Ohio honors diploma

The Ohio Honors Diploma for Class of 2026 and Beyond: What Is It and Is It Necessary?

UPDATE: In the state of Ohio, the honors diploma requirements were changed for Class of 2026 and beyond. Students who entered high school on or after July 1, 2022 will be required to meet the new honors diploma requirements. The requirements laid out below apply to Class of 2026 and beyond. The Class of 2024 and 2025 can choose to use the old requirements (click here for those) or use the new requirements laid out below.

An honors diploma is earned by exceeding the standards required for graduation. If they offer one, each state develops their own requirements to earn an honors diploma.

In the State of Ohio, honors diplomas are offered with 6 different options:

  1. Academic
  2. International Baccalaureate
  3. Career Tech
  4. STEM
  5. Arts (includes dance, drama/theatre, music and visual art)
  6. Social Science and Civic Engagement

What are the Academic Honors Diploma criteria?

To earn the Academic Honors Diploma, a student will need all but one of the following:

  1. Math – 4 units including Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, and one other higher-level course (greater than Algebra 2) OR a four-course sequence that contains equivalent or higher content.
  2. Science – 4 units including 1 advanced science course. Advanced science courses contain rigorous content appropriate for grades 11 and 12. An advanced science course builds on the concepts and skills developed in the physical science and biology courses. Sample courses listed here.
  3. Social Studies – 4 units; Can get credit for both American history course and/or the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate American history course (same for American government and world history courses)
  4. World Languages* – 3 units of one language or no less than 2 units of each of 2 different languages; they must be sequential and proficiency based. Classical languages like Latin and American Sign Language do fulfill this requirement. Languages taken through College Credit Plus (CCP) must not repeat high school courses. To be sequential, high school 1 and 2 can be followed by CCP level 2 of that language.
  5. GPA* – 3.5 on a 4.0 scale (unweighted)
  6. ACT* – 27 or higher; SAT – 1280 or higher (ACT writing/SAT essay sections are not included). Students can superscore to meet this requirement.
  7. Seal Requirement – Earn two additional diploma seals (for a total of 4), not including Honors Diploma Seal.
  8. Experiential Learning – Field experience, OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal, portfolio or work-based learning. Please visit this webpage for additional detail about fulfilling this requirement. OhioMeansJobs Readiness Seal cannot be used for both #7 and #8.

Looking at this complete list, a student can meet 7 of the 8 to qualify for the Academic Honors Diploma.

* Students can replace #4, #5, or #6 with a Student Strength Demonstration. The chosen option must be relevant to the Academic Honors Diploma.

Student Strength Demonstration options as provided on this webpage are:

  • College Credit Plus: 12 total College Credit Plus credit hours
  • Advanced Placement: three courses with score of 3 or higher on AP tests
  • Career-Technical Assurance Guide (CTAG): 12 total credits
  • Apprenticeship/Pre-Apprenticeship: Completion or Evidence of Acceptance if required to be older than 18
  • WorkKeys: Score of 6 or higher on all tests (*void for Career-Tech Honors Diploma)
  • Armed Services Vocational Battery: Score of 50 or above on the ASVAB
  • Work-Based Learning: 250 total hours of work-based learning

Is an honors diploma worth it?

Does an honors diploma improve your college application? The general answer is no. Remember, college applications will be submitted the fall of your senior year. Colleges see your grades at the end of your junior year. Yes, they will see them again in your final transcript, but by then, they have already made their admissions decision.

You can include a mention on your application that you are an honor’s diploma candidate or on target to earn a specific diploma, but whether or not you receive an honors diploma will not really be a consideration to colleges.

We hate to see students suffer through, for example, a physics class of no interest to them because they feel like they need to get that honors diploma. Students need to be released from the burden of coursework they don’t enjoy or they won’t use.

School districts receive extra points on their state report card in the “Prepared for Success” component when students earn an honors diploma.

Honors diplomas can be a healthy goal and motivation for students when the task does not push the student too far. It depends on the student. As we always stress, the appropriate level of course rigor should match the ability or interest of the student—challenging without being overwhelming.


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