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Not All High School Diplomas are Created Equal


The days of the one room schoolhouse are long gone. No longer do kids “graduate” at seventh grade to work out in the fields helping support a family.  Today, there are several kinds of high school diplomas available and not all are created equal.  In fact, each state in America has their own particular criteria for earning a high school diploma or degree. By the same token, many countries around the world vary in their requirements too.

In the United States, when a student reaches high school, it is important for them to meet with a guidance counselor to determine a particular “career path” they wish to follow. For smaller school districts, there may be only one primary type of high school diploma.  However, many schools these days offer three to four types of high school diplomas that can be earned, depending on that career path the students take. 

There is one thing for certain, all states set certain requirements that every student must follow in order to graduate, regardless of the path they set.  For instance, students have to earn credits in English, History, Science and Math.  From there, the curriculum varies.  The remainder of the high school courses is based on elective courses.  These courses are usually the ones that guide a student through to a certain type of high school degree.  Here are the four common types of high school diplomas:

1.  Vocational/Technical High School Diploma – In addition to the core elements of their coursework, students take a variety of classes in a specific trade or technical area.  Often times, these students are in school half the day for the required classes, then at a technical school or a mentor business fulfilling the requirements for the vocational high school degree.

2.  General High School Diploma – This high school degree path does not follow any particular path other than fulfilling the requirements in order to graduate.  Of course, they must pass all their classes with at least the minimum standards set by their schools.

3.  Advanced Placement or Honors High School Diploma – The advanced placement career track in high school involves coursework that is more advanced than the general degree. The courses offered help prepare them for the next step which is college.  The honors program often is more strenuous and challenging to the student and also carries more weight when applying to colleges. They must sustain a high grade point average in the variety of honors classes they are expected to take in order to earn the honors seal on their high school degree.

4.  Home School High School Degree Equivalent – Students who are educated at home do not earn a diploma per se.  Rather, they must pass tests that certify they are proficient in certain areas of study.  Each state has their own rules regarding home schooled students.  In the case of the home educated, colleges look at the students extra-curricular activities as well as standardized college entrance exam scores in order to determine entry.  For those home school students, if having an actual diploma is important, they could take the GED test or buy a phony diploma to symbolically signify completion of all high school requirements.


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