Is an Accredited High School Diploma Important?

Can a homeschooler get into college without an accredited diploma?

It’s a common question. A valid question. But also, a question that misses the point. The POINT is getting into college. Accreditation is just a long and somewhat misunderstood word that is sometimes thrown around for all the wrong reasons. Let’s look at some other questions that are more important in the long run…. (btw… the answer is a resounding, yes!)

What IS an accredited diploma, anyway?

An accredited diploma is a diploma issued by a school that has received accreditation from a recognized accrediting organization. All accrediting organizations are non-governmental, private agencies, meaning that no one accrediting agency has “official” authority over any other one. Accreditation is also completely voluntary, meaning many private schools and even some public schools are not accredited. The main idea behind accreditation is to create an “acceptable” norm for quality education. But with the wide variety of accreditation agencies, this norm can be widely varied as well.

Who needs an accredited high school diploma?

Fewer and fewer colleges are specifying the need for a diploma from an accredited high school. Homeschooling can likely be thanked for a portion of that trend. The multitude of successful homeschool graduates who have gone on to more than ruin the curve of expectations in college has pushed colleges and universities around the world toward realizing that the type of diploma one receives has little to do with one’s promise for higher education success.

In fact, many colleges and universities are moving to a portfolio style of admissions. Though these are few, it is wise to take a sampling of colleges your homeschooler may be interested in applying to and seeing if their college admissions requirements include accreditation of any sort.  It’s also important to note that even when a college creates a specific request for an accreditated diploma, it usually offers an alternative in the way of minimum SAT or ACT scores.

For instance, the University of Georgia (UGA) states the following on their admission information for home educated students and/or graduates of non-accredited high school programs:

If a student cannot verify completion of the College Preparatory Curriculum (CPC) with an official accredited transcript, he or she must demonstrate very high academic ability by having earned an SAT or ACT score equal to or above the average scores of the first-year students admitted to UGA for the prior Fall term.

How can a homeschooler receive an accredited diploma?

So, you understand that accredited diplomas aren’t usually necessary to get into the college of your choice. You also understand that accreditation doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of education is superior to any other education. But, you still WANT an accredited diploma. As a homeschooler, you are certainly able to receive an accredited diploma if you wish to have one.

Another option if you want to get your high school education at home and are strongly in favor of an accredited diploma is to look into virtual schools. Virtual schools are charter public schools that are tuition-free, and online. Not every state offers virtual schooling, so you will need to check whether this option is even available to you.  Many virtual schools use common online learning programs such as Florida Virtual School, Connections Academy, or K12, all of which are accredited. Therefore anyone graduating from one of these programs can receive an accredited diploma. It’s important to note, however, that attending a virtual school is NOT homeschooling and does not fall under the homeschooling regulations of any state. Virtual school students are charter public school students and must follow the schedule and guidelines of their specific virtual school.

Parents and students should not assume that the quality and offerings of all accredited schools are equal. You should still closely research the curriculum, faculty, student support services, tuition costs, and graduation rate of each school you are considering. Just because a school is accredited does not mean it will be the right fit for your student or your family.

What are the alternatives to an accredited diploma?

High school graduates without an accredited diploma can accomplish anything a student with an accredited diploma can. Attend college, enter the military, join the workforce…follow their dreams!

Non-accredited diplomas from an online or correspondence school – Plenty of homeschool curriculum providers offer diplomas – – but not all of them have gone through the process of having their school accredited. They provide distance education programs that cover a full core, college-preparatory, or advanced placement curriculum and offer diplomas to students who have enrolled and sufficiently met or exceeded the requirements for graduation. Examples of schools that offer unaccredited diplomas would be The Angelicum Academy, Abbington Hill School, North Atlantic Regional High School, and Freedom Project Education.

Parent-issued diploma – The majority of homeschooling high schoolers are “hybrid homeschoolers.” That means that they don’t take the majority of their coursework from a single school or publisher. Instead, they mix and match courses from a variety of sources. They may take English online, but get their science instruction at a local homeschool co-operative, learn math from a textbook, take history at the local community college via dual enrollment, and volunteer at a homeless shelter for public service credits. When high school credits are mixed and matched from various curricula, outside classes, and tutors, then it’s likely that the parents will be the ones overseeing the creation of the high schooler’s transcript and issuing their diploma. The good news is that a parent-issued diploma is legal in all 50 states AND accepted by most colleges and universities.

GED – One in every seven Americans with high school credentials received the GED test credential, as well as one in 20 college students. Ninety-eight percent of U.S. colleges and universities recognize the GED credential is equivalent to a high school diploma. A GED is definitely a valid option for a homeschooler. Keep in mind, however, that it is probably not the only test you will be required to take for admission into a higher education facility. Most colleges will also require you to take and receive an acceptable score on either the SAT or ACT, or you may bypass that qualification by taking at least some of your general course requirements at a community college before applying to the college or university of your choice.

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