Graduation Guidance / High School

College Application Timeline

  • 8th grade - Make your decision about your diploma options and learn as much as you can so you are ready for next year. Some folks like to do this early in 8th grade, so they can practice the documentation / thinking process so next year is easier.
  • 9th grade - Settle into high school mode, following the guidelines of whichever diploma option you have chosen. See information about what to call courses on your transcript by checking out the Course Titles resource on our Handouts & Forms page.
  • 10th grade -
    • Can take PSATs - contact your district in August or early September to schedule / register.
    • Be thinking about possible careers.
    • Now might be a good time to take a career interest test if desired.
    • You may want to focus on career options as the topic for your research paper this year, if your program requires a major paper... it is a good idea even it is not required.
  • 11th grade -
    • Can take PSATs again (high scores may qualify for National Merit Scholarhsip money) - contact your district
    • Contemplate 3 colleges to visit this year (Do not wait until senior year!)
      • If you are not sure what major you want to pursue, think of 3 possible majors, and pick a college that offers all 3. It is easier, and less expensive, to change majors at the same school than to transfer to a different school.
      • Save your FAVORITE college to visit LAST. This will allow you to have the experience of the other colleges, so you can compare with your favority. It may confirm that your favorite is THE place. It may show you that there is something even BETTER than your favorite.
    • Create account on AND/OR
    • Check online for dates and locations for tests
    • Register online for SATs or ACTs (Most northern colleges focus on SATs. Many southern or Christian schools accept or prefer the ACTs) Check on the websites of your possible colleg3es to see if they have preferences.
    • Consider taking early college courses (often at amazing discounts!) i.e. Bloomsburg's ACE (Accelerated College Education) is 75% off for tuition! Just be careful, because if you end up going somewhere else, there is no guarantee that college will accept all these credits for transfer.
  • 12th grade -
    • Can take SAT/ACTs again - sign up on their websites.
    • Apply for colleges in the Fall. Do not wait until spring!
    • Have SAT/ACT results sent to your top pick colleges
    • Consider taking dual enrollment / discount college courses. Check with your target college to see if they will accept the credits.

Diploma Options

    Why is a diploma important?

       1. Sometimes it helps with college admission
       2. Sometimes it helps with financial aid
       3. Sometimes it helps with admission into the military
       4. If your children choose to homeschool their children in PA, they need to attest on the affidavit that they have a high school diploma, and the lack of one has been challenged is worth thinking about.

    The PA Homeschooling Law (Act 196 of 2014) states that the requirements for graduating from a homeschool program are credits in the following areas:

    • 4 years of English
    • 3 years of Math
    • 3 years of Science
    • 3 years of Social Studies
    • 2 years of Humanities (Art, Foreign Language, Music, Bible, etc.)

Pennsylvania is one of the rare states that offers numerous diploma options:

  • GED Test
  • Supervisor-Issued Diploma - the new form is available for download at the PDE's website.
  • State-Recognized Homeschool Diploma Programs
  • 30-College Credit Option (click here) - earn 30 college credits (very doable with colleges now encouraging high schoolers to take courses early and at a discount) - send the college transcript in to the PA Dept. of Ed., and they will send you a Commonwealth Diploma. (more info below)



  • The law does not mention "credits." It simply requires "years."
  • If parents enroll their student in one of the optional diploma programs, that program will define what constitutes one of their credits. Many programs here in PA establish a certain amount of a textbook that must be completed. For non-textbook courses, most homeschool diploma programs require 120 hours or activities of logged study.
  • Some diploma programs also allow a 10-page research paper to satisfy the requirement of a credit. i.e. a 10-page paper in Music History could count toward English, Music, and/or History. Check with the program's manual for details.
  • Many parents not choosing a diploma program use what is called a "Carnegie Unit," which equals 120 hours of study for a credit.
  • Whether you are working towards a parent-issued diploma or one from an established program, be sure the credit is clearly documented and defined.
I'd love to hear from you. You can email me, find me on Facebook, call or text me at 570-861-5681.