Oct 5, 2021 |

How College Admissions Officers View Online High Schools

By Gravitas

college admissions counselors

If you’re wondering how college admissions officers will view an online high school degree, the answer is…it depends. Admissions officers receive applications from students attending an innumerable variety of school types and styles. Not all online schools are created equal. Just as not all brick-and-mortar schools are the same, the characteristics of online high school programs can also vary drastically. If an admissions committee approaches its review of applications holistically, taking into account diverse elements rather than only a few statistics like grade point average (GPA) and class rank, its members will examine the context of the school your student chose to attend, how they performed academically, what they gained from the overall experience, and more. Following are some components that admissions officers at selective colleges and universities investigate in-depth when considering applicants, regardless of whether they are studying in-person or online.

1. Program Rigor and Grading Policies

There is no way for college admissions officers to know the challenge-level of a school’s courses and understand its grading standards by merely looking at a student’s transcript, grades, or GPA. Not only will admissions officers examine the academic record, but they will also scrutinize the school’s profile, website, and other available information to learn about the academic culture, offerings, grading policies, and rigor of the school. Regardless of whether your child’s school offers instruction in-person or virtually, admissions officers will want to see evidence of the high-level academic excellence, support, and accountability it has provided them on their journey to becoming a strong reader, writer, thinker, and leader.

2. Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is of paramount importance to colleges and universities. Their admissions officers are often only admitting students based on what they look like “on paper”, and they trust that students and their schools are being honest and transparent. Unfortunately, academic cheating is rampant. Regardless of whether your student’s school is virtual or in-person, admissions committees will want to know whether it has policies in place to uphold academic integrity and also whether it practices grade inflation (i.e. they want to know how easy it is for students to get “A”s).

3. School Accreditation

With such an abundance of high schools across the nation (and world), it is impossible for admissions officers to know each school and its feasibility as a degree-granting institution inside-out. They look for seals of approval from organizations such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) for assurance that a school is fully accredited. When a school receives and maintains the accreditation of a reputable organization like NYSAIS, this serves as an important credential proving that the school has undergone a rigorous review process and is indeed achieving its mission and educational objectives. Accreditation verifies that a school is “the real deal” and that the information on its website, school profile, and students’ transcripts is true.

4. Reputation and Track Record

Admissions officers will keep an eye out for information about the reputation and legacy of your student’s school, especially with regard to the college acceptances and placements of its graduates. They will typically find this information on the school profile. They will look there to see the percentage of the senior class that goes on to attend four-year colleges as well as a listing of where seniors have been admitted and where they have matriculated in recent years. Admissions committees at highly selective colleges and universities will want to see that your child’s school prepares students to enroll and thrive at the nation’s top higher ed institutions.

5. Co- and Extracurricular Opportunities

An advantage that online schools present is that they can often afford your student greater flexibility to pursue their interests and passions than traditional schools. Online schools can be accessed from anywhere in the world and afford students time to focus on running their own business, leading a service project, doing an internship, and more. The key is for your student to participate fully in available extracurricular activities that the online school offers as well as maximize their “free” time to engage deeply in their passions. This will set them apart from other smart college applicants who have not had the autonomy to manage their own time and pursue their interests in depth in this way.

In conclusion, do your research to ensure that the academic program you choose for your student- whether in-person or online –has: rigorous courses; measures in place to ensure academic integrity; accreditation from a respected association; a solid reputation with colleges and universities; and plentiful opportunities for your student to receive personalized attention so they can grow in their unique strengths in and outside of the classroom.


Gravitas is the global extension of The Stony Brook School (SBS), a renowned 100-year-old day and boarding school on Long Island, New York. In addition to extending SBS’s extraordinary college preparatory academics and counseling resources to students worldwide, Gravitas also teaches its students about character formation and human flourishing to ensure they thrive in school and life beyond! To learn more and enroll your child, inquire here today.

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