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Accredited Online High School Diploma Programs or GED

Updated on January 4, 2013

Is it really possible to get a legitimate high school diploma online or just a GED? There is often a bit of confusion out there when it comes to earning a diploma. First it is important to understand that a GED and a traditional diploma are not the same thing.

A General Equivalency Degree means that you have successfully tested at a level that represents an equal level of education to what would be expected if you had graduated high school. A diploma on the other hand means that you have in fact completed high school at an approved educational institution.

Exactly what can and cannot be done online? It is possible to complete high school online while the only legitimate GED comes from the American Council of Education under federal guidelines. The online GED classes that are often mentioned in ads and by some reputable education websites would better be described as GED preparation programs. These programs and courses teach students fundamental skills that will prepare them to take and pass the official exam.

What's the Difference?

General Equivalency Degree testing covers 5 major subjects identified as being important to establishing high school graduation equivalency. Online GED courses are usually split into these five topics and include practice questions similar to what students could expect to encounter on the actual exam. Essential skills covered include reading and writing, math, science, and social studies.

Online high school programs on the other hand have a curriculum that is very similar to what you would find in a traditional classroom. In some cases, this is complete with social groups and extracurricular activities. The major difference of course is that the courses are in a virtual environment and do not require a fixed class schedule.

Choosing an Educational Path

Students often make the mistake of assuming that once they have dropped out of school, their only option for returning is through a GED program. The expanding popularity of distance learning has made it possible for students to earn an actual diploma from a nationally accredited program by taking online classes.

There are several potential advantages to taking this approach. For whatever reason, a GED is still viewed by most employers and colleges as being inferior to a traditional diploma. While your skill set might be like that of another student with different credentials, having only a GED can put you in a position where you end up with lower earnings and fewer advancement opportunities. Since both paths generally require about the same amount of work and preparation, choosing a program that allows you to earn an actual diploma has some significant advantages.

Taking Online Classes

There are several options to choose from when considering taking your courses online. The first thing you should look for when evaluating a potential school is the accreditation. An accredited institution simply means that they have taken the formal steps to certify the program's credibility through a third-party. By enrolling in an accredited high school diploma program, you can make sure that the education you are receiving has met an established set of quality standards and employers will recognize it upon graduation.

If you are going to invest the time and effort into completing your education, you want to make sure your hard work is rewarded with a legitimate diploma. Next, look at class offerings and the availability of assistance. It is crucial to make sure that qualified staff members are easily accessible if you have any questions or need personal assistance or technical support.

While price is important, do not make the mistake of allowing cost to dictate your decision alone. The key to your success will depend on finding value. This means determining which provider offers the tools that will help you be successful. How do you find a good program? Below are a few popular choices that currently offer online classes along with a little information about each one.

Penn Foster High School

This program allows students to earn a diploma from home without a set schedule. Students can work at their own pace to complete the required credits. Penn Foster is regionally and nationally accredited and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Licensed Schools.

The program costs include all textbooks and study guides so the student will incur no added expenses for materials. The Penn Foster program is good for students who already have some high school credits as they allow for the transfer of up to 16 credits for classes you've already completed. They also offer affordable tuition and allow students to make monthly payments without accruing any interest. For those who are serving in the U.S. military, you should note that this program qualifies for military tuition reimbursement.

Crescent Preparatory School

Crescent Prep is an online learning institution serving students throughout the country. They are registered with the Florida Board of Education, the NCAA, and are accredited through the NCACS. This program allows students at any level between grades 6 and 12 to complete their high school coursework online.

One of the biggest advantages to taking classes online through Crescent is that there are no fixed semesters. Students can enroll and begin taking courses at any time during the year. Their advanced online learning modules aim to teach students key skills in core areas such as English, reading, science, math and history as well as optional elective courses ranging from business to game design and criminal justice. Their certified online instructors help to engage students and offer help and support when necessary. They offer a free online consultation to anyone interested in learning more about what they have to offer.

Kaplan Online

Kaplan is one of the leaders in online education offering both high school and college level programs throughout the country. Kaplan virtual education is a subsidiary of Kaplan Higher Education and draws on over 70 years of experience providing educational services. This accredited institution serves students at grade levels 9-12 and provides state-certified teachers for every course they offer.

Their flexible, self-paced classes allow students to begin coursework at any time. Their academic coaches help students to reach their goals in a way that fits their personal learning style. This program allows students to earn a real high school diploma and not a GED upon graduation. They even have a tuition-free option available in several states including California, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Their focus is to not only help students earn a diploma but also make sure that they are properly prepared for college if they decide to move forward with post-secondary education. Kaplan's college counseling option pairs students with a qualified academic advisor with expertise in college admissions who guides them through the entire application process from essay writing to acceptance.

Keystone Online High School

Those who enroll at Keystone earn an accredited online diploma with support from certified teachers. They allow credits to transfer both to and from their program making it a flexible option for those who have existing credits or individuals who wish to supplement other coursework. Keystone remains a highly respected learning institution with graduates having been accepted at over 150 colleges and universities worldwide.

Their curriculum includes basic courses in math, science, physical education, language arts, and social studies with electives that include advanced placement courses and college prep classes. Their unique program serves students all the way from middle school through grade 12. Their tuition is reasonably priced and allows for a split payment plan spread out over several months to relieve any financial burden. Those who are serving in the military get a 10% tuition reduction. Keystone offers free transcript evaluation for students interested in transferring credits.

Making a Final Decision

The decision to complete your education is not only one of the best, but also one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Selecting a school to attend is the first step in earning your diploma and one you should not take lightly. It is often helpful to request information from multiple schools so you have a good basis for comparison. Remember that it doesn't cost you anything to contact a few different institutions and request an information packet. As you gather information and learn about each program, chances are that one will stand out as being a good fit for what you are looking for.

Once you have made your decision, be sure to start your coursework right away. One of the biggest obstacles to earning a diploma is getting started. Once you get a class or two under your belt, you will become more comfortable and your confidence will grow by the day. Before you know it, you will have completed your program and be ready to apply for a better job or continue to college!

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