Woman in blue looking at silver laptop smiling.
High School

How to Choose a High School: What to Look for in an Online High School for Yourself or Your Teen

Choosing an online high school program can be tough, especially if you're new to the process. Here are some things to consider before enrolling, plus advice from Penn Foster instructors and recent grads.
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

We follow strict quality and ethics policies to make sure our content is honest, accurate, and helpful. Learn more about editorial guidelines.

Whether you’re heading into high school for the first time, transferring out of a traditional high school program, or returning to school as an adult, figuring out which online program is the right fit can be tough. There are a lot of factors to consider that you don’t necessarily think about with a traditional K-12 high school experience, and that’s why we’re going to talk about them today. We got some great advice from Penn Foster online high school instructors and recent grads to help you make the right decision for you!

The top ten most important factors to consider when choosing an online high school

When you’re researching an online high school, you want to make sure that it is the right fit for you. To make sure that you’ll get the most out of your choice, ask yourself the following questions.


1. Does it meet my scheduling and learning pace flexibility needs?

Dianemarie T., Penn Foster class of 2019, told us, "I chose to enroll through Penn Foster because of my busy schedule as a mom of three and a full-time employee. It would have been very hard to make time to attend school on campus. So, doing the program online, I was able to do the course at my own time and pace. That's what motivated me more to graduate."


It’s a good idea to make sure the high school program is as flexible as you need it to be. Not only do you want to have flexible scheduling, but courses that allow you to go at your own pace might be ideal if you are working while going back to school. As Dr. Andy Shean, Chief Learning Officer, says, "Online learning offers the flexibility to study when you're most alert and focused."


Read more: 12 Biggest Myths About Online High School


2. Does the online program offer a supportive and caring learning environment?

A nurturing environment can be a game-changer. It starts with the school providing a reliable and secure online platform. Teachers and administrators learn how to effectively educate and engage with students online, critical for nurturing student growth and maintaining frequent, meaningful communication. Administrators and educators should collaboratively establish clear policies for behavior and academics, as well as build an inclusive culture that respects diversity. Regular check-ins and available mental health resources offer a safety net for emotional well-being, while interactive learning methods and community-building activities foster student engagement and peer support. Also, when parents are more involved in their child’s online learning, it can make a huge difference, giving the student a multi-sided approach to their well-being and education.


quote icon

“Penn Foster’s online high school program can really benefit students who struggle with a structured learning environment allowing them the opportunity to work at a flexible pace comfortable to them with hours that suit their various learning needs. Additionally, students who are bullied, struggle with anxiety or feel a lack of acceptance in a traditional school environment can find a home with PFHS and flourish in an online learning environment.”

-Cathy Breymeier, Manager, High School Course Department, Penn Foster


3. What real-world skills are being taught online that aren’t found in a traditional curriculum?

Cody R., class of 2019, says, "Penn Foster taught me how to solve problems effectively, strategies to become a good student and stay organized, and how to interact with instructors and other students, which helped increase communication skills." These skills are invaluable in both college and the professional world.


Read more: Talking to Parents About Online School


4. What courses and electives are offered, and is that how and what I want to learn?

Selina Rush, a Penn Foster English instructor, believes that the variety of ways to learn and share information makes an online program robust and unique. When choosing an online high school, look for a curriculum that offers a mix of both standard and special electives that cater to your teen's interests and post-school plans.


Read more: How High School Prepares You For Success


5. Is the program accessible, and can I contact my instructors easily?

You don’t want to feel isolated or afraid to ask for help in an online program. Daniel Sciarrillo, a Penn Foster Spanish instructor, emphasizes that Penn Foster’s program is built to help students work at a comfortable pace, where instructors are "easily accessible, present, and happy to assist.


Read more: A Day In The Life Of An Online High School Student


6. Will I be able to do anything with my high school diploma after I graduate?

Alex Thome, our high school Vice President, believes it's not just about the piece of paper but about the doors it can open, from college to career opportunities. An online high school program can allow you to earn your high school diploma and take courses that give you an edge when you join the workforce or apply for colleges. Cierra McRae, Penn Foster High School graduate, was able to finish her high school diploma while working and being a great single mom to three young children. “I was able to attend classes at my convenience, as many times a day as I wished. With that flexibility, I was able to complete Penn Foster’s High School Program in 10 months!” Cierra went on to become an anesthesia technician and an inspiration to her young children, proving that anything is possible. She says she wouldn’t have been able to get a better job without her high school diploma, as it was a steppingstone to a better life.


Read more: How Online High School Gave Kylee the Tools to Graduate Early


7. Are there a lot of positive student stories and testimonials?

While this may seem straightforward, reading reviews from past students can provide invaluable insights into the program's strengths and areas of improvement. Remember, these testimonials are often an authentic gauge of the online high school experience. You may want to look at different schools if you can’t find many positive reviews.


Read more: How Does Online High School Work?


8. Do the courses give you access to learning tools and resources?

Spanish instructor Daniel Sciarrillo suggests, "Take time to look at the courses on a deeper level, unpacking all the resources available." From video lectures that can be re-watched to supplementary materials, ensure the program offers plenty of support to help you learn.


Read more: Q&A With a Penn Foster High School Parent


9. Does this online program fit in my budget?

It’s crucial to make sure that you can afford the school you want to attend and that it isn’t going to bankrupt you. High school can be challenging– no need to add financial stress into the mix!


Read more: Your Guide to Dual Enrollment


10. Will I feel confident about my future after I graduate?

One of the most magical transformations, as highlighted by Alex, is the newfound confidence graduates acquire. This newfound self-assurance can be a turning point in how they view themselves and their future. Online high school graduates complete their education as well-rounded adults ready to enter the workforce or attend college or a trade program. They are excited and prepared for what lies ahead.


Read more: Beyond Graduation: How High School Prepares You for Success


Earn your high school diploma online with Penn Foster

Whether you’re a teen or adult learner, Penn Foster has a flexible, accredited online high school program to suit your needs. With helpful instructors and a user-friendly platform, earning your high school diploma online is a great way to fit your education into your life. Call our Admissions Specialists at 1-888-427-6200 or send them a message to get your questions answers or to enroll today. Your future starts now!


Popular Posts