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Articles / Applying to College / Online Classes to Supplement Vocational Program?

Feb. 24, 2015

Online Classes to Supplement Vocational Program?

Question: My son is  a 10th graders who is hoping to participate in a half day vocational program offered by our school district for his junior and senior year.  However, doing so would mean he could only take 3 academic classes each year.  He would be able to meet the requirements for our state’s high school diploma, but wouldn’t have space to meet some of the “extra” requirements that many schools list as requirements, like 2 years of the same foreign language, or taking math senior year.

 One thought I had is that he could take an extra 1 or 2 classes each year online through an accredited online high school program to meet these requirements.  However, our high school wouldn’t accept these classes for credit, so they wouldn’t appear on his official transcript.  We’d need to send in separate transcripts showing those courses.

 Do you know if colleges would accept these courses to meet the requirements?  If it makes a difference, he’s probably looking at either less competitive state schools, or smaller less well known liberal arts colleges.

As the parent of a teenager myself, “The Dean” is a big fan of teaching kids real-world skills and I applaud your decision to expose your son to a vocational program. The lack of senior math at school will probably not hurt him at college-admission time (assuming that he has had at least three years of high school math through Algebra 2 or, better yet, pre-calculus) but the lack of two years of the same foreign language could be detrimental, if the colleges don’t accept your son’s online credits.

You’ll probably find that the private colleges on his list will be more flexible than the public ones. That is, if your son can submit transcripts from an online high school proving that he has taken math and, especially, foreign language, the private-college admission folks won’t be picky about where he took these classes, even if these classes don’t show up in his own high school’s records. The public colleges, on the other hand, can get mired in government red tape, and it may be a harder sell to get your son’s online foreign-language credits approved.

So I recommend that you contact admission officials now at the public colleges to which your son is likely to apply. Call each admission office and ask for the name and email address of the staff member who oversees applicants from your son’s high school, if you can’t find this information on the college’s Web site. Send an email message to this regional rep asking if your son’s online credits will make him eligible for admission, even if they aren’t on his official transcript. Be sure to include a list of all of the classes that your son has taken already and is likely to take by the time he graduates, being careful to differentiate between those classes he’ll take at his high school and those that he’ll take online. Also be sure to save the response you receive in case you need it for “ammunition” down the road.

If you want, you can be pro-active and also contact an admission rep or two at the private colleges that your son may be considering. It certainly won’t hurt … not only to get some helpful feedback on your plan but also to get your son on the admissions-office radar screen and show early interest in the school.

It’s possible, of course, that if your son’s passion for his vocational program takes off, he may decide to postpone college … or skip it altogether. So perhaps you should steel yourself for that possibility, which could torpedo your current goals for your son but might put him on the fast track to employment, which is something that not all college grads can count on these days!


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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