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The Student Guide to Planning an Individualized College Visit

By: Tisha Rinker

“When it comes to researching potential schools, there is nothing better than the college visit,” says The Princeton Review, a company that offers college admissions and test prep services. “If possible, visit every college that you are strongly considering. No website, guidebook, or testimonial will give you a better feel for a school than you'll get by showing up on campus. Many students change their minds after a college visit.”

Going on college visits during high school is certainly a crucial step in the process of choosing a school. These visits take time and planning, but, ultimately, they help teenagers choose their path to the future.

If you are a high school student looking to make the most of your college visits, we have created a visual guide that demonstrates how to customize your college visit itinerary. Click on the preview below to see the full graphic.

Planning a College Visit

Part of creating your own college visit itinerary is planning for it ahead of time. Try the college visit planning tips for students listed below to prepare for a great trip.

  • Research the college or university online before the visit. It can help you determine what you’d like to learn more about while on campus.
  • Schedule a visit with the college admissions office a couple of weeks in advance. The school might only be open to prospective students on certain days, and it will need some warning if you want ...

5 Steps toward Independence in High School

By: Tisha Rinker
Teen gaining independence in high school.

If you’re ready to start the next phase of your education—and life—in high school, then you have plenty to anticipate. High school is a time when you can have fun, expand your interests, and gain new responsibilities. In other words, high school is when you start transitioning into adulthood.

Parents and Learning Coaches, it’s time to step back and offer your support while your student navigates through his or her high school years.

Here are five steps that students can take to become more independent.

  1. Take control of your education.
  2. By now, you’re pretty good at handling your schoolwork each week. You can follow your schedule and get your work done on time. Now that you’re in high school, it’s time for you to evaluate just how independent you are.

    Look at the list below and see how many statements are true about you:

    Do you have all of these independent study skills? If not, you know which ones to work on so you can prove yourself as an independent student.

  1. Find your first job.
  2. After you gain more independence in the classroom, you can start gaining more responsibility outside of school. ...

Helping Kids of Different Ages Transition to Virtual School

By: Beth Werrell
New virtual school student transitioning from a traditional to home classroom.

Are you and your family starting virtual school for the first time? School will begin in just a few weeks, so it’s time to get ready for the big switch! After plenty of researching, discussing, and planning, you’re familiar with the virtual classroom environment. But the experience will be very different depending on your student’s age.

The last couple of weeks before school starts can easily get crowded with the details of scheduling, setting up your virtual classroom, and more, so don’t forget to stay focused on the big picture. Here’s a brief breakdown of the issues you and your student can work on to help make sure your first year of virtual school is a successful one.

Elementary Students (K–5)

Younger kids need extra guidance to get used to the school environment, especially if they’re just starting kindergarten. Below are some ways you can expose them to the traditional elements of attending school and draw their attention to a few things that are especially important in a virtual setting.

  1. Make new friends and work well with others. Help expose your student to new people and new relationships by giving him or her a chance to socialize with different people. Arrange a playgroup, go to the playground, sign up for swimming lessons, or attend events in the children’s section of the local library. If you have more than one student, work on teaching them to collaborate effectively and get along during the school day.
  2. Learn how to use ...

Blended Learning: Building High Schools Around Student Needs

By: Beth Werrell
Blended Learning High School Students Studying

While full-time virtual schooling is a great solution for many kids, it might not be a good fit for everyone. Some students may prefer face-to-face instruction or miss the company of their peers. Yet teens in particular desire the added flexibility and personalization online school can provide. As online education continues to grow in popularity, Connections Education has drawn on the knowledge gained from 11 years of experience with virtual school students to develop a brand new high school model that brings together the best of both worlds.  

Improving the Ability to Personalize Learning

New Nexus Academy blended high schools  in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio offer a unique blend of in-person and online learning, plus the extra personal attention some students need to succeed.

Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education executive vice president, explained the thinking behind these blended learning schools in a presentation at the International Association of K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL) Virtual School Symposium in 2012. “Many teens typically think high school is boring, impersonal, and irrelevant to their lives. This new school model offers more flexibility than a traditional school, plus ways to customize learning to a student’s abilities and interests, making it more personal and engaging.”

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Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation

“We’re essentially wiping the slate clean on high school and starting over by building schools around kids instead of vice versa. We have discovered that when students can sit where they want, eat when they want, and tackle their courses in the order they ...

The Evolving Role of Online School Learning Coaches

By: Dan Reiner

What’s it really like to juggle parenting and be a Learning Coach for your child’s online schooling? What does the role of Learning Coach involve? Are virtual school students and Learning Coaches required to interact all day long, every day? If you’re thinking about online school for your kids, it’s important to learn the answer to these questions and grasp the big picture of how virtual school works with regard to your child’s responsibilities and the duties you’ll be performing as the Learning Coach. You’ll especially want to understand how these roles will change as your child grows up (which sometimes happens more quickly than we’d like!).

column chart visualizing stages of student responsibilities in online school

evolution of learning coach responsibilities from elementary through online high school

Online Elementary School: Children in Motion

As a parent, you already know that in elementary school busy little bodies need ongoing supervision! At this stage, attention spans are as tiny as the children themselves. Learning Coaches will need to help kids stay on task by minimizing distractions and by setting a schedule with varied activities and breaks. Remember, kids need exercise and playtime every day to burn off their excess energy!

Online school students in grades K–5 will have a very flexible schedule and do a large percentage of their schoolwork offline, including reading books, writing, and doing hands-on assignments. As a Learning Coach, you should expect to spend about five hours each day supervising these learning activities.

To support a child’s learning, a Learning Coach’s role includes demonstrating positive organization and good study skills, and providing assistance with time and ...

Student Reflection: Switching from Traditional to Online High School

By: Jessica Langevin

online high school student in front of her computerSometimes, what is needed to solve a problem is the ability to take yourself out of it. MTS Minnesota Connections Academy removed the distractions and white noise from my education, allowing me to experience “school” from a different perspective. Once that happened, my whole life changed.

Even after years of feeling frustrated with grades that didn’t reflect my efforts, I was hesitant to leave my comfort zone or network of friends and teachers. But when I learned more about online high school programs, I was immediately drawn to this alternative form of public schooling that almost seemed too good to be true.

Of course, my parents were initially concerned about trying something they weren’t familiar with, and they wondered how much it would cost. We discovered that the online high school we were considering was accredited by the Minnesota Department of Education, and the school’s transcripts are accepted at public and private colleges across the country. Knowing this minimized the academic risk of switching, and since the school operates as a public charter school, it is tuition-free. So, I began the simple enrollment process to begin my freshman year the next fall.

The transition was a bit rocky at first since I needed to learn how to use the new technology—and I discovered the curriculum was even more challenging than I had expected or ever experienced before. But with support and unlimited access to my caring teachers, guidance counselor, and Learning Coach (my mom), who were all committed ...

How Online Learning Develops Essential Skills for Lifelong Success

By: Jason Evans

rolled up diploma scroll tied with a red ribbon

We are approaching the end of the school year and many high school seniors are facing important questions about their future like "What am I supposed to do now?"

The world has high demands of today’s high school graduates. Students need to be dynamic and self-motivated. They need the ability to set their own goals, recognize opportunity, and have the experience and ability to seize their own destiny. Saying good-bye to high school and entering the real world could be like walking out of ice and into fire.

As a teacher in an online school, I enjoy collaborating with our dedicated parents (Learning Coaches), and I embrace the technology that allows us to deliver engaging online instruction. Together we provide individual attention to our students and encourage them to take an active role in their own education. By managing their own learning careers at a virtual school, students are being equipped with many essential skills that will help them manage their lives more successfully. Skills like:

  • Time Management — Quality online schooling at home provides the flexibility to use an individualized learning approach and to structure the school day according to the individual needs of the student. Schedule flexibility teaches students to manage their time responsibly and allows them to learn how to juggle extracurricular activities and appointments, or handle unexpected interruptions. They have the chance to realize that creating and adhering to their own schedule is crucial to their own success. And with the daily use ...

I Am Not Socially Awkward

By: Delanie Ross

not socially awkward signMy name is Delanie Ross. I’m a senior in an online high school and haven’t attended a “traditional” school for 11 years. Since I have been homeschooled and attended an online school most of my life, many adults seem compelled to ask me a very strange question: “Do you feel you have any social problems?” Every time someone asks me this, I smile and wonder if they know just how socially awkward the question they’ve just asked really is, and how ironic it is that they think I’m the one with the social problem. Now that I’m older, I can look back on these socially awkward situations and realize these people made two simple mistakes. Mistake one, they made incorrect assumptions about who I am as an individual based on mistake number two—the myth that online schooling and homeschooling limits quality social interactions for kids.

I’d like to explain what I mean to hopefully help take the awkwardness out of these stereotypical socialization concerns!

First, don’t assume just because a student attends an online public or private school from home that he or she never leaves the house and is never being encouraged to experience a variety of social interactions. Attending an online school from home has given me the freedom in my schedule to take advantage of opportunities to form friendships and socialize that I may have actually missed if I had to adhere to a traditional school schedule. I get to arrange my schedule to not only ...

The Secret of Individualized Education

By: Michelle Mueller

As a virtual school principal, I’m already feeling excited for the upcoming 2011–12 school year. I’m probably most excited that my school, Wisconsin Connections Academy (WCA), is expanding to offer online high school in the fall, allowing us to meet the differentiated needs of all students from kindergarten to 12th grade! And being able to differentiate is important.

High School Student in Virtual Classroom

When you think of an ideal school for students, do you think of a school that can meet the individual needs of each student?

I believe that virtual schools like Connections Academy are uniquely positioned to offer an individualized approach for all students, whether they are academically ahead, in line with, or behind their age-appropriate peers. We call it Personalized Performance Learning® at our school, and for several years I have personally witnessed how it changes students’ lives—in their academic accomplishments as well as in their personal well-being. When school is tailored to a student’s particular interests, strengths, and challenges, each has a chance to really succeed in school—and the resulting pride and love of learning makes for some very happy kids!

Do you know a student who is struggling in school? In a virtual school like Connections Academy, these students are able to work in the curriculum a year below their age-appropriate grade level without changing their grade. Our dedicated teachers just take the time to discuss the student’s performance and skill deficiencies with our parents (Learning Coaches), and they develop communication schedules and personalized learning schedules to help monitor ...

Not Your Usual High School Experience

By: Carrie Jean Ross

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a high school student in an online school?  The best way to find an answer is to go to the source.  Hannah Berquist has been kind enough to share her thoughts on the experience and a few of the surprises she had along the way!

Hannah Bergquist, MTS Minnesota Connections Academy High School Graduate 2010

"I feel like I have had the best of both worlds."

Like many seniors across the state, I am celebrating the completion of high school and looking forward to beginning college next fall. However, my route to graduation was somewhat nonstandard. I completed my freshman year as a traditional high school student and to all outward appearances was very successful. I was involved in choir, made the junior varsity tennis team and doing well academically. Yet, over the course of the school year I had become increasingly frustrated with several things. First, despite having good grades, I all too often left my classes feeling confused about the homework making it difficult to complete. I often felt as if I was teaching the material to myself or relying on help from my parents. Second, the lack of discipline in all too many of my classrooms made it difficult to learn or enjoy the class time. Third, I was frustrated by not having as much free time as I would have liked in order to pursue other interests. This led to my decision to pursue other alternatives for completing my high school education

With help from my parents, I settled in ...

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