Monday, April 6, 2015

Diplomas - Lies your high school may not know they told you

I pulled both of my kids out of conventional high schools (HS). Older Kid left at 16. We liked alternative education so well that we pulled Younger Kid out at 14; she spent all 4 years of HS in an educational program customized for her.

One of our first concerns was their HS diploma. What would it take to get a valid diploma? How many credits would they need? Who issued their diplomas and transcripts?

The most important question, though, was: Would colleges accept a transcript from an alternative education source? 

The answer is...Yes, they will. And it's easier than you might think.

[Disclaimer: the information below is useful in North Carolina. Laws and regulations in other states and countries may vary, so always do your own research. Also, if you're a student with a goal of being admitted to a top-tier college, this information does not apply to you.]

Here's what I did to learn about the kinds of  diplomas and transcripts that would impress colleges.

1. Find out what our target colleges expected.

My kids wanted to attend college in North Carolina, either public or private.  The University of North Carolina System has minimum admissions requirements. The requirements were:
  • 15 credit hours (with specific minimums for Language Arts, Science, Math, and Social Studies)
  • GPA of 2.5 or higher
  • SAT score of 800+ or ACT composite of 17+

So, yeah,15 credit hours. That's all they needed.

2. Research the diploma requirements for our state.

  • The state requires more credits for a state HS diploma: 20 for Older Kid (21 for Younger Kid, because the rules changed).
  • That was unexpected. North Carolina requires 6 more credits than minimum admission requirements. Then there is another little gotcha.  Counties are allowed to add even more credits to issue a diploma. Our county adds 5 more credits.
  • If my kids had received a county HS diploma, they would have completed 11 credits more than local colleges require.  I'm sorry, but that's just crazy.

3. Check into HS equivalency programs.

When we looked into HS equivalency programs, we found two: Adult High School Diploma and High School Equivalency.
  • Adult diploma: this diploma is issued by our local county, with the same requirements.
  • High School Equivalency: a certificate is awarded, following the successful completion of a well-known series of tests. Those tests are not easy, by the way.

Nope. We didn't want either of those options.

4. Look into online (distance) HS programs.

There are hundreds of online HS programs.  Most states offer them. Most major colleges offer them. And many private/for-profit institutions also allow you to earn an online diploma. The more research we did, the more we discovered that there are many excellent distance programs available.

5. Select the right option for the student.

  • We decided to use online education for both of our kids.
  • We chose a fully-accredited distance diploma for Older Kid. She took classes from a community college as well as classes from the online high school at the University of Missouri. Older Kid received a HS diploma from the State of Missouri.
  • We simplified high school even further for Younger Kid. She took many distance HS courses from two universities. We formed a home school and customized some coursework around her special needs. Our home school issued Younger Kid's diploma and transcript.

And guess what? Our kids had no trouble at all being admitted to the colleges they wanted.

A conventional high school has no motivation to share this information. There are a variety of reasons. First, they may not know it. Second, even if they did know, they might not realize (or believe) how good these alternatives are. Lastly, there is a financial incentive not to tell students.  

Bottom line:  Alternative education options allow you to choose a high school program that reflects a student's goals and what their family can support.If you want to attend an Ivy League university, you may need a diploma from a rigorous, conventional high school. If you want to start a career immediately or if you want to attend a local college, there are alternatives to conventional high schools--such as home school, distance high schools, or high school equivalency programs.  Check it out!

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