Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Quo Vadis? Which Seton Diploma is Right for You?


Seton’s Advanced Academic Diploma may help with your admission to a top university but for most, the Academic Diploma and a high GPA may be a better choice.

Recently, the father of a Seton high school senior called to see if his daughter could switch to the Advanced Academic Diploma program and still graduate in May.

After looking at the records, we determined this move was impossible, given that it required the student to take a new math course and meet other additional requirements. During our discussion, I told my caller that many students go the other way at the last minute after realizing that the extra work is hurting their GPA and extending the date of their graduation.

By leaving the Advanced track and moving to the Academic Diploma (AD) track, these students often reduce their levels of stress, improve their GPA, and graduate on time.

How it Began

The Advanced Academic Diploma (AAD) track was developed specifically for students who wished to apply to one of our country’s military academies. After reviewing the “what we expect from a high school applicant” documents of the five academies—Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine—Seton developed a program that would meet the expectations of all five academies.

This program was in line with the state of Virginia’s Advanced Studies Diploma requirements. Further research revealed that most states had advanced diploma requirements similar to the ones developed by Seton.

Before Seton developed this program, approximately five Seton students each year entered the various academies with our standard Academic diploma. We thought the new program might make acceptance easier, but have found that the academies still admit only about five Seton students per year. (By the way, our graduates do very well in the academies. I have never heard of one of our students finishing any lower than in the top quarter of his or her academy class.)

Students could expect the AAD also to help them with applications to other top schools, like the Ivy League colleges, and top tier state schools. As college tuitions increased, and as more and more students have decided to apply to more tuition-friendly state schools, those universities and colleges have in turn become more selective, so the AAD could help boost a student’s chances of admission.

Many parents and students gravitate to the AAD for the prestige of being “Advanced,” but such a move can actually do more harm than good.

The first things a college admissions officer looks at on an application are the GPA and the SAT or ACT scores. If the extra work required for the AAD leads to a lower GPA, the admissions officer is put off immediately.

If the student’s GPA meets the institution’s requirements, then the admissions officer looks deeper at the courses studied. The Seton Academic Diploma has no “fat,” no extra credits for Art, Music, Physical Education, and Shop. All the credits earned by our students are truly academic, so in many cases, the “lower” Seton diploma is equivalent to the advanced academic diplomas awarded by most public schools.

The Best Strategy

For most students, therefore, the best strategy is to follow the Academic Diploma track and push hard for good grades, generating a high GPA. Students of exceptional ability who enroll in the Advanced program and who have a high GPA may receive a boost in their chances of admission to a top university—one where the admission rate is between 5 and 10 percent—but for most students, the Academic Diploma and a high GPA should be the goals.

About Deacon Eugene McGuirk

Deacon Eugene McGuirk
Deacon Eugene McGuirk directs the Academic Counseling Department at Seton Home Study School. Married for over 30 years, he is the father of four children homeschooled through Seton. He was ordained a deacon in 1988.

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