High School Course Requirements for College

Homeschool High School Course Requirements for College

My 6th child, Caleb, was the funniest little kid. Every time we’d take yard waste to the dump, my little guy was eager to go along, because he thought the operator of the dump was the coolest guy ever. He called him the dumpman.

The dumpman had a metal-pipe-style prosthetic leg that my son imagined to be a robot leg. Caleb talked about that robot leg nonstop and aspired to be a dumpman, so he, too, could have a robot leg. He also thought it was amazing that everyone brought the dumpman all their old junk for FREE! What could possibly be better than unlimited junk?

Now, at age 12, Caleb wants to own a zoo. He and his adorable cousin are planning to adopt hundreds of dogs, and of course the boys plan to live inside the zoo, too, so they can take care of all the animals.

They insist that the smell won’t bother them. They are planning be incredibly rich, because who wouldn’t pay a lot of money to see hundreds of dogs?

I hate to be a dream smasher, so I’m not. I just let them outgrow their sweet, naive dreams on their own. There is plenty of time to be an adult later on.

When the time comes, though — when high school graduation requirements and college admissions and scholarships roll around — I want to be prepared to assist my children toward a real, more plausible future. So I take knowing the high school course requirements for college seriously.

Universities vary in their requirements, so you’ll want to refer directly to the admissions and scholarship requirements for any potential universities your teen might be considering. Just google the website of the university to find it’s specific course requirements.

I’ve found that most colleges are more interested in your child’s ACT or SAT scores than the classes they took in high school, however. So, while high school course requirements for college are essential to know, don’t place too much emphasis on them.


High School Course Requirements for College

I’ll just preface this by stating that most states don’t hold homeschoolers to the same graduation requirements as public schoolers. That’s why the high school course requirements for college admissions and scholarships will probably be more applicable to your teen.

Some homeschoolers suggest that teens should be on different “tracks”, depending on what their plans are after high school. Only minimum requirements (the first chart below) need to be met by students entering military service, vocational schools, or going straight into the workforce.

The course requirements in the second chart below, the “college track”, would be a rigorous, college-prep plan, suited to students applying to prestigious universities. Requirements somewhere in between the two would be allowable for students planning to enter community colleges or state schools.

I actually find that suggestion to be unwise, because your teen’s potential cannot be determined at such a young age. Boys, especially, take a bit more time to mature. Why would you intentionally limit his opportunities?

My 3rd child earned straight F’s for most of 7th, 8th and 9th grade. I tried everything from personal tutors to online classes, hoping to help this child.

He was completing some of his work, and just not turning it in. But he wasn’t even beginning most of his work. I spent lots of late nights hunched over textbooks with that child, to no avail.

I could see that he understood the material, but I couldn’t make him care about it. I grew very tired of having to defend his intelligence to his teachers and tutors.

And then something clicked! All of a sudden, starting in 10th grade, that child took charge of his own education. He researched the course requirements for the career he has chosen, a computer engineer. He voluntarily researched and signed up for all the math, science, and coding classes he would need.

He earned straight A’s right up until he graduated our homeschool, with an associates degree,  magna cum laude, and multiple scholarships to every single university to which he applied. What if I had put him on the minimum course requirements track?

And that’s exactly why I would never advise parents to strive for any less than the best education possible.

After all, aren’t most of us homeschooling to provide our children with a better education than he would receive at public school? I don’t think a teen who wants to enter the military deserves a lesser education, unless that’s what he wants.

Minimum Requirements

Subject Required Credits
Language Arts 3
Math 3
Science 2
History 2
Health/PE 1
Electives 6

College Track Requirements

Subject Required Credits
Language Arts 4
Math 4
Science 4 (2 should include labs)
History 3
Foreign Language 2-4
Fine Arts 1
Health/PE 1
Electives 6


How much credit do I assign each high school level class?

In general, a course that takes approximately a school year, or 120-180 hours of work to complete counts as one credit. A course that takes approximately one semester, or 60-90 hours to complete, would receive a half credit.

I don’t keep close track of how much time my teens spend individually on different courses, because I’m homeschooling eight kiddos. That would take too much of my valuable time!

Instead, I make things easy on myself by keeping a detailed class schedule (I use Google Sheets) that includes detailed course descriptions, curriculum used, and materials. As my teen completes the coursework for a particular subject, I assign credit based on whether the course was a full-year or a semester course.


How does college credit translate to high school credit?

Some high schools have programs that allow students to take certain college classes that will also grant them high school credit. These programs help students gain some college credits free of charge.

When high school students takes college courses through a college or university and is awarded both high school credit and college credit simultaneously, this is known as concurrent enrollment, or dual enrollment.

If your teen has taken concurrent enrollment classes , a full-year college course, which is usually 3-4 college credits, counts as 1 high school credit. A semester-long college class translates to .5 credit on a high school transcript.

Other opportunities to gain college credit include AP and CLEP exams. Your teen will earn far more college credit than high school credit for each of these classes, but the college credit is all based on passing the test with sufficient points.

For example, my teens (so far) have all taken Calculus. I can’t call it AP on the transcript because we don’t follow the exact syllabus laid out by the AP College Board. So I just call it Calculus on their high school transcripts and, because it’s a year-long course I assign it 1 high school credit.

Then, when my teens take the AP Calculus test in May, the AP College Board automatically sends their scores to 3 universities the student indicates on the exam. If they pass with a score of 3 or better, they are awarded 8 Financial Literacy credits by the university.

CLEP tests are similar in that you’ll award high school credit to your teen for self-studying the course materials. Then, when the test is completed successfully, the AP College Board will send scores to the chosen universities, who then award the requisite number of credits.

Different AP and CLEP tests are awarded different amounts of credit, so check the AP College Board site for further details.


A few options for high school content in each subject:

Let’s look at each subject a little more closely:

Language Arts: 4 credits
Content Options: Speech and Debate, Literature, Creative Writing, Composition

Mathematics: 4 credits
Content Options: Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, College Algebra, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Caluculus II & III, Discrete Mathematics, Probability or Statistics

Science: 4 credits (2 should include labs)
Content Options: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science

History: 3 credits
Content Options: U.S. history, World History, Government, Economics, Geography

Foreign Language: 2 credits (typically 2 years of the same language, these must be taken during high school)
Content Options: Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, ASL (American Sign Language)

Fine Arts: 1 credit (only 1 credit is required, but you can take many others as electives)
Content Options: Band, Orchestra, Dance of all types, photography, pottery, drawing and painting

PE: 1 credit (most schools require .5 credit of Health and .5 credit of PE)
Content Options: Dance, Swimming, Team Sports

In addition to the required core classes, your homeschooled high school student might need to take some miscellaneous required courses along with their electives. Like always, check the admission and scholarship requirements of your teen’s preferred universities.

Other required elective classes may include:

CTE (Career and Technical Education)
Personal finance
Drivers Ed (this can be taken privately and not recorded on a transcript, but most states do require a certified Drivers Ed class in order to obtain a driver’s license)


High School electives for homeschoolers

High schools offer a variety of classes in addition to the core classes. Some are required by the school and others are electives that students may choose. Usually, approximately 6 elective credits are required for public high school graduation.

However, we use them much more plentifully, because my children respond well to interest-led learning. We homeschoolers also have pretty much unlimited options for electives. It’s a good idea to use electives to explore future career interests.

  • Keyboarding
  • CTE (Career and Technical Education)
  • Web Design
  • CAD classes
  • Interior Design
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Woodworking
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Visual Arts (drawing, painting, pottery, photography, etc…)
  • P. E.
  • Psychology
  • Drivers Ed


Don’t bother with a GED

Homeschooling has become so commonplace that colleges no longer require a GED. Your homeschool is considered a non-accredited, private school.

The military will also accept a high school diploma issued by your homeschool. In fact, since 2014 they prefer a homeschool diploma to the GED. A homeschool diploma is also sufficient for employers, should your child want to go straight to work after graduation.


Above all, have fun!

Remember that above all, homeschooling is supposed to benefit your family, not cause undue stress. It should be enjoyable for you and for your teens!

These years roar by so quickly! While it is important to be sure your teen is ready for college, don’t let yourself get so bogged down by high school requirements for college and graduation stuff that you forget to enjoy this precious time with your teens. Before you know it, they’ll be off to college!








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