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"That's in the Handbook?" FCHS Options You're Missing Out On

by Emory Cypher -- Journalism Club Guest Writer


Did you know that you can 1) get college credit through a test instead of a course while you’re still in high school 2) get one or more academic seals on your diploma or 3) graduate FCHS with an associate's degree? It’s all true and it’s just part of the important things you’re probably overlooking in your student handbook. Read on for the deets!


What is a CLEP exam and how do they help me get college credit while still in high school?

  • CLEP exams are, in a nutshell, taking a final exam for a college course without taking the class, because a student already has the majority of the information needed to pass the exam. All you need is a 50% correct score to pass and get college credit for that specific course.

  • The tests cost around $93 for three college credits (typically that’s one course); that same course would ordinarily cost $525 to take at Virginia Western as a high school graduate. At a four year college, the choice of a $93 CLEP exam saves you thousands of dollars.

  • The CLEP grade DOES NOT show up on your transcript; it is graded pass or fail but it won’t even show up on your transcript unless you pass, so your college will not think less of you if you barely pass. All that matters is a passing score.

  • If you do not have the capability financially to take the exam (or you just want additional study before taking the CLEP exams), Modern States offers a free preparation course that also allows you to take the exam for free.


 What are all these fancy seals I can get on my diploma?  How do I get them and why would I want them?

Each diploma seal represents an amazing academic achievement that looks good on college applications or your resume. Plus you’re probably completing nearly all the requirements anyway just as part of graduating. Why not go a little further and get something special on your diploma?


Here's a list of all the seals and the criteria for each:

Governor’s Seal:
  • Advanced Studies Diploma Completion

  • Average of “B” or better

  • Minimum of 9 transferable college credits earned 

Board of Education Seal:

  • Standard Diploma or Advanced Studies Diploma Completion

  • Average of “A”


Career & Technical Education Seal:

  • Standard Diploma or Advanced Studies Diploma Completion

plus complete 1 (at minimum) of the following 3:

  • Complete a prescribed sequence of courses in a career and technical education concentration or specialization… and maintain a B or better average in those courses

  • Pass an examination or an occupational competency assessment in a career and technical education concentration or specialization that confers certification or occupational competency credential from a recognized industry, trade or professional association

  • Acquire a professional license in that career and technical education field from the Commonwealth of Virginia


Excellence in Civics Education Seal:

  • Standard Diploma or Advanced Studies Diploma Completion

  • Virginia & United States History AND Virginia & United States Government Courses AND maintain a B or better in those courses

  • Complete 50 hours of voluntary participation in community service or extracurricular activities such as:

  • Charitable or religious organization that provides services to the poor, sick, or less fortunate

  • Participating in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or similar youth organizations

  • Participating in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC)

  • Participating in political campaigns, government internships, Boys State, Girls State and Modern General Assembly

  • Participating in school-sponsored extracurricular activities that have a civics focus.

  • Have good attendance AND no disciplinary infractions (as determined by local school board policies)

Seal of Biliteracy:
  • Pass all required End-of-Course Assessments in English reading and writing at the proficient or higher level

  • Demonstrate proficiency at the intermediate-mid level or higher in one or more languages other than English as demonstrated through an assessment (from a list approved by the Superintendent or Public Instruction).

  • American Sign Language Qualifies as a language other than English


Diploma Seal for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM):

  • Successfully complete 50 hour or more work-based learning opportunity in a STEM area

  • Satisfy all requirements for a Career and Technical Education concentration.

  • A concentration is a coherent sequence of two or more state-approved courses as identified in the course listings within the CTE Administrative Planning Guide

  • Pass 1 (at minimum) of the following 2:

  • A Board of Education CTE STEM-H credential

  • An examination approved by the Board that confers a college-level credit in the STEM field


Seal for Excellence in Science and the Environment:

  • Standard Diploma or Advanced Studies Diploma Completion

  • Complete at least 3 (at minimum) different board-approved laboratory science courses with an average of a B or higher

  • Complete at least 1 (at minimum) rigorous advanced placement or post-secondary level laboratory science course with an average of a B or higher

  • Complete laboratory or field science research and present that information in a formal, juried setting

  • Successfully complete 50 hours of voluntary participation in community service or extracurricular activities that involve the application of science such as:

  • Environmental monitoring

  • Environmental protection

  • Environmental management

  • Environmental restoration


 Is It Possible to Get an Associate’s Degree at FCHS?

Yes, it’s possible and yes, it’s worth it, but there are a few things to know beforehand.


First off, it is impossible to do Governor's School all four years and complete an Associate's Degree simultaneously without having to take several summer classes. Also, you have to make the choice to pursue both Gov. School and an Associate’s no later than the spring of eighth grade since that is when Governor's School applicants receive admission acceptance letters.


To learn more, I met with guidance counselors at both the high school and Virginia Western Community College, as well as Head of Guidance Barry Whitlow, Campus Principal Jon Crutchfield, and Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers. Additional information on this topic can be found at the Virginia Western Community College Website, the Department of Education Graduation Requirements Website, the Franklin County High School Handbook Portable Document Format, the Course Registration Program of Studies (Online Version) and by contacting the Head of Dual-Enrollment (at VWCC).


But first, let’s talk about why you’d want to get your Associate’s while still in high school. The answer? Money! Dual-Enrollment (DE) classes at the high school cost significantly less than the same course at a college but give you the same credit. Over time, the dual-enrollment college expenses can add up, but they’re still much cheaper than waiting until after high school to start your college coursework. 


Furthermore, getting your Associate’s in high school means a two-year head start on your Bachelor’s degree at a four-year school. Of course, you don’t have to continue your education after an Associate's Degree unless you feel the need or your career goals call for it.


Here's how to do it:


  1. Do your homework.

Look into Virginia Western programs that you might be interested in trying to achieve in addition to/during high school to get a good idea of what you may want career- wise.  *Note: This is just to make sure you don’t regret not knowing all the program options in the future.  You don’t have to have your whole life planned out yet; this is just to give yourself a general idea of what’s available.


2. Meet with your guidance counselor during your freshman year to develop a plan. If you’re not a freshman anymore, meet with them anyway. You may only need a few extra courses to get on track for your Associate’s.


3. Get strategic about math.

Take all the DE math you can in high school. To do this, you’re going to need to either have knocked out a lot of Pre-AP math in middle school or be prepared to take multiple summer math courses to catch up. It will help if you took Pre-AP Algebra I and Pre-AP Geometry before coming to high school. Take Pre-AP Algebra II in your freshman year of high school to clear the way for DE math courses.


4. Take the courses.  Good luck! 


A final note: you don’t need to stress over any of these options. They’re OPTIONS, meaning only you can determine what works best for you. Make the best decision for yourself, but don’t be afraid to consider some of these more rigorous academic goals. The most important thing is that you know they’re out there if you want to pursue them!


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