Kentucky – High School to College & Careers


College and Career Readiness

In response to legislation passed in 2009, the Kentucky Department of Education created a plan for college/career readiness including more rigorous standards and assessment benchmarks. The Kentucky Performance Rating for Education Progress (K-PREP) assesses students from elementary to high school. A series of diagnostic assessments, using the ACT suite of assessments, are required for public school students ─ high school readiness in grade 8, college readiness in grade 10 and college admissions and placement in grade 11. In addition, ACT End-of-Course examinations are required in Biology, Algebra II, English II, and U.S. history. Students not meeting the standards are required to enroll in an intervention program in the senior year or between the junior and senior year. Students meeting college- and career- readiness standards in high school are deemed ready and do not have to undergo placement testing upon entering postsecondary education, and cannot be remediated.

College and Career Planning

High School Graduation Requirements 

Course and Diploma Requirements for Current Seniors

Students must complete at least 22 units to earn a regular high school diploma.  



Required Courses




English I


English III

English IV




Algebra I


Algebra II

An integrated, applied, interdisciplinary, occupational, or technical course that prepares a student for career paths based on their individual learning plan may be substituted on an individual student basis, if the course meets the content standards in the Kentucky core academic standards.



All three credits must be lab-based.


Social Studies








Physical Education




History and Appreciation of Visual and Performing Arts




Academic and Career Interest Standards-Based Learning Experiences


Four of the seven required credits must be academic or career-interest courses, as determined in the student’s individual learning plan.

Students must also demonstrate performance-based competency in technology.





Students not meeting the college readiness benchmarks for English and/ or Math must take the corresponding transitional course(s). 

Assessment Requirements

High school students take ACT Quality Core end-of-course tests in English II, Algebra II, Biology, and U.S. History. The Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-Prep) exams are given to tenth and eleventh graders. Eleventh graders also participate in the ACT. Twelfth grade student who do not meet ACT benchmarks must take the Kentucky Online Testing (KYOTE) in designated subjects. Students enrolled in CTE courses may take the Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment (KOSSA) after completing two credits as well as the ACT WorkKeys upon enrolling in a third CTE credit in an approved career pathway.

Accelerated Learning Options

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

Dual credit allows students to take a college-level course and earn high school and college credit concurrently. Public colleges and universities partner with a district to provide dual credit opportunities. The location (i.e., at high school, on college campus, or online) and cost varies based on the district-institution agreement. 

Dual enrollment allows students to earn college credit at a postsecondary institution.   Although most Kentucky high school students pursue dual credit/dual enrollment options through open enrollment in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), students also may pursue college credit online through the Kentucky Virtual University or in the classroom through state and private universities, if they fulfill institutional admissions requirements.

Early High School Graduation

Students may pursue an early graduation path through which they may qualify to receive a diploma and be eligible for acceptance into any SACS accredited two- or four-year public or private, nonprofit college in Kentucky. To qualify, the student must (1) document their intent to graduate early; (2) score proficient on the four end-of-course exams required by the state board of education; and, (3) meet the state’s college readiness benchmarks. An early graduation certificate provides some financial support for students to attend college immediately after early graduation.

Advanced Placement

Articulated credit is awarded to new college freshmen, usually for successfully taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate (AP or IB) classes while in high school and earning a specified score on the related exam.

Kentucky leverages federal funds to lower exam fees for low-income students. Students scoring 3 or higher on an AP exam are awarded credit toward degree and credentials at all of Kentucky’s public postsecondary institutions.

Performance-Based Credit

The Kentucky State Board of Education authorizes districts to award performance-based credits, as long as the experiences for which credits are awarded align with the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. Examples include senior year or capstone projects and work-based learning (internships, apprenticeships, cooperative learning experiences, and credit recovery).

Career and Technical Education

Kentucky has adopted the National Career Clusters Framework. The department of education administers the ACT WorkKeys to measure students’ academic readiness for careers. State law allows for the substitution of career-technical courses for specific graduation course requirements.

Postsecondary Admissions 

Four-Year Institutions

First-time freshmen must show that they have completed the Pre-College Curriculum and have taken the ACT assessment. Out-of-state students should complete a college-preparatory curriculum comparable to Kentucky’s Pre-College Curriculum.

In addition to the Kentucky minimum high school diploma requirements, the Pre-College Curriculum requires two consecutive years of a world language or demonstrated proficiency. State policy authorizes institutions to substitute the SAT for the ACT Assessment and to set additional admission criteria.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Applicants must possess a standard high school diploma or GED credential, or be eligible to pursue a GED credential.

Postsecondary Placement


The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education adopted College Readiness Indicators after the passage of Senate Bill 1 (2009). The Council revised the readiness benchmarks for the 2017-18 academic year. Beginning fall 2016, students who have been admitted to a public postsecondary institution and meet or exceed one of these benchmarks are automatically eligible to begin college-level work. The table below summarizes the minimum qualifying scores for eligibility to enroll in credit-bearing college courses.

Kentucky’s Minimum College Readiness Benchmarks

Readiness Area






English 18 430 or 25 6 165 74
Reading 20 470 or 25 20 165 85
Math 19 460 22 165 36

Postsecondary to High School Feedback Reports

The Kentucky High School Feedback Report provides high schools with the following information:

  • Postsecondary enrollment rates
  • Developmental education rates
  • Number of freshman year courses attempted and earned
  • Comparison of high school and college GPAs
  • Freshman retention rates

State Need- and Merit-Based Aid

The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority administers the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), which provides financial support for state residents based on their academic performance throughout high school.

The value of the award increases for each year of high school in which a student maintains a 2.5 or higher GPA in the Pre-College Curriculum. Students may earn additional increases based on their ACT or SAT composite scores. Students who were eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at any time during high school may earn additional supplements based on their performance on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams.

Students receive a scholarship equivalent to the total accumulated amount each year that they are enrolled in Kentucky postsecondary institutions, as long as they meet GPA requirements. To maintain the scholarship unconditionally, a student must earn a 3.0 GPA for each year in college. Students can receive half of the award amount if they fall below the 3.0 GPA threshold but maintain at least a 2.5 GPA. Students may regain the scholarship if they meet renewal criteria by the end of the spring semester.

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:

Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
Kentucky Department of Education


Kentucky Community and Technical College System
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
Kentucky Department of Education
Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority Kentucky Legislature