Online high schools can be a way for students to take high school classes and graduate at their own pace, without having to adhere to strict schedules and the distractions of a traditional school. So if you feel that an in-person school isn't right for you for whatever reason, an online school might be the perfect fit.
We’ll give you a list of all the (tuition free!) online high schools available in the United States, as well as how they work, and how and why an online high school could be right for you. So let's get started!
What Is an Online High School?
An online high school is any school that teaches and takes place virtually, rather than in-person. Some online high schools are hybrid programs where students must spend a portion of their time in a physical location, but a fully online high school program takes place completely virtually. Students in complete online programs do not go to a physical building to learn each day, but instead are allowed to learn in any place with an internet connection, taking courses online and typically interacting with their teachers via virtual classrooms, through email, and/or over the phone.
A typical school day for students enrolled in online high schools is much like a typical day for other public school students, with about 5-6 hours spent learning and engaging in classwork, and additional time spent on homework. So, although students can generally set their own schedules with an online school, the amount of time required for coursework and studies remains the same whether the school takes place online or in person.
In addition to the standard coursework, many online high school programs offer school activities, trips, contests, and virtual clubs to help students interact and get to know one another. So online students can often reap many of the same the benefits they could get from an in-person school, with all the additional perks of attending school online.
Different Types of Online High Schools
Just like physical schools, online high schools can be divided into two broad categories of public and private schools. And just like physical schools, the differences between the two types can be broken down like so:
Online public high schools (which can also be charter schools) use state-licensed and certified teachers, charge NO tuition, follow state education standards, and award you with a legal high school diploma upon completion of the required credits and courses. These schools are government funded, just like physical public schools.
Online private high schools follow their own education requirements and standards (rather than state standards), charge tuition, and will ultimately award you with a high school diploma once you have completed the program. These schools are privately funded, just like with physical private schools.
Whether private or public, many online schools require their students to be a resident of the state or a particular school district, while other schools accept students who live in any state or school district (or students who have no fixed address). Other online schools accept out of state students, but charge them tuition that in-state students do not have to pay. Ultimately, it's up to the applicant to double-check whether the school of their choice has any restrictions based on student address.
Not every state has an online public school, so students who live in one of these states (or students who have no fixed address) and want to attend high school online must either enroll in an online school that accepts out of state students or in a private online high school.
If money is your main concern, then public school is definitely the way to go.
List of All Free Online High Schools in the US
Because we're focusing on only the free online high schools in this article, we are only listing online public high schools in the US.
After the list of the online public schools in the States, we will give a breakdown of the benefits of attending an online high school and whether or not it could be the right fit for you.
To navigate more quickly to your state of choice, click on one of the states below:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
[Note: if your state is not listed, it does not currently have a free online high school.]
Click here to skip the list and go straight to reading about reasons to attend an online high school.
A3 World Language Academy (Available for students living in: Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties)
A3 California Prep (Available for students living in: Butte, Colusa, Fresno, Impreial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Mono, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Tulare, Ventura, Yolo and Yuba counties)
Academy of Arts and Sciences (Available for students living in: Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Los Angeles, Madera, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Solano, Sonoma, Tulare and Ventura counties)
California Connections Academy, a consortium of four different schools:
Capistrano (available for students living in: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties)
Central (available for students living in: Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties)
North Bay (available for students living in: Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Yolo counties)
Ripon (available for students living in: Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, and Stanislaus counties)
Clovis Online School (Available for students living in:Fresno, Inyo, Kings, Madera, Merced, Mono, Monterey, San Benito, and Tulare counties)
Gateway Virtual Academy (Available for students living in: Merced, Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Stanislaus, Santa Clara, San Benito, and Tuolumne counties)
iQ Academy of California, Los Angeles (Available for students living in: Los Angeles, Kern, Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties)
Keith McCarthy Academy (Available for students living in the Lake Elsinore School District)
Method Schools (Available for students living in: Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Kern counties)
Moreno Valley Online Academy (Available for students living in the Moreno Valley Unified School District)
Sierra Plumas Virtual Academy (Available for students living in Sierra County)
70 Online (Available for students living in the Pueblo County School District 70)
Peak Virtual Academy (Available for students living in the Montrose School District)
Bay Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Bay County)
Calhoun Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Calhoun County)
Clay Virtual Academy (Available for students living in Clay County)
Collier Virtual School (Available for students living in Collier County)
Florida Cyber Charter Academy (Available for students living in Clay, Duval, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, and Osceola Counties)
Franklin Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Franklin County)
Glades Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Glades County)
Indian River Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Indian River County)
Jackson County Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Jackson County)
Liberty County Virtual Instruction Program (Available for students living in Liberty County)
Madison County Virtual School (Available for students living in Madison County)
Miami-Dade Online Academy (Available for students living in Miami-Dade County)
Mosaic Digital Academy (Available for students living in Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie counties)
MyDistrict Virtual School (Available for students living in: Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Lafayette, Levy, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Putnam, and Union counties)
Nassau County Virtual School (Available for students living in Nassau County)
Okaloosa County Virtual School (Available for students living in Okaloosa County)
Osceola Virtual School (Available for students living in Osceola County)
Polk County Virtual School (Available for students living in Polk County)
Santa Rosa Online (Available for students living in Santa Rosa County)
Sarasota Virtual School (Available for students living in Sarasota County)
St. Johns County Virtual School (Available for students living in St. Johns County)
Volusia Virtual School (Available for students living in Volusia County)
Washington County Virtual School (Available for students living in Washington County)
Thomas County Virtual Program (Available to students living in: Thomas, Brooks, Mitchell and Colquitt counties)
Wilcox County Schools Online Education Program (Available to students living in Wilcox County)
Chicago Virtual Charter School (Available to students who reside within Chicago city limits and can attend the Learning Center for instruction once a week)
Jenison International Academy (Available to students who live in Ottawa, Kent, Muskegon, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia, Barry, and Allegan counties)
Newark Prep Charter School (Available to students residing within the city of Newark)
Bend-La Pine Schools Online (Available to students in grades K–12 residing in the Bend-La Pine district and surrounding areas.)
Crater Lake Charter Academy (Available to students residing in Jackson County School District and neighboring districts)
Hermiston Online Program (Students from Hermiston district preferred, but will accept out of district students)
Monroe School District Online (Available to students residing in Benton County.)
Bald Eagle Area Cyber Academy (Available to students who reside within district)
Bangor Area School District Cyber School (Available to students who reside in Bangor, East Bangor, Portland, and Roseto, Lower Mount Bethel, Upper Mount Bethel, and Washington.)
Berks Online Learning (Available to students residing in Berks County.)
Conestoga Valley Virtual Academy (Available to students residing in Conestoga Valley School District)
Ephrata Virtual Academy (Available to students residing in the Ephrata Area School District)
Steelton-Highspire School District (Available to students in the Steelton-Highspire School District)
Tulpehocken Virtual Academy (Available to students in Tulpehocken Area School District.)
iQ Academy Washington (Available to students who live in the Evergreen Public School District)
North Franklin Virtual Academy (Available to students residing within North Franklin District)
Wisconsin Rapids Virtual School Program (Available to students residing in Wisconsin Rapids School District)
Washakie #1 Online (Available for students living in Washakie #1 County school district)
Attending high school online isn't right for everyone, but for some, it can be the best way to earn a high school diploma. If you're thinking about enrolling in an online public school, you may want to think about whether these reasons apply to you and your circumstances.
Schedule and Study Flexibility
Taking courses online, rather than in person, allows students to set their own study schedules. So long as you engage in the school program for the necessary number of hours per week and complete your assignments, most programs allow you to study when and where you want.
So if you're someone who has an outside interest that takes considerable time and needs to be scheduled around--dedicated athletes, artists, people working full time, or anyone else who has to commit hours outside of school every week--attending high school online can give you the necessary flexibility to balance school with your other activities.
Can Set Your Own Learning Pace
Online high schools allow students to learn at their own pace, whether that pace is faster or slower than that of a typical physical public school. Because the courses in an online program are self-directed, this allows students to set their own learning speed, rather than feeling frustrated that a class is going too fast or too slow based on the needs of a whole group of students.
So if you are an academic achiever who wants to get ahead of your grade/age level, or are someone who is falling behind academically and need to slow down from your grade/age level, an online high school experience might be the right fit for you.
Can Study From Home or on the Move
There are an endless variety of reasons why taking classes and studying from home may be preferable to taking classes at a physical school. For these people, taking classes online is the perfect way to stay in school without being beholden to attending school physically.
Perhaps you have a family that frequently moves and so cannot stay in one place for long enough to attend a physical school. Perhaps you are someone who doesn't have easy access to a physical school or feels that nearby schools are unsuitable for whatever reason. Or perhaps you are someone with a chronic medical condition or someone who needs to be otherwise home bound.
Whatever the reason you may find taking classes from home is more suitable than taking classes outside the home, online high schools can provide the accommodation and adaptability that so many students need to complete their studies
An Option for Teenagers or Adults Who Never Finished High School
On average, people who receive a high school diploma earn more than those who receive a GED. So, if you're someone who never attended or completed high school for any reason, you might think about earning an official diploma rather than testing out for your GED.
An online high school program could be the right fit for you if you never completed high school, but still want the complete high school experience and an accredited diploma to show for it.
Want to learn more about online high school programs? Check out what it means for a high school to be accredited and how to avoid non-accredited online schools.
Still undecided whether or not an online high school is right for you? Learn more about the pros and cons of attending an online high school.
Thinking about different kinds of alternative schools (other than online)? Check out our guide to alternative schools and how they might be the right fit for you.
Courtney scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as she believes open education is one of the great societal equalizers. She has years of tutoring experience and writes creative works in her free time.