. 

But that’s a big “if.” 

In 2017, 65% of white students passed with a score of 3 or higher on their AP exams. In the same year, only 42% of Hispanic students and 30% of black students passed their AP exams. This finding suggests that AP exam scores may reflect students’ access to quality resources more than they reflect students’ raw potential. 

Does this mean that student demographics with lower AP exam pass rates are doomed from the start? Not at all. If we examine college enrollment rates, we find a much smaller gap between white, black and Hispanic students. 

As of 2018, white, black and Hispanic students all hovered around the average enrollment rate of 41% with only a few points between them. Since this margin is significantly tighter than AP exam rate differences, we can rest assured that there’s a lot more to getting into college than AP credits alone. 

Other Forms of Challenging Curricula

So we can let out a sigh of relief that  AP courses aren’t the end-all-be-all. In addition to AP courses, online high schools can provide easy access to unique, tailored curricula unavailable at your local district. 

Colleges love to see specialization. It’s better to demonstrate expertise in a small number of fields than to be decent across all fields. Let’s say your child has an interest or talent in a specific field like writing, engineering or tech. Students can customize a course load that gives them a headstart in building experience in those fields. 

Specialization in high school communicates focus, initiative and determination to admissions offices. 

College Prep Resources

Naturally, students whose schools provide targeted aid toward their admissions process will have a leg up over those who don’t. Here are a couple of resources to look for.

SAT / ACT Prep

Colleges have slightly relaxed their SAT and ACT standards over the years. But these scores are still among the top three considerations for admissions acceptance. Over 80% of colleges rated SAT and ACT scores with moderate to considerable importance.

Search for schools that prepare students for these important exams. Additional programs that aren’t simply mixed into classwork are a huge plus.

Application Essay Aid

Students’ application essays are their space to express their unique personalities and share their stories. The majority of colleges hold significant weight to this portion of applications. If two applicants maintained similar course loads and GPAs, one well-told story can make all the difference. 

It can be difficult for a seventeen-year-old to know what story elements would resonate with a much older admissions board. Schools that provide aids to college essays can help students highlight their best features. 

One downside to many online schools is their lack of college prep. Typically, students trade customizable courses for fewer resources during their admissions process. This is where Sora stands apart from most online high schools.

Sora’s Unique Approach to College Prep

Sora is a fully accredited online high school designed in part by Georgia Tech. It provides all of the tenants of traditional schools, like optional AP exams. Older students enjoy an additional boot camp that trains them to knock their SAT/ACT scores out of the park. As Sora students gain project-based experience, they develop portfolios in their specialized fields. This way, they start their college admissions process with a full portfolio. 

If you’d like to find out more about how your child can stand out with Sora, click here to speak with our admissions team.


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