Best Online High Schools, Virtual Schools for Brains & Jocks

 Best Online High Schools | Virtual High Schools | Nerd at whiteboard



Earning a high school diploma through distance learning used to be a low prestige undertaking. Not any more. These days America’s top universities — think Stanford and Indiana University — are in  a race to build the best online high schools for gifted students. Moreover, the global appetite for a system of elite virtual high schools appears unlimited. An estimated 275,000 students enrolled in online high schools in 2011 and forecasters predict double digit growth as the decade progresses.


Online learning is 100% portable. Famous online learning alumni who have taken advantage of learning on the go include tennis pro Venus Williams and basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal. Virtual high schools are perfect for youth who travel, such as Olympiads and pro athletes. And the classes can be easily tweaked to support any special needs curriculum, including Advanced Placement (AP) and college prep. Both gifted youth — the Brains — and professional athletes on the go  — the Jocks — are swarming virtual high school quads.


According to the Speak Up Survey from Project Tomorrow, 27 percent of high school youth opted for an online course in  2011.  In 2010, only 13 percent made this same choice. High school students, whose social lives increasingly radiate from digital networks, are in love with virtual learning.


If you’re searching for the best accredited online high schools, the Get Educated editors recommend the following virtual high school programs. All hold regional accreditation — the most widely accepted form of academic accreditation — and all enjoy national reputations as top choices for AP, honors, and college prep online courses.


Best Online High Schools

Virtual High Schools Affiliated with Universities


Stanford University Online High School

The Online Education program for Gifted Youth operated by the faculty at Stanford University is the best known and most touted virtual high school. One word of caution: be prepared to crack open your bank account — tuition is $15,000 per year.  Financial need scholarships are available. This virtual high school offers college level math and computer science courses and boasts an in-house faculty trained at the doctoral level.


Indiana University Virtual High School

At under $250 per course, this public Ivy, which has been operating a high school program through distance learning since 1925, is a steal compared to its elite west coast cousin, Stanford. AP courses are available for gifted students. Its virtual student body consistently scores above average on the SAT and ACT. This program has been offering accredited high school diplomas since 1999.


University of Missouri Virtual High School

The  Missouri program features 180 online courses ranging from AP and Gifted Studies in the foreign languages — including Japanese — to core studies in science and the humanities. A regionally accredited high school degree program is available online, or students can select their courses individually a la carte.


University of Nebraska Online High School

This virtual high school program has been around since 1929, when the university began offering paper-based correspondence courses for rural youth and non-traditional students (correspondence degrees have always been popular among non-traditional college students). Nebraska virtual high school students exceed the national averages on the SAT, Reading and Writing, and the ACT. Alumni have been accepted to residential universities worldwide, including Yale, Stanford and West Point.


Did we miss anyone? Help others Get Educated about choosing a high school program online. Share your insights. Let us know who you’d add to this list of the best online high schools and virtual learning programs. If you’re an alumni or teacher at any of these distance learning programs share your insider experiences.



Written by: Vicky Phillips



About Vicky Phillips

Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees - Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College. She oversees the best online college rankings and reviews for
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7 Responses to Best Online High Schools, Virtual Schools for Brains & Jocks

  1. YW says:

    Thanks for the recommended online high schools with ties to reputable universities. What about the private ones like Laurel Springs and Oak Meadows?

  2. Dan says:

    More and more parents are finding they have choices in their child’s education. No one school will fit every child. Choices in school are needed so that children with different needs, learning styles, etc can find what they need/want.

  3. robbienurse says:

    An online school by the name of Ford Worth High School issues diplomas after test taking for approximately $7700.00 plus start up fees and diploma fees. Red flags are going up after talking with the rep with a foreign accent. Has anyone knowledge of this school which I was told was in San Francisco but the diploma was sent from Richmond Va via UPS Ground for a girl who is over the age of 18?

    • Hi Robbie,

      Did you mean Fort Worth or Ford Worth? We have no record of a Ford Worth and there is a Fort Worth High School in Texas BUT it is not a virtual high school. If you have more details — such as a URL or web address — you can post a query in our Forum and one of our researchers will research this for you and see whether this is a diploma mill or a valid enterprise.

      Vicky Phillips
      Founder –

  4. Tina Jackson says:

    Something else that makes the online learning so appealing for high school students is that they can avoid the name calling and bullying that goes on so much these days. A good friend of mine pulled her son from public school and he’s in 8th grade now. She was tired of they way other kids were treating him. The change to online learning has been very positive for their family.

  5. Zoe Bogart says:

    Very interesting to read! Most people really don’t think about colleges offering high school diplomas to students as well. There really needs to be more information out there for them to read about it. I can see where there is a true need for this and even more of a demand for it in the future. This can only keep growing in numbers as time goes on. Thanks for helping to get the information out there!

  6. Hosted LMS says:

    It is good to know learn that there are such a large number of online high schools and also students who are enrolling in these virtual schools. This guide can help people find the best schools and learn more about this this topic. Thanks for the information.

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