High School Diploma Options for Homeschooled Teens

Can a homeschooled student receive a high school diploma from the Commonwealth of Virginia?

No. According to the Virginia Department of Education, “school boards do not award diplomas to students who are not enrolled in public schools under their supervision.”

Unless a homeschooled student in Virginia completes an independent accredited program that issues its own diploma the only official educational record he/she will have is the yearly “proof of progress” filed each August with the local school division.

Does my homeschooled teen need a high school diploma?

Not necessarily. The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers occasionally receives calls from individual employers – mostly out of state – asking how to verify that an applicant “graduated” from homeschooling. (That’s because some states issue “certificates of completion” to homeschoolers.) That said, most Virginia homeschoolers go directly from homeschool to college or career without a government-issued high school diploma. Most college admissions offices today are familiar with homeschooled applicants, and do not require a high school diploma or equivalent for admissions. For additional information, read Homeschooling Teens – Preparation for College.

Each branch of the US Armed Forces has a somewhat different policy regarding recruitment of homeschooled graduates without high school diplomas. Check out Homeschool to Military for more information.

But I really want my child to receive a high school diploma. What do I do?

You have options, each of which has its own pros and cons.

You can purchase or design your own high school diploma and award it to your child. Some state and local homeschooling organizations host formal homeschool graduation ceremonies for this purpose. Another popular option is to host your own personalized graduation ceremony and invite family, friends, and mentors.

If your child is aged 16 or older, they may earn a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) by taking and passing the GED exam. Note that this is considered an “equivalent” diploma, not an actual high school diploma, and may not always be perceived in the same way.

Some accredited correspondence schools and distance learning programs grant high school diplomas. In many cases, you must enroll in the program for at least a year to earn a diploma.

Can you tell me which correspondence schools grant diplomas to homeschooled students?

VaHomeschoolers does not maintain a list of accredited correspondence schools and distance learning schools which grant high school diplomas. Lists of correspondence school programs can be found at A to Z Home’s Cool: Correspondence Schools. Many beginning homeschooling books also have lists of accredited correspondence programs. Some of the schools on these lists offer diplomas, but others do not, so it’s best to contact the school directly with your questions.

“Diploma mills” and unaccredited schools abound, so do a little independent research and make sure your correspondence school is accredited and has a good reputation before you enroll your student. Your local Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission can help you determine whether a particular school is legitimate and accredited.

We’re only going to homeschool for my child’s final semester of high school. Can she still earn a diploma if she enrolls in an accredited correspondence program?

That depends on the correspondence school. Although most will give you credit for some work done, many programs require that the student be enrolled in the program for at least a year before granting a diploma. We recommend you contact the school directly with your questions.

My homeschooled son wants to attend a vocational school/community college which insists that he cannot enroll unless he has a high school diploma on file with their office. What can he do about this?

The situation you are describing is not unusual, especially with out-of-state vocational schools and community colleges. While most homeschooled students go directly from homeschool to college or career without an official high school diploma, some vocational schools and community colleges are especially particular about confirming that their students are indeed high school graduates (rather than dropouts). These schools may not be familiar with Virginia homeschooling law, and may not be aware that Virginia does not grant high school diplomas to homeschooled students.

In most cases, the vocational school or community college simply needs a piece of paper in their files to prove the completion of high school or its equivalent. Many parents and students in this situation have found it helpful to talk directly with the admissions or records office at the school to explain how Virginia homeschool law works and offer alternative paperwork in lieu of a government-issued high school diploma, such as some combination of the following:

  • A diploma, created and signed by the parent, which indicates that the student has completed high school requirements.
  • A transcript, created and signed by the parent, which shows the coursework that the student has completed during their homeschooled high school years.
  • A copy of the school division’s letter acknowledging that proof of progress for the student’s 12th grade year was submitted and received under the home instruction statute.
  • A copy of the religious exemption paperwork that the parent submitted to the local school board, and/or a copy of the letter from the school board confirming the family’s religious exemption.
  • A copy of the student’s GED certificate in lieu of a high school diploma.

This information is provided as a courtesy of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. It is not intended as legal advice. For legal advice, contact a licensed attorney.

VaHomeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.