Types of online/correspondence programs

  • Instruction from fully-licensed teachers in conjunction with a school district, private school or charter school. Often the online curriculum is an extension of an existing classroom/school program.
  • Instruction from privately hired instructors in a stand-alone high school program (e.g., not tied to any other public, private, or charter schools/districts).
  • “Instruction” in the form of self-taught curriculum materials with tutorial assistance as needed; curricular materials may be print (i.e., “correspondence”) or online.

Applying to CSU with an Online Diploma

  • Transcripts must include a complete list of courses taken in grades 9-12, comments on course content if the titles are not self-explanatory, and information about the duration of the course if something other than a traditional academic year is used.
  • Transcripts must include an assessment of student performance and an explanation of any applicable assessment scales or methods (i.e., grades). In other words, we need to be able to determine how the student was deemed ready for promotion to the next academic level.
  • Applicants with online course work / diplomas should include an official transcript from any traditional school(s) attended (high school or college).
  • Regional accreditation is not required but can be very helpful, particularly when the online program is exclusively online (not an extension of a traditional high school program).
  • Applicants who have completed a full semester or more of online course work are encouraged to use the essay to address their educational experience and how it has prepared them for success at Colorado State.
  • If an application seems incomplete or does not provide a thorough picture of a student or the curriculum, additional documentation may be requested.

Related decision factors

  • Applicants completing online course work/diplomas are held to the same admission standards as applicants from traditional settings.
  • Additional decision factors that may be unique to students with online course work may include why an applicant selected this option; how well-prepared the applicant is for traditional classroom success if all academic work has been online OR if online work has been completed with greater success than traditional classroom work; and whether or not the online program is comparably “comprehensive” in rigor, scope, and population to have prepared the applicants in a way similar to applicants from more traditional classroom settings.
  • Often, students have compelling personal circumstances that have contributed to their decision to complete online course work. While some circumstances may recommend the student, others may lead to additional concerns that should be addressed through the Academic Explanation, Personal Statement, or Recommendation(s).
  • Students are eligible for scholarship consideration according to the same holistic selection criteria applied to applicants from more traditional classroom settings.

Choosing an Online Diploma program

We frequently get questions about the quality or legitimacy of particular online programs. While we cannot maintain a comprehensive list of “approved” programs to recommend, there are some criteria worth considering when selecting an online diploma program:

  • Does the curriculum focus on college preparation or a less rigorous diploma completion option? If the program makes a distinction between the college prep curriculum and the high school completion program, students must complete the college prep curriculum to be competitive for admission at CSU.
  • What is the purpose/mission and demographic of the school, and how does that impact curriculum and assessment? (For example, is the focus of the program primarily counseling and student development or college preparation?) How well does that demographic target fit you?
  • How does the content and rigor compare with that of traditional schools? Can a student meet or exceed core subject requirements in this setting, or does the curriculum suggest there might be gaps in learning? (For example, an online curriculum that stops at algebra 2 may be limiting since we give admission priority to students with a fourth year of math above the level of algebra 2.) Do students have access to AP or IB course work through the online curriculum? Can students utilize dual enrollment in classroom-based high school or college-based courses to enrich/enhance their experience?
  • Can the school accommodate exceptional students at both ends of the spectrum, and if so, how?
  • Are students expected to achieve a certain goal/standard before proceeding to the next level? How is that measured and recorded?
  • How traditional/non-traditional is the presentation of content (i.e., traditional lecture-style classroom vs interdisciplinary field-study experiences or internships given credit)? How well does that fit your style and needs?
  • Is the program associated with a public school/district? If so, a number of student supports will be built into the program, such as academic advising/counseling, potentially free tuition and/or free computer hardware/software during the program; access to state-required testing such as the CSAP or the junior ACT. If not, what supports are available to students? Online diploma programs that offer access to instructors, college-prep counseling, and accountability measures are going to offer more support to students than those that are exclusively correspondence/self-taught materials.
  • Finally, it is good to be very cautious about online diploma programs that charge significant amounts for tuition, that rely exclusively on tests, that advertise a diploma in a matter of weeks, that offer “packages” that include a transcript, diploma, and recommendations once a fee has been paid, and so on. Online diplomas typically are legitimate only if they are offered in recognition of completion of high school / pre-college level academic course work over a period of time.

If you are comparing a couple of different programs and would like our input, let us know! We would be happy to take a look at the programs before you invest yourself to see whether it seems like an appropriate way to prepare for CSU.