Stanford Online High School (full-time) vs. other options in California: Need insights


Is there anyone who has insights into Stanford Online High School (OHS) full-time vs other options in California. I have some specific questions that I could use clarity for.

My son has the option to convert to full-time in 9th. He is bright, hardworking (tested to be gifted and his interests span both humanities and STEM; more in the realm of STS: science, tech & society).

  1. How do OHS full-time students balance taking "interesting" OHS-only courses vs traditional AP courses (do they take them outside of OHS in which case I have a huge concern about workload and stress).

My son liked OHS for its interdisciplinary and interesting courses: History and Philosophy of Science, Democracy, Freedom, and Law, etc. Although I know every child’s path is unique, I worry that if my son picks OHS full-time for the interesting courses (and I fully support that approach to learning), is he going to find himself stretching to fulfill APs outside OHS? OHS does offer APs in specific subjects but their OHS-offered courses for that subject are more interesting to my son. For example, even though AP courses in history are offered, their specialized on Globalization and Imperial Exchange course is more interesting to my son. Same goes for other subjects too. As of now, he has very specific ideas of doing advanced coursework in Math, CS, History+Govt, Economics, and one of the Sciences (I assume this translates to about 8 APs). I recognize some specifics will change as he grows, but the concern of doing OHS full time with interesting and highly rigorous courses and then realizing that “oh I need to prepare outside OHS” to take AP exams in these subjects is a huge concern as a parent.

  1. What type of support does OHS provide for identifying and conducting either Scientific or Social Sciences related research?

I find that schools like Nueva, Basis, Harker, all have research tracks part of the curriculum with school support (so it is not like kids are struggling to balance coursework and an independent research project). My son is a studious / scholarly type student (he does scouts for being with friends but isn’t into athletics or fine arts), so school support for research projects is important for his intellectual growth.

  1. If the above isn’t provided by OHS, how helpful have the OHS advisors been in identifying opportunities that students can self-pursue (like emailing profs, applying to programs etc)?

Concern here is that as parents we are not in academia with research contacts, and have no idea to help him find opportunities. Despite him being ultra-bright, we were never able to guide him in any science fair projects (and I know routinely his classmates, children of doctors, scientists had these cool, advanced projects). I felt bad that I had no idea how to guide or help him. I am hoping a high school will have better support in place for his potential.

  1. Is it true that students (even gifted ones) do not get As in OHS since their rubric requires exceptional work to secure to get an A, while these students are more than capable of getting an A in schools like Basis, Harker, Bellarmine, or those in a public high school with dual enrollment with a community college?

To be honest, this is not the top most concern for me, but adding in here for completeness. I know many in my friend circle with older kids have made high school selection choices with their kids based on the fact that they don’t want their smart child to lose confidence in formative years.

I realize my email comes across as a parent who is deeply involved (and perhaps overly concerned - yes, he is my first). Up until recently I was blissfully unaware letting my bright child explore open courses in all subjects without worrying about whether he is securing any high school credit or “spiking” like his gifted peers. But now that I’m looking at high school options for him, the reality that we live in silicon valley with helicopter parents is dawning on me. I don’t want him accidentally selecting a high school and ending up super stressed or getting into a high school where there isn’t systemic support for scholarly/research interests and getting frustrated.

Side note: He doesn’t seem to have a big preference between online or in-person only schools so OHS being an online-only school isn’t a concern since twice a week, he has in-person extracurriculars.

Thanks again.


We went with what made our son happy. He joined OHS ;-). He just seemed to be excited about some of the courses and we figured we were overthinking.

And as for grades, he is doing very well. Good time management, leveraging office hours, and peer tutors are important. In hindsight, we worried a lot more than we needed to.

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Glad to hear your son was happy with his choice of OHS. We are currently struggling through some of these same issues that perturbed you. Our daughter is in a highly competitive gifted program in public middle school. She has a strong interest in the Sciences and is keen to pursue this track in College. However, both her father and I are not academics and we realize that most of the seniors who are accepted in their first choice science program have all done independent published research. The running joke we have is if these kids are so good, why do they need to attend college, especially as some of these papers are at the grad school level.
We decided to apply to the OHS for part-time to see how it would suit our daughter’s needs. We also realize that the Colleges/High schools are all looking for a “spike”, none of them seem to care about a well-rounded education. While our daughter enjoys her music studies and has won awards, we feel she will have to commit more time to Science fairs, competitions or get a mentor to guide an independent research project. While we don’t live in the hyper competitive Bay Area, our region isn’t far behind - Seattle.
Do you feel OHS will do the needful in terms of delivering on the promise of the research project?
Thank you!
Almost sleepless in Seattle :slight_smile:

Hi there, looks like you have a wonderful daughter with passionate interests.

OHS doesn’t aid in securing research projects…Like most schools, they believe the student should advocate for themselves and find these for themselves. We just decided that we would cross the bridge when we get there and just focus on making sure he has the rigorous education / foundation he wants and is in a program that he is excited about. You are right that research and publication are important for STEM kids (and in most cases parent network, summer classes at colleges to make connections, and students cold-emailing profs seem to be the ways.) Whether ppl like to admit it or not, the truth is that a lot of kids who publish out there have parents in the same field (there is a lot of helicopter parenting at the top echelons and so instead of worrying about it, we believe that if our son has true interest in research at some point, hopefully he can get a mentor through visiting or contacting local colleges where there may be similar research being done and if not, then he can aim for those in his undergrad). We keep reminding ourselves (and I know it’s hard when you have a gifted child) that there is a college for everyone and as long as he is developing his subject interests and balancing rigor with fun, he will find a college that wants him. And my final thoughts on extracurriculars like music or anything else for that matter is great for a STEM kid (for their mental health as well as proving to colleges that they are more than just academics and offer a lot more to the college community). Pointiness will happen naturally is what parents with older kids have told me. If a kid is truly interested in a subject, they will gravitate to more depth in later yrs of high school. We are staying from the mad AP race. Also, architecting backwards from what colleges want will only make us more anxious since with the current climate no one who gets in or not. Your daughter seems like a wonderful student and person. It will all workout well.

Hi Parent fellow,
As a first-generation immigrant, I’m new to the US’ presecondary education system, but like you, I want to provide the best education for my kid, so please bear with me a little if I ask some silly questions.

I’m wondering whether you know any statistics that show who are more likely to be admitted to SOHS, as between good public school students and good private school students.

Also, if we want our kid to go to SOHS, is it better to apply for grade 7 or grade 10?

Hi there, I’m not sure of stats. Like many private schools, admissions are competitive. They are looking for an overall fit — clear understanding of why the child wants to join OHS and how the child can enhance their community. There are kids from public, private, and homeschool backgrounds.

Better to apply for 7th than later. Given it’s an online school, it is better for the child to try it out in middle school to see if they like it or not.

Thank you for your response. For the students who apply for part-time or single credit classes, does it mean that they will finish their school in both regular brick and mortar school and OHS at the same time?

Hi there, OHS diploma is granted only for full-time students. Part-time or single course students will graduate from their own schools. They will list OHS courses in their own transcripts.