Louisiana – High School to College & Careers


High School Graduation Requirements for Current Seniors

Course and Diploma Requirements

Students may complete two types of high school diplomas: the College and Career Diploma or the Career Diploma. Students may choose to enter one of two college and career curricula: the Basic Core or more rigorous LA Core 4. Districts must enroll all students not pursuing the Career Diploma in the Core 4 curriculum. Parents may waive student participation in the Core 4 curriculum after two years, at which time students continue high school on the Basic Core diploma path.

Louisiana is in the first stage of a multi-year transition, which will require more rigorous academic and career preparation for Career Diploma students via the Jump Start program. The Jump Start program allows students to take career courses, certify skill mastery in specific career fields and prepares students for high-wage careers.

Subjects Common Requirements Core 4 Basic Core Career Diploma*
English English I and II 4 4 4
Mathematics Algebra I or Applied Algebra 4 4 4
Science Biology 4 3 2
Social Science> American History (1/2 unit) 4 3 2
World Languages   2
Fine Arts   1
Physical Education   1.5 1.5 1.5
Health   0.5 0.5 0.5
Career Exploration   1 1
Electives   3 7 8
TOTAL   24 24 23

*Career Diploma requirements altered by House Bill 944 (2012)

Core 4

  • English: Students must take English I, II, III and IV.
  • Math: Students must take two algebra courses, geometry, and an advanced math course.
  • Science: Students must take biology, chemistry, and two additional science courses.
  • Social studies: Students must take civics and U.S. history, plus two additional social science courses.
  • Foreign language: Students must take two consecutive units of foreign language or two speech courses.
  • Art: students must take one fine art survey or performance art course.

Basic Core

  • English: All students must take English I, II and III and either English IV or senior english Applications.
  • Math: Students must take Algebra I and geometry or equivalent courses.
  • Science: Students must take biology.
  • Social Studies: Students must take civics and U.S. history.
  • Career Readiness: Students must take a career readiness course. Students choose a career concentration and learn about career and academic options that align with their interests and abilities.  Regional Jump Start teams across the state are delivering suites of career readiness courses for middle school, early high school and late high school that focus on: (1) career awareness and exploration; (2) financial literacy;  (3) basic literacy, numeracy and high school study skills; (4) workplace behavior skills; and, (5) job attainment, job success and job survival skills.

Career Diploma

Students interested in pursuing a Career Diploma must undergo academic counseling with a parent or guardian, obtain written permission from their parent or guardian and school officials, and enroll in dropout prevention courses during the ninth-grade year.

  • English: Students must take English I and II.
  • Math: Students must take Algebra I, Algebra I (parts 1 and 2) or Applied Algebra I.
  • Science: Students must take biology.
  • Social studies: Students must take civics and U.S. history.
  • Electives: Students take a career exploration course in which they choose a Jump Start graduation path and learn about career and academic options that align with their interests and abilities. Students must take nine course credits (inclusive of the required career readiness course) from courses approved for their graduation path.

Diploma Endorsements

In addition to earning a regular high school diploma, students may earn diploma endorsements.

  • Academic Endorsement (Core 4+): Students earn the academic endorsement when they complete the Core 4 curriculum, pass all required assessments, earn at least a 2.5 grade-point average and a score of 23 on the ACT. Students also must complete a senior project, take at least one Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate (AP or IB) course, or earn three hours of college credit while in high school.
  • Career/Technical Endorsement: Students earn the career-technical endorsement when they complete the Core 4 curriculum, pass all required assessments, earn at least a 2.5 GPA, and a score of 20 or better on the ACT. Students also may qualify through the ACT WorkKeys if they receive the assessment’s silver certificate. Students also must obtain an industry certification relevant to their career area of concentration or earn three hours of college credit. Students must spend 90 hours in a work-based training environment or complete a senior project.
  • Community Service Endorsement: Current high school freshmen and sophomores may receive this endorsement if they complete 80 hours of community service while in high school.
  • Seal of Biliteracy: House Bill 1016 (2014) allows future students to receive endorsements for language proficiency if they complete all English requirements, score above 19 on the ACT English and reading sections, and demonstrate proficiency in one or more languages other than English.

Assessment Requirements

Students take end-of-course (EOC) tests in six areas: English II, English III, Algebra I, geometry, biology, and American history. To earn a high school diploma, students must pass at least three EOC exams, including one in English, one in math, and one in biology or American history. Districts must use the EOCs in determining between 15 and 30 percent of students’ final course grade.

College and Career Readiness

The Louisiana Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards in July 2010. The state implemented the standards in classrooms for the first time during the 2013-14 school year.

Students who receive a score of “Needs Improvement” on any EOC test must receive 30 hours of remediation in the subject area before being eligible to retake the assessment.

The Louisiana Department of Education holds districts and schools accountable through school report cards. The high school reports contain four equally weighted metrics: (1) student performance on end-of-course assessments; (2) student performance on the ACT Composite; (3) percentage of students graduating with college credits, and (4) graduation rates. Schools may receive up to 10 bonus points for increasing student achievement levels for struggling student subgroups.

College and Career Planning

High school students develop an Individual Graduation Plan (IGP) with the help of their parents and school counselors. Students choose a career concentration that informs their selection of academic electives. School counselors are responsible for meeting with students, advising on academic choices and helping students update their IGPs throughout high school.

The Louisiana Department of Education, Board of Regents and other state education agencies provide access to online tools for Louisiana students and their families to help them plan, apply and pay for college at www.KnowHow2GoLouisiana.org.

Accelerated Learning Options

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

High school juniors and seniors who participate in dual enrollment may earn college credits while in high school. Students must have the permission of their high school administrators and meet institutional admissions requirements at the postsecondary institution where they wish to enroll.

Early College Admissions

Louisiana high school students have the option of leaving high school early—typically after the junior year—and enrolling full time in college. Students who qualify for early admission must have a “B” average over three years and a score of 25 or higher on the ACT or the SAT equivalent. Early college students earn their high school diplomas by successfully completing their first 24 credit-hours at the college level.

Advanced Placement

The Louisiana Department of Education uses federal funds to reduce to exam cost for low-income students. Further, the department provides grants to schools that are implementing or expanding an Advanced Placement (AP) program. AP courses carry extra weight when determining the GPA for the Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship.

Career and Technical Education

The Louisiana Department of Education has developed a new career education initiative called Jump Start. After a transitional period, students may pursue industry credentials and technical diplomas that prepare them for immediate workforce entry upon college graduation. Schools will receive extra credit for students that pursue advanced credentials and technical diplomas.

Postsecondary Admissions and Placement

University Admissions

All Louisiana public four-year universities are grouped into three categories that share minimum standards for ACT scores and high school GPAs in the core curriculum. High school students must be ready for college-level English and mathematics work and meet one of the criteria for an institutional group in order to be admitted to that type of institution. Universities may make exceptions to their admission policies for 4 percent to 8 percent of the freshman class, depending on the institution type.

Institution Type High School Core 4 GPA ACT Score
Louisiana State University 3.0 25
Statewide Universities 2.5 23
Regional Universities 2.0 20
Core 4 Curriculum    
19 credits:
• Four units in each core subject area (16 units)
• Two units of foreign language
• One unit of fine arts

Community College Admissions

Community colleges require high school diplomas, GED credentials or scores on institutional tests that indicate students are able to benefit from instruction.

Statewide Placement

Students at all institutions must earn at least 18 on the English and 19 on the math sections of the ACT (or the equivalent on SAT, ASSET or Compass) for placement in entry-level courses.

Feedback Reports

The Louisiana Department of Education publishes data on the number and percentage of graduates who are attending college and the number who return after the first academic year. The department also publishes ACT scores by school and district.

State Financial Aid

The majority of state financial aid is allocated based on academic merit.

Louisiana’s Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) scholarship has four award categories. Specific requirements appear in the table below.

  Tech Award Opportunity Ward Performance Award Honors Award
Minimum GPA 2.5 3.0 3.0 3.0
Minimum ACT 17 State average, currently 20 23 27
Minimum Curriculum Career Diploma curriculum Core 4 Core 4 Core 4
Award Range Equal to tuition Equal to tuition Tuition, plus $400 per year Tuition, plus $800 per year
Continuing Eligibility Requirements 2.5 GPA at end of each spring semester 2.3 end of first spring semester and 2.5 thereafter 3.0 GPA at end of each spring semester 3.0 GPA at end of each spring semester

The Technical TOPS award requires students to complete the TOPS technical core curriculum in which students may take either career-major courses or a communications course in lieu of the Core 4 curriculum requirements for foreign language and fine arts.

Special Thanks

SREB would like to thank the staff at the following agencies for their assistance in carefully reviewing and confirming the accuracy of the policies and programs described in this document:

Louisiana Board of Regents
Louisiana Community and Technical College System


Louisiana Board of Regents
Louisiana Community and Technical College System
Louisiana Department of Education
Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance Louisiana State Legislature