The American High School Diploma

How do the Diploma compare to it’s British and SA equivalents? This is actually a difficult question to answer – and even in my literature research, few was written on this subject. My thinking behind this is due to the flexibility of the Diploma – it is so difficult to fit in a box.

So, in short, the answer is yes, the Diploma is second-to-none, as it is definitely not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ school leaving solution.

– Annerine Wenhold

What is an American High School Diploma?

A high school diploma is a North American academic school leaving qualification awarded upon high school graduation. The high school diploma is typically studied for over the course of three to four years, from grade 9 to grade 12.

Is the American High School Diploma accepted in South Africa as a matric certificate?

Yes, definitely! The Advanced American High School Diploma (also called College Prep or Honors Diploma) is equivalent to the Cambridge A levels matric or SA gr. 13.

It is also recognized by the South African Matriculation Board and USAf for university bound students. To study at a South African university, you will need matric exemption. If you did not follow the traditional South African formal secondary school route (CAPS & IEB), you will have to apply for matric exemption from USAf (same as Cambridge).

What is a matriculation exemption?

A matriculation exemption is a legal requirement for first-degree study at a South African university.

  1. Foreign students wishing to register for first-degree studies in South Africa must have their school qualifications evaluated by the Matriculation Board that will then issue a certificate of exemption to those who qualify.
  2. South African students who did not pass Senior Certificate with endorsement are required by law to apply for a matriculation exemption through the Matriculation Board.

Requirements for Exemption Certificates

Candidates who did not follow the formal secondary school route in the South African schooling system need to qualify for a certificate of complete or conditional exemption from the matriculation endorsement requirements in terms of the provisions contained in regulations 10-40, as published in Government Notice (GN) 1226 of 1 December 2000 and amended in GN 1001, 1272 and 1345 of 12 October 2001, 11 October 2002 and of 26 September 2003 respectively.

For exemption requirements from USAf/ SA Matriculation Board with an American High School Diploma see:

See this excellent article by Annerine Wenhold:

See this info compiled by Annerine Wenhold about the Matriculation Board and the American High School Diploma:

Slide credit: Annerine Wenhold, AW Coaching.

The American High School Diploma, indicated in green, is an established and approved qualification, as it represents the satisfactory completion of education from kindergarten through 12th grade.

And specifically contains a transcript of the completed coursework for grades 9 through 12 in Math, English, Social Studies, Science, and a range of elective subjects such as Fine Arts.

Slide credit: Annerine Wenhold, AW Coaching.

A question that has been asked frequently is whether the Diploma is the same as the GED (General Education Development Certificate)? This is a common misconception.

The answer is however straight forward: no, it is not.

Various differences exist, with the most substantial being that the Diploma is issued after completing a particular jurisdiction’s high school educational requirements, whereas the GED is 4 national tests taken after the age of 17, which indicates that you’ve achieved US high school educational standards by assessing your reasoning in language and maths, and your science and social studies knowledge. And which culminates in the receipt of a GED Certificate.

Note, that although a high school equivalency diploma such as the GED is on paper equivalent to a high school diploma, our SA and even the USA universities and employers prefer a traditional high school diploma over the GED, and might look down on or not accept it.

Slide credit: Annerine Wenhold, AW Coaching.

According to Universities South Africa (USAf there are 3 pathways through which the diploma could be obtained for admission to a SA university:

a. Obtain you Diploma through an accredited institution (accredited by an USAf approved accreditation body e.g. AdvancED), together with a letter which certified that you are eligible for admission to any US university; or a

b. Diploma with at least 2 subjects passed on Advanced Placement (AP)-level with a grade of 3-5 (where 5 is the highest); or

c. If you are unable to provide the eligibility letter as in option 1, you must provide your Diploma together with SAT results (certain standard thereof required).

The universities, and the particular faculty might add requirements to these, so best to follow-up with your particular university of choice to verify requirements if it is not clear from their policy.

Homeschooling towards the American High School Diploma

For your Diploma to be accredited, you need to enroll in an online school/ virtual school/ umbrella school that is accredited. See below info on accredited service providers.

An abundance of accredited service providers is available. With service delivery being important in a competitive US market, an adviser is typically allocated to your student and his/her family, who will guide you through the course selection process to reach your educational goals. You will furthermore be (pleasantly) surprised at the number and nature of courses offered.

Virtual Schools will typically provide the curriculum, albeit with your choice on core and elective subjects. Consider or similar sites, and SAVS with South African based teachers.

Umbrella Schools on the other hand offer more flexibility, where you may use their curriculum, or do an eclectic approach where you choose your courses and have a degree of freedom in meeting the regional Diploma requirements. Consider Bridgeway Academy  or Homelife Academy

Online schools: some providers are very flexible, and you can enroll anytime, do your work from anywhere and at anytime through the academic year. Some may be more restricted with enrollment time, require class attendance, or has a fixed assignment/test schedule. Obtain also clarity on their transfer policy for completed courses, and the number of courses a student is allowed to take annually. In determining the value of an online high school program, you will want to consider the following: rate of successful program completion, ease of communication with the school and with teachers, flexibility and delivery of classes, counseling and tutoring services, individualized programming, availability of specialization (engineering, religion, arts, etc.), dual credit offerings, and extracurricular activities or clubs.

See this list of The 50 Best Online High School Diploma Programs:

Accredited Online Service Providers in South Africa & Beyond

Here are a few of the accredited service providers homeschoolers in South Africa are using. They are recognized by USAf for matric exemption. Some are located in South Africa and others are in the US but available to international students through online/distance learning.

  1. Acellus Academy (US based accredited online school)
  2. South African Virtual School (SA based and affiliated with Florida Virtual School for accreditation)
  3. Active Academy & Pure Life Academy (both based in SA and affiliated with SwitchedOn Education for accreditation.)
  4. Bridgeway Academy (US based Umbrella School)
  5. Home Life Academy (US based Umbrella School)
  6. Kairos Academy SA (SA based and affiliated with Home Life Academy for accreditation, by Annerine Wenhold.)
  7. Diversio Learning Academy (SA based and affiliated with Home Life Academy for accreditation, by Stephane Burger)
  8. Edu8 (SA based and affiliated with Acellus Academy for accreditation.)

Gifted & Talented Education

There are also a few service providers that offers programs for gifted children.

IVLA’a GATE Program: Gifted and Talented Eduation: the GATE program from International Virtual Learning Academy

IVLA’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program provides learning enrichment, fosters critical thinking, encourages creative problem-solving skills, and facilitates cooperative learning opportunities with other gifted students.

Through coordination among our program administrators, teachers, and success coaches, IVLA provides the following services to gifted students:

  • Learning at a higher cognitive level for intellectually gifted students
  • Enrichment, acceleration and advancement
  • Exposure to experiences, materials, and information beyond what is offered through the regular curriculum at a student’s particular grade level.
  • Interaction with other gifted and talented students through a supervised student engagement platform.

Laurel Springs: Gifted & Talented Academy At Laurel Springs, we understand the unique needs and abilities of gifted children. As a distance learning program, we are able to create an individualized learning plan that is built upon each student’s strengths and needs. Additionally, Academy students are placed in the most appropriate courses for their learning level, regardless of their chronological age.

As a distance learning program, we are able to create an individualized learning plan that is built upon each student’s strengths and needs. This process allows the teachers to collaborate with each student to develop a path focusing on his or her areas of interest and future goals.

Sourced from:

  1. Facebook Group: Homeschooling in SA towards an American High School Diploma posts by Annerine Wenhold on October 2019: Slides of the AEHI 2019 presentation.
  2. International Virtual Learning Academy
  3. Laurel Springs: Gifted and Talented Academy