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Leaving high school

What’s the Difference Between a High School Diploma and a Certificate of Completion?

By Donna Volpitta

What’s the difference between a high school diploma and a certificate of completion?

Donna Volpitta

Founder, Center for Resilient Leadership

Although the laws vary state by state, there are generally two types of certificates for completing high school:

  • A high school diploma signifies that a student has met all of the requirements for graduation.
  • A certificate of completion signifies that a student has completed high school but did not meet some of the requirements for graduation.

Certificates of completion are often given to students who met their school’s requirements but did not pass the state exam. Certificates may also be given to students whose Individualized Education Program changed the academic standards they were expected to meet.

It’s challenging but not impossible to get into college without a diploma. But your child won’t be able to get a federal student loan if he just has a certificate of completion. He may also have a tougher time enlisting in the military.

Whether your child is in grade school, middle school or high school, think carefully before you agree to any modifications in his IEP. Modifications are different from accommodations. They could have a big impact on the opportunities that are available to him in the future.

About the Author

Portrait of Donna Volpitta

Donna Volpitta

Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.

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