Receiving a Homeschool Highschool Diploma

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One of the biggest concerns for homeschooling parents is high school. They worry about how their student will get a diploma so he or she can attend college, get a job, or join the military. No one wants homeschooling to impact their child’s academic future or career options negatively.

The good news is that homeschooled students can successfully achieve their post-graduation goals with a parent-issued diploma.

What Is a Diploma?

A diploma is an official document awarded by a high school indicating that a student has completed the necessary requirements for graduation. In most cases, students must complete a predetermined number of credit hours in high school-level courses such as English, math, science, and social studies.

Diplomas may be accredited or non-accredited. An accredited diploma is one that is issued by an institution that has been verified to meet a given set of criteria. Most public and private schools are accredited. That means that they have met the standards set by a governing body, which is usually the department of education in the state in which the school is located.

Non-accredited diplomas are issued by institutions that have not met or chose not to adhere to the guidelines set by such a governing body. Individual homeschools, along with some public and private schools, are not accredited.

However, with few exceptions, this fact does not negatively impact a homeschooled student's post-graduation options. Homeschooled students are admitted to colleges and universities and can even earn scholarships with or without accredited diplomas, just like their traditionally-schooled peers. They can join the military and get a job.

There are options for obtaining an accredited diploma for families who want their student to have that validation. One option is to use a distance learning or online school such as Alpha Omega Academy or Abeka Academy

Why Is a Diploma Necessary?

Diplomas are necessary for college admission, military acceptance, and usually employment.

Homeschool diplomas are accepted at most colleges and universities. With few exceptions, colleges require that students take an admissions test such as the SAT or ACT. Those test scores, along with a transcript of a student’s high school courses, will meet the entrance requirements for most schools.

Check the website for the college or university your student is interested in attending. Many schools now have specific admissions information for homeschooled students on their sites or admissions specialists who work directly with homeschoolers.

Homeschool diplomas are also accepted by the United States military. A high school transcript validating the parent-issued diploma may be requested and should suffice for proving that the student met the requirements eligible for graduation.

Graduation Requirements for a High School Diploma

There are several options for obtaining a diploma for your homeschooled student. 

Parent-Issued Diploma

Most homeschool parents choose to issue their students a diploma themselves. 

Most states don’t require that homeschool families follow specific graduation guidelines. To be sure, investigate your state’s homeschooling laws on a trustworthy site such as Homeschool Legal Defense Association or your statewide homeschool support group.

If the law doesn’t specifically address graduation requirements, there are none for your state. Some states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, have detailed graduation requirements.

Other states, such as CaliforniaTennessee, and Louisiana, may stipulate graduation requirements based on the homeschooling option parents choose. For example, Tennessee homeschooling families who enroll in an umbrella school must meet that school’s graduation requirements to receive a diploma.

If your state does not list graduation requirements for homeschooled students, you are free to establish your own. You want to consider your student's interests, aptitudes, abilities, and career goals.

One commonly-suggested method for determining requirements is to follow your state’s public school requirements or to use them as a guideline for setting your own. Another option is to research the colleges or universities that your student is considering and follow their admissions guidelines. For either of these alternatives, it can be helpful to understand typical course requirements for high school students.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that many colleges and universities are actively seeking homeschool graduates and often appreciate a non-traditional approach to school. Dr. Susan Berry, who researches and writes about educational topics like the fast-growing rate of homeschooling, told Alpha Omega Publications:

“The high achievement level of homeschoolers is readily recognized by recruiters from some of the best colleges in the nation. Schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, and Duke University all actively recruit homeschoolers.”

That means that patterning your homeschool after a traditional high school may not be necessary, even if your student plans to attend college.

Use the admissions requirements for the school your child would like to attend as a guide. Determine what you deem necessary for your student to know upon completion of his high school years. Use those two pieces of information to guide your student’s four-year high school plan.

Diplomas From Virtual or Umbrella Schools

If your homeschooled student is enrolled in an umbrella school, a virtual academy, or an online school, that school will likely issue a diploma. In most cases, these schools are treated like a distance learning school. They will determine the courses and credit hours required for graduation.

Parents using an umbrella school usually have some degree of freedom in meeting the course requirements. In most cases, parents can choose their own curriculum and even their own courses. For example, students may be required to earn three credits in science, but individual families can choose which science courses their student takes.

A student taking online courses or working through a virtual academy will sign up for the courses that the school offers to meet the credit hour requirements. This means that their options may be limited to more traditional courses, general science, biology, and chemistry to earn three science credits, for example.

Public or Private School Diplomas

In most cases, a public school will not issue a diploma to a homeschooled student even if the homeschool worked under the oversight of the local school district. Students who schooled at home using an online public school option, such as K12, will receive a state-issued high school diploma. 

Homeschooled students who worked closely with a private school may be issued a diploma by that school.

What Should a Homeschool Diploma Include?

Parents who choose to issue their own high school diploma may wish to use a homeschool diploma template. The diploma should include:

  • The name of the high school (or wording that indicates that it is a high school diploma)
  • The student's name
  • Wording to indicate that the student has met the graduation requirements for his school
  • The date the diploma was issued or the course of study was completed
  • The signature(s) of the homeschool teacher (usually one or both parents)

Although parents can create and print their own diplomas, it is advisable to order a more official-looking document from a reputable source such as Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) or Homeschool Diploma. A high-quality diploma can make a better impression on potential schools or employers.

What Else Do Homeschool Graduates Need?

Many homeschooling parents wonder if their student should take the GED (General Education Development). A GED is not a diploma, but rather certificate indicating that a person has demonstrated a mastery of knowledge equivalent to what he would have learned in high school.

Unfortunately, many colleges and employers do not view a GED the same as a high school diploma. They may assume that a person dropped out of high school or was unable to complete the course requirements for graduation.

Says Rachel Tustin of,

"If two applicants set side by side, and one had a high school diploma and the other a GED, odds are colleges and employers would lean towards the one with a high school diploma. The reason is simple: students with GEDs often lack other key data sources colleges look at when determining college admissions. Unfortunately, a GED is often perceived as a shortcut."

If your student has completed the requirements that you (or your state’s homeschooling laws) have set for graduating high school, he or she has earned his diploma. 

Your student will likely need a high school transcript. This transcript should include basic information about your student (name, address, and date of birth), along with a list of courses he has taken and a letter grade for each, an overall GPA, and a grading scale.

You may also want to keep a separate document with course descriptions in case it is requested. This document should list the name of the course, the materials used to complete it (textbooks, websites, online courses, or hands-on experience), the concepts mastered, and the hours completed in the subject.

As homeschooling continues to grow, colleges, universities, the military, and employers are becoming increasingly accustomed to seeing parent-issued homeschool diplomas and accepting them as they would a degree from any other school. 

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Bales, Kris. "Receiving a Homeschool Highschool Diploma." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Bales, Kris. (2020, August 27). Receiving a Homeschool Highschool Diploma. Retrieved from Bales, Kris. "Receiving a Homeschool Highschool Diploma." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).