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Graduation Requirements vs. Admissions Requirements

One of the most common mistakes parents make is confusing a state’s graduation requirements with the admissions requirements of their state colleges. Knowing each is very important while planning your teen’s high school exit strategy.

As you plan your Homeschooling for College Credit program, you are probably already aware that homeschooling laws in all 50 states differ significantly. One way the HS4CC organization serves a diverse community is by hosting Facebook groups for every state. Our volunteer moderators help each community build a Homeschooling for College Credit program within the context of their state’s laws. Of course, it’s worth underscoring that every homeschool family is responsible for following their state’s laws. Operating legally assures your teen’s graduation is recognized in all 50 states for the rest of their life. Look yours up here. 

While most of the states may dictate some scope or sequence (ex. teach 4 units of Language Arts), most parents have total autonomy when it comes to resourceful high school planning.  In many ways, this lack of boundaries can lead to uncertainty and parents create self-imposed limits or “rules” for their homeschool. As it turns out, many parents are uncomfortable when they don’t have a fence around their program.


We see this over and over in states without graduation requirements. Parents search for guidance and often end up defaulting into the public school list or using a college’s admissions requirements for their state. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, assuming you’re aware that you’re doing it.

Why not adopt a college’s admissions requirements?

In cases where there are no graduation requirements, parents sometimes adopt their state’s college admissions requirements. Let’s look at North Carolina as an example.

This table is found on the Department of Education’s website inside their “Homeschool Information” tab for college-bound students. Note that North Carolina homeschools DO NOT have high school graduation requirements but the public school’s graduation requirements are part of this table – look for the word “public” in the explanation at the top.  This can be very confusing for homeschool families!

NC High School Graduation Requirements
“Every public high school student must meet state course and credit requirements in addition to any local requirements in order to graduate from high school.”

ENGLISH:  4 credits

MATHEMATICS:  4 credits

SCIENCE:  3 credits


HEALTH & PE:  1 credit

ELECTIVES:  6 credits  (2 credits of any combination from either:
Career and Technical Education (CTE), Arts Education, or World Languages)

TOTAL:  22 credits

This list is designed to align with the admissions requirements for students applying to the University of North Carolina system of 4-year colleges. In other words, the list assumes that every student in the state is going to attend one of this state’s 4-year colleges! That’s a big assumption.

My objection to this list is the subtle suggestion that every student should plan to earn a 4-year degree from a UNC college no matter what. Zonk! That’s not even close to resourceful high school planning or wise college selection. Blindly following that suggestion without being your teen’s guidance counselor is a recipe for disaster and debt.

I can identify over one hundred 2-year degrees available to North Carolina students that lead to employment and do not require a 4-year degree AND have no admissions requirements.

I can identify over 40 apprenticeship programs available to North Carolina students that lead to employment and do not require a 4-year degree or this list of classes.

Specialty programs may ask for volunteer experience,  letters of recommendation from employers, specialty classes, portfolios, language proficiency, or even an audition.

Following one state’s public college admissions requirements means you’re ruling out every trade and technical college, you’re ruling out ministry, you’re ruling out specialty programs in art or performance, you’re ruling out the military, we’re ruling out the opportunity to finish an entire bachelor’s degree in high school (we have families here doing it!), and we’ve eliminated every other state college in the country.

In short, there are over 4,000 colleges in the country and an endless list of post-high school opportunities beyond the norm.  Before you adopt such a narrow set of standards, make sure it’s the best fit for your teen and helps them accomplish their occupational goals.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

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