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How to Transfer to Online High School: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents

Written by Lauren Ambrosio on Wednesday, 19 July 2023. Posted in For Parents

Teen playing on ukelele in background with laptop and desk in the foreground.

Has your child been talking about transferring to online high school? Do you have questions about how remote learning would work for your family? Are you curious if it’s a good fit for your teen? Get your questions answered and more in this guide on what online high school really involves, the enrollment process, and what a typical day might look like for your student. Whether you have a budding athlete with a demanding training schedule or a creative spirit who needs a more flexible learning environment, online high school could be the key. But, signing up your child in an online school isn’t the same as an in-person, traditional institution. So let’s get started and get your teen enrolled!

How to Transfer Your Child to Online School

Step 1: Determine why your teen wants or needs to transfer to an online high school

Before you begin diving into internet research on programs, extra-curriculars, syllabi, and supply lists, you need to understand the reasons your teen wants to go to an online high school.

Some of the reasons families pivot to online school are:

  • Flexibility in schedule and learning pace
  • Tailored learning environment to cater to individual needs
  • Expanded course offerings for a more diverse learning experience
  • Health reasons that might make traditional schooling challenging
  • Accelerated learning for gifted or advanced students
  • Providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students
  • Geographic flexibility, particularly important for families that move frequently
  • Preparation for the future with tech-savvy, self-directed learning

Figuring out the answer to “why online high school?” is the first step in your journey. By establishing the motivation for switching, you can begin to do more targeted searches for schools, making your options less murky and more focused from the onset.

Step 2: Research online high school programs together

When searching, you’ll notice that a lot of the results are specific for your state. Most online high schools, while their curricula are not location-specific, may not be available in every state. But don’t worry! There are plenty of online programs serving every state, including yours. So, how do you narrow down your teen’s top choices?

Find the right program

Online high school programs vary significantly. They can differ in terms of learning structures, types of schools, courses and curriculum, accreditation, available support services, and parental involvement. In light of the variety and options available, you will need to be aware of these variables to make the right choice for your child. For instance, some programs offer asynchronous learning, where students learn at their own pace, while others use synchronous or real-time interactions between teachers and students to mimic an in-person classroom.

The majority of online high schools fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Public online high schools
  • Private online high schools
  • Charter online high schools
  • College/University-based online high schools
  • International online high schools
  • Online high schools aimed at adult education
  • Online schools designed for homeschooling

Factors to consider when choosing an online high school for your teen

  • Curriculum criteria: Examine the curriculum of the online schools you are considering. Ensure it aligns with your child's educational goals, interests, and the required credit hours for graduation.
  • Accreditation: Verifying the school's accreditation is critical. An accredited school indicates its quality and legitimacy. Accreditation ensures your child's earned credits are likely to be accepted by other schools, colleges, and employers.
  • Support services: Online schools often provide a range of support services for students, including teachers, counselors, tutors, tech support, and mental health services. Assess these services as part of your decision-making process.
  • Parental involvement: Consider the level of parental engagement required by the online program. Knowing this helps to set your expectations and allows you to plan how much time and effort you'll need to commit. If you have multiple children in different online programs, you’ll want to make sure you pay close attention to the time commitment of each so you aren’t spending your entire day helping with schoolwork.
  • Cost of tuition, fees, and supplies: While some online schools are publicly funded and free for students, others charge tuition. You will need to factor in the costs for a strong internet connection, a suitable device for attending class and doing work, and any additional materials required for specific courses or electives.

Make your final selections

After whittling down your initial list to your top three online high schools, now’s the time to look at your research to help you decide on the best fit for your child’s education. Putting your research into an organized table - like the one below - makes comparing each school at a glance easier.

Factors to Consider School 1 School 2 JMHS
Accreditation Status
Cognia, DEAC
Associated Costs $1,099-1,599
Technological Requirements Device with Windows, not mobile-friendly
Necessary Class Materials TBD
Typical Daily Schedule Flexible
Grading Policies and Expectations Varies by instructor
Required Login Times/Live Sessions None
Parental Involvement ~1 hour per day
Support Services Offered Yes
Extracurricular Activities Yes
Special Education/Accommodations Yes
Teacher-Student Communication Method Internal chat features
Student-to-Teacher Ratio 125:1
Social Interaction Opportunities Yes
College and Career Counseling Yes

Read more: What You Need to Know About JMHS Accreditation

Step 3: Enroll your teen in online high school

Once you're happy with the school you and your learner have chosen, it’s time to enroll! This is when you and your child gather everything you need to apply, enroll, transfer from their current school, and get ready for class.

1. Gather your documents

Every school has its own application process, so be sure you are providing your chosen institution with the specific documents they’re asking for. Luckily, this can all be accomplished digitally, which is one of the perks of online schooling!

  • Completed application form This will typically ask for basic information such as the student's name, social security number, address, date of birth, and previous educational history.
  • Proof of identity: A copy of a government-issued ID like a birth certificate, passport, or driver's license.
  • Proof of residency: This could be a utility bill, rental agreement, or another document that shows the student’s current address. This is particularly important for online schools that have geographical requirements.
  • Transcripts from previous institutions: This includes official records of courses taken, grades earned, and any credits received. Transcripts are vital for determining placement and credit transfer.
  • Immunization records: Although the student will be attending school online, some states or institutions still require up-to-date immunization records. Hey, Parent! Schedule your child’s wellness checkup ASAP to get this requirement out of the way, and be sure to bring any documents that you need filled out by your child’s doctor.
  • Standardized test scores: If the student has taken standardized tests (such as state assessments or the SAT/ACT), it’s helpful to have these scores on hand, although not usually necessary for enrollment.
  • Custody/guardianship documents: If applicable, legal documents showing custody or guardianship.
  • IEP or 504 plan: Not just for traditional schools, these apply to online schools too. If your teen is eligible for special education services or accommodations, provide copies of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan.
  • Subject placement tests: Some online schools require new students to take placement tests in subjects like math and English to determine the appropriate level of courses.
  • Letters of recommendation: Although not always required, some programs may ask for letters of recommendation from previous teachers or counselors. This can be helpful if your child is wanting to get into a coveted program within their online school.
  • Personal statement or essay: Some programs may require your teen to write a personal essay. This isn’t used to approve or deny applications, but to get to know the student better.
  • Financial information: For schools that require tuition, you may need to provide financial information for payment or to apply for financial aid. If your child has been awarded scholarships or grants, this is where you’d include it for the bursar.
  • Technology requirements acknowledgment: You may be required to acknowledge that you have the necessary technology (computer, internet connection, etc.) to participate in the program. If you are unable to meet some of the tech requirements, reach out to the school for assistance. There are discount programs and vouchers for wifi, laptops, and even help with your utility bills.

If you’re enrolling your child in James Madison High School, all you’ll need to do to get them started in the program is complete the enrollment process, make an initial payment toward tuition, have their current school send us an official copy of their transcript, and fill out any necessary transfer paperwork with that school.

2. Unenroll from teen’s current school

Contact your child's current school to inform them that your child will no longer be attending the school and let them know where the student will be attending instead. Ask about the process for unenrollment and follow their provided guidelines. While doing this, be sure to...

Read more: How to Transfer from Public School to Online School

3. Request transcripts

Request official transcripts from your child's current school. These will include records of the coursework completed, grades, and credits earned. If you need an official transcript, let the current school know and they’ll take care of it. An official transcript bears the school's official seal or a signature of a school official. If mailed, it's typically in a sealed envelope and becomes unofficial if the envelope’s seal is broken. Be sure to ask for an unofficial copy of your child’s transcripts for your own records.

Read more: How to Transfer High School Credits to JMHS

4. Complete the enrollment process!

Take everything you’ve gathered for the application and submit it to the new school.

5. Review the online high school’s credit transfer policies

Ask them about their HS and AP/college prep credits transfer policies. Each school has different rules about what credits they accept and how they apply towards graduation requirements

A quick note about credit transfers

High school credits often transfer on a one-for-one basis, meaning that a year-long course at a traditional school would equate to a year-long course at an online school. However, the specifics can vary depending on the online school's policies.

For AP/college prep credits, it's important to check whether the online school recognizes these credits. Don’t let your teen’s hard work go down the drain because the new school doesn’t take their college-level credits. If your child has completed AP courses or tests, ensure that the online school will accept these credits. If not, your child may have to retake certain courses or tests, which can impact the timeline for graduation. If your teen’s goal is to finish high school early and get a jump on college, AP courses are crucial to making that leap.

6. Follow up on documents

Double-check to make sure the new school received your teen’s official transcripts or requests from other institutions or individuals. If not, you have time to submit new requests and follow up again. Set a reminder in your phone to ensure you don’t forget!

7. Await enrollment confirmation

Once all documents are submitted and fees paid, the school will review your child’s application. When the application has been accepted, you and your teen will be notified and will begin receiving information on how to sign up for classes and other pertinent new student information.

8. Attend orientation (if available)

If the online high school offers orientation, make sure your child attends. This can help familiarize both you and your teen with the school's policies, the online learning environment, and available resources. Orientation often answers questions you didn’t know you had, so don’t miss it if it’s available. It doesn’t matter if your teen changes schools mid-year, mid-semester, or mid-sentence, there are new student resources available year-round.

Step 4: Set expectations and get started

An online high school like JMHS may offer a similar curriculum to a traditional school, but the day to day experience is very different. Before your student logs in on their first day, discuss expectations, set a schedule, and address any questions they may have about online learning.

What should my child and I expect from an online high school learning environment?

Preparing for online high school differs from a traditional school setting. Your student should have a clear understanding of their schedule, a quiet study space, a working computer or laptop with reliable internet, and necessary study supplies catered to their individual study habits and needs. Familiarize your student with their login information and ensure they know how to access their classes and assignments. But, how exactly does online high school work, and what does a typical day look like?

Read more: 5 Effective Study Skills for Online Learning

How many hours should my teen have school each day?

The time your student spends learning online may vary based on the curriculum and your child's learning pace. Sit with your student to decide on a study schedule that fits their needs and commitments. Most online high schools have flexible, self-paced courses that don’t require your child to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Most classes typically consist of a mixture of video lessons, hands-on application, simulations, virtual learning modules, unplugged assignments, reading, and presentations. Your teen’s day could look something like the following:

10th Grade example weekday schedule

9:00 am - 9:40 am: English 10
9:45 am - 10:25 am: Algebra II
10:30 am - 10:45 am: Break
10:45 am - 11:25 am: AP World History
11:30 am - 12:00 pm: Lunch
12:00 pm - 12:40 pm: Chemistry
12:45 pm - 1:00 pm: Break
1:00 pm - 1:40 pm: Spanish II
1:45 pm - 2:00 pm: Break
2:00 pm - 2:40 pm: Art History
2:40 pm - 3:00 pm: Physical Education. Yes, even in online high school they have PE!
3:00 pm onwards: Finishing up work and free time

10th Grader participating in competitive athletics example weekday schedule

Is your child involved in competitive sports, the performing arts, or has a passion that takes up a lot of their time? Here’s a schedule example to illustrate the flexibility of online schooling:

5:00 am - 7:00 am: Early morning training with coach
7:00 am - 8:00 am: Cooldown and breakfast
8:00 am - 8:40 am: English 10
8:45 am - 9:25 am: Algebra II
9:30 am - 10:00 am: Break
10:00 am - 10:40 am: AP World History
10:45 am - 11:30 am: Lunch
11:30 am - 12:10 pm: Chemistry
12:15 pm - 12:55 pm: Spanish II
1:00 pm - 1:30 pm: Break
1:30 pm - 2:10 pm: Art History
2:15 pm - 3:45 pm: Afternoon training session
3:45 pm onwards: Free time/homework

Read more: A Day in the Life of an Online High School Student

Parents’ frequently asked questions about online high school

What type of learner does well in an online high school setting?

While every student is different, those who are self-motivated, disciplined, and comfortable with technology tend to do well in an online setting. However, with proper support, all types of learners can thrive.

Read more: Grad of the Year’s Advice for Juggling Online High School and Helping Family

How are exams conducted in an online high school?

Many online schools utilize a variety of assessment methods, from traditional online exams to project-based assessments. Some schools may use proctored exams, where a supervisor monitors the student during the test to maintain academic integrity.

Read more: JMHS Exam and Grade FAQs

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What options are there for students with special needs or learning difficulties?

Many online high schools offer accommodations and resources to support students with special needs. This may include additional tutoring, extended time for assignments, or adaptive learning materials.

Does online school follow a traditional academic calendar?

Online schools may follow a traditional academic calendar, but many offer rolling enrollment, allowing students to start at any time during the year. The pacing of the course can also often be adjusted to fit the student's needs.

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How can I as a parent be involved in my child's online education?

While online learning encourages student independence, parental involvement is still important. Parents can help by providing a structured learning environment, tracking their child's progress, communicating with teachers, and encouraging their child's engagement.

What opportunities are there for career and technical education (CTE)?

Some online high schools offer CTE pathways that allow students to gain industry-specific skills while still in high school.

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Is online high school more challenging than traditional high school?

Online classes are neither inherently easier or harder than traditional classes; they're just different. There are advantages, like the ability to learn at one's own pace and the flexibility of studying from anywhere. However, online learning also requires discipline, self-motivation, and strong time-management skills. Most programs provide families with a robust support system to help students manage these challenges, offering personal academic advisors and online resources for both students and parents.

Are there summer classes or programs available?

Many online high schools offer summer programs or classes, providing an opportunity for students to catch up, get ahead, or explore new interests.

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How does an online high school ensure student safety and privacy online?

Online schools should have protocols in place to protect student information and provide a safe learning environment, including secure login systems, privacy policies, and guidelines for appropriate online behavior.

Are there counseling and guidance services available to online students?

Many online high schools provide counseling services to assist with academic planning, college applications, career exploration, and personal development.

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How do I help my teen stay motivated?

Whether your high schooler goes to school online or in person, are they ever really motivated to attend class? The key to getting through online high school successfully is establishing good habits around doing classwork, watching lectures, and completing long-term projects and papers. This can look like setting personal goals, instituting a daily schedule, and maintaining discipline.

Read more: 7 Ways Online School Can Help You Focus

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Help your teen explore their potential with flexible online learning at JMHS

The high school journey is full of challenges. James Madison High School is here to offer a flexible, quality education for your learner. Whether your child is a driven teen needing a schedule that accommodates other passions, or they simply thrive better in a self-paced learning environment, our online high school program is expertly crafted to meet these unique requirements.

Choosing online high school doesn't mean compromising on educational quality. We are proud to be a legitimate high school option, upholding high educational standards comparable to traditional brick-and-mortar schools. With a JMHS diploma, your child's future opportunities, whether in further education or the workforce, remain wide open.

We are committed to supporting parents and students throughout the enrollment process, from understanding the transfer of credits to adjusting to the online high school experience. To learn more about our affordable online high school program or to begin the enrollment process, please reach out to our dedicated Admissions Team at 1-855-658-1500. Partner with JMHS and help your child embark on a rewarding educational journey that aligns with their dreams and aspirations.

About the Author

Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio is a lifelong writer with a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. She joined Penn Foster in 2023 and is excited to be part of a team with such a rich history. She hopes to help our learners by providing helpful information they need on their education and career journeys. When Lauren isn’t writing about our veterinary programs—her favorite topic—she is hiking the foothills of Pikes Peak with her black lab, Remy.