Online colleges have long been popular among working professionals and adults looking for a flexible way to earn a college degree. Online degrees tend to be far cheaper and far more flexible than their on-campus counterparts. Recently, a new group of students has been engaging in online college more and more: young students. 

Many young people have begun to enroll in online college courses while still in high school. As college admissions and the job market become more and more competitive, young students are trying to get a leg up on the competition by beginning their college journey before even completing their high school journey. 

But many students have questions about how exactly this works? Are young students even allowed to do this? If so, what are the best practices for enrolling in an online college as a young person?

How old do you have to be for online college?

The exact age needed to enroll in an online college is kind of a murky question. There are a lot of different factors that can affect the eligibility of enrollment. 

Most online colleges aren’t exactly seeking out young students. Some online colleges have clear age restrictions. These tend only to be private online colleges as public online colleges are required under the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 not to discriminate based on age.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re good to go for enrollment at a public online college. 

Many public and private online colleges skirt the age discrimination issue altogether and focus more closely on whether or not someone has already received a high school diploma. This has little effect on young students who have managed to graduate from high school early, but this creates issues for high schoolers who want to get the jump on their college careers.

Young learners options for online colleges

While many online colleges have certain restrictions and requirements that can make it hard for a young learner to gain admittance, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a young learner won’t enroll in an online college.

Most online colleges offer students the opportunity to speak directly with the college to have specific admission requirements waived. While this can be a cumbersome process, a young learner can reach out to the school directly to ask that the age requirement or high school diploma requirement be waived in their particular case. 

Typically, young students will need to demonstrate that they are ready and capable of completing the course work they are planning to enroll in.

But there is a more straightforward way for high school students to receive college credits from an online college.

Dual Enrollment at an Online College

Young students that are still working through their high school diploma can opt for dual enrollment at an online college. Dual enrollment allows students to attend an online course that will count towards their high school graduation and college credits. This is an excellentt way for young students to challenge themselves academically while also earning college credits that can speed up their college careers. 

Dual enrollment opportunities are primarily dependent on a student’s high school. The high school will be the institution that has the most say over whether or not a particular college course can count as credit towards high school graduation. Beyond that, some high schools will stipulate that the system must be in-person.

That being said, there are still plenty of high schools out there that offer dual online enrollment. We encourage any high schoolers to speak with their guidance counselors to find out if their school provides opportunities for dual enrollment online.

Getting a feel for online college

Young students who are apprehensive of what online college might be like can sidestep almost all of these issues entirely by auditing an online course. Most online colleges will allow students to enroll in one or more online courses uncredited to determine whether or not online learning is for them.

This can be an excellent option for young students who just want to see what online college is like. It’s essential to be clear, any work completed in that course will not lead to any college credits. It will solely be for assessing whether or not online college is a good fit.

The Benefits of Online College for a Young Person

Young students can benefit significantly by jumping into online college. By enrolling in online college while still enrolled in high school, students can earn dual credits that will go towards their high school graduation and earn credits for their college degree. This is an excellent way for young students to move through their academic careers much more quickly. It’s also a great option for young students who may not feel challenged by their high school course load.

Another benefit of taking online courses while still in high school is that it’s a great cost-saving measure. Online colleges are not as popular with students coming directly out of high school. Most high school students who are planning to attend college immediately after graduation typically gravitate towards traditional colleges. But traditional colleges can be quite a bit more expensive than online colleges, so knocking some college credits out at a cheaper online college is a great way to shave some of the costs of a traditional college degree.

Online college for young people

There is no specific age minimum for online colleges. Some institutions have their own rules that govern whether or not a student can enroll with or without a high school diploma, and some private colleges may have their minimum age requirement. But overall, there isn’t a mandated minimum age. Many of the minimum age requirements or high school diploma requirements can be waived under certain circumstances. Dual enrollment is an excellent option for current high school students. We really recommend that young learners reach out to the guidance counselor in their high school to find out all the available online college options available to them. 

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