Three Diploma Options

Which Diploma Track is Right For You?
Seton provides three options for students seeking a high school diploma. In this article, Seton’s Guidance Director, Nicholas Marmalejo, explains these three diplomas and the requirements that differentiate them.

Situated in the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Seton resides at the base of the oft-hazy Blue Ridge Mountains. As a transplant from the Midwestern flatlands, I find living in Appalachia to be a never-ending adventure. No matter which road one travels, each invariably leads to scenic vistas and America’s most storied hiker highway—the Appalachian Trail.

Trekking even a segment of the Appalachian Trail—let alone all 2,200 miles of it—is a praiseworthy and inspiring feat. At Seton, we believe that obtaining one of our diplomas is a similarly laudable achievement, one that will prepare you for the many other paths you will walk in life.

Oftentimes students and parents will call Seton’s Guidance Department, asking which diploma and track is best for them. My answer is generally cautious and always the same: it depends on where you want to end up and how hard you want to work.
As with completing any significant hike, attaining a Seton diploma requires a willingness to work through difficulties. In fact, no path worth walking is not without some struggle. However, by enrolling at Seton, we lessen the burden.

One of the ways we do that is by offering three diploma tracks. Seton offers three diploma tracks to provide a guide or compass for you to reach your goals. Take note that it is okay to switch your diploma goal at any time, should the need or desire arise. Which diploma you receive is determined at the end of your final year with Seton, when all of your credits and courses are tallied.

The most accessible track is Seton’s General Diploma. It provides a student with Seton’s most basic, solid Catholic education. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. There’s plenty of room for electives and it is designed to allow the student maximum flexibility for them. Can you use this track to get into college? Yes, absolutely. Many have and will continue to do so—you are not somehow a lesser student or person if you go the General Diploma route. In fact, a student in this track would be taking most of the same required courses needed in the other diploma tracks.

However, not all college admissions departments are created equal. Each is looking for different things. To give our college-bound students a more competitive edge, Seton developed its Academic Diploma pathway. Like the General Diploma, a minimum of 22 credits are needed. However, in contrast to the General Diploma, the Academic Diploma requires two years of the same foreign language and an American Literature class. In Seton’s experience, this track features a proven course recipe for successfully gaining admittance into most colleges.

Finally, there is the Advanced Academic Diploma. This diploma was designed to give the most enterprising and ambitious students the option to take the toughest coursework available to them through Seton. Specifically, it was designed for students whose strengths and interests are in the areas of Math and Science and who desire to attend a service academy or the most competitive Math-Science schools.

When some people see Advanced Academic Diploma in the diploma tracks of the High School Catalog, many of them instinctively desire to pursue this glorious prize. This aspiration is certainly natural. After all, who does not want to be “advanced academic”? Yet it is not the best choice for the majority of students.

Why? First, it is considerably more challenging and rigorous than the other diplomas in terms of both time and effort. Both the student pursuing it and his or her family will typically be tested greatly in their commitment to the diploma and its demands. Remember, in going this route, a student will be taking the most arduous high school course load possible. It is akin to hiking the full Appalachian Trail.

For the record, to Seton’s college partners, not to mention other institutions familiar with Seton’s curriculum, each of Seton’s diplomas is considered a highly-respected accomplishment. An impressive transcript with all of the Advanced Academic Diploma coursework requirements is fine, but preventing unnecessary academic burn-out in a promising student is even more imperative.

In the end, it is absolutely more important for a student to do better academically and personally while completing fewer courses than to try to do every course and not perform so well. Finding the right balance for students—while still giving them a competitive edge—is the real key to success in learning and achievement. Fortunately, this is an approach that works well in any of Seton’s diploma tracks and on the trails in the world beyond.