South Carolina Readiness Policies


South Carolina
High School and Postsecondary Alignment

SREB’s Challenge to Lead 2020 goals call for states to align middle grades and high school policies with college-readiness standards, to recognize multiple paths to graduation and to provide students with diverse postsecondary options and resources. The following tabs summarize how South Carolina aligns its policies to promote smooth transitions for students through high school and beyond.  


South Carolina
College and Career Readiness Definitions

South Carolina has not adopted a statewide definition for college and career readiness but has developed a Profile of the SC Graduate. According to the description, South Carolina graduates demonstrate “world class knowledge (rigorous standards in language arts and math for career and college readiness, multiple languages, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), arts and social sciences); world class skills (creativity and innovation; critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration and teamwork; communication, information, media and technology; knowing how to learn); and life and career characteristics (integrity, self-direction, global perspective, perseverance, work ethic, and interpersonal skills).”


South Carolina
College and Career Planning in K-12

State law requires school counselors to ensure that, beginning in the sixth grade, all middle grades students have numerous opportunities to explore career options and complete career interest assessments prior to developing their Individual Graduation Plans, with assistance from their parents or guardians and school counselors.

By the end of eighth grade, students identify one or more of the 16 career clusters in their graduation plans. Students may change their choices of clusters at any time.

In high school, 10th grade students are required to narrow their focus areas by selecting academic majors within their chosen cluster(s). The selection of a major is also documented in the graduation plan to guide students in the selection of elective courses as they form their college and career aspirations beyond graduation.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education administers a statewide, federally funded GEAR UP program. The objectives of GEAR UP are to increase high school students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education. Students in the program receive:

  1. Tutoring and mentorship
  2. Introduction to institutions of higher education through trips and school-based sessions
  3. Informational sessions regarding financial aid for postsecondary education

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education also offers SC CAN, a statewide portal that provides access to online resources for South Carolina students, families, and educational professionals. Visitors can access information through social media, watch videos, view pictures, download resources, receive news and program updates, read student blogs, submit success stories, and view an interactive calendar of events.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education awards funding to the Center of Excellence for College and Career Readiness at Francis Marion University. This center partners with school districts, technical colleges, economic development centers, and four-year colleges and universities to prepare students for postsecondary success. The center provides resources, programs, and support for existing and new P-20 initiatives and stakeholders, including administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and students. Further, the center conducts research to further an understanding of how best to prepare South Carolina’s students for the challenges they face beyond high school.

Using the South Carolina Transfer and Articulation Center, students can better plan their progression to a degree by identifying and taking courses that will transfer toward a degree program at a public institution. Using SC TRAC, students can easily locate information related to transfer and access transfer agreements, search for course equivalencies to determine how courses taken at one institution transfer to another and find detailed and up-to-date information on degree pathways


South Carolina
High School Graduation Requirements

Course and Diploma Requirements for Students Entering the Ninth Grade in 2020 and Beyond

Students must complete at least 24 units to earn a standard high school diploma. Students must receive instruction in financial literacy, must complete a CPR course, including instruction on the use of AED machines, and must be enrolled for a minimum of one semester immediately preceding graduation.




Notes and Substitutions



English I, II, III and IV or their course equivalents 

AP, IB or dual enrollment English courses or Advanced Composition



First math or Algebra I

Three additional math courses       

AP, IB or dual enrollment math courses




Two additional  science courses 

AP, IB or dual enrollment sciences courses

Social Studies


U.S. History and Constitution

1/2 credit Economics

1/2 credit U.S. Government

One additional social studies course

AP, IB or dual enrollment social studies courses

Computer Science



Physical Education


Junior ROTC

Course must include personal fitness, wellness and lifetime fitness components 

Foreign Language or Career Technology


An American Sign Language course may substitute for the foreign language credit.




Total Credits


*AP means Advanced Placement courses; IB means International Baccalaureate courses; CTE means Career and Technical course.

Diploma Endorsements

Students may earn one or more endorsements – or Seals of Distinctionin pathways approved by the state board of education, and school districts may apply to have additional endorsements approved. To do so, students must meet all the requirements for earning a South Carolina high school diploma and must take English I, II, III and IV or their approved equivalents or higher-level courses. Students must meet the following requirements for each Seal of Distinction:

Honors Seal of Distinction

  • Take at least two English courses at the honors level or higher.
  • Complete at least two from Algebra I and II or Geometry at the honors level or higher and a fourth honors course with either Algebra II as a prerequisite.
  • Complete at least two science courses at the honors level or higher. Students must take biology and chemistry and an additional course that has these as prerequisites.
  • Complete two levels of social studies at the honors level or higher.
  • Earn credits in at least three world language courses in the same language other than English.
  • Take at least four higher-level courses in the junior and/or senior years.
  • Earn a GPA of 3.5 or higher on the State Uniform Grading Scale.

College Ready Seal of Distinction

  • Complete the English sequence for the regular high school diploma.
  • Complete Algebra I and II, Geometry and a fourth, higher math course.
  • Complete three units of lab sciences including biology, chemistry and a third higher science course.
  • Complete three units of social studies, including U.S. History and Government/Economics.
  • Complete at least two world languages other than English.
  • Complete at least one fine arts course.
  • Earn a GPA of at least 3.0 and either an ACT composite score of at least 20 or an SAT combined score of at least 1020.

Career Seal of Distinction

  • Complete four English courses aligned to postsecondary goals.
  • Complete Algebra I and II, Geometry and a fourth, higher math course aligned to postsecondary career goals.
  • Complete three units of science, including biology and two other applied science courses that tie to postsecondary career goals.
  • Complete four aligned courses within the major career clusters designated by the district.
  • Earn at least one industry-recognized credential, a Career Readiness Certificate at the Silver or higher level, or a semester-long work-based learning placement credit.
  • Earn a GPA of at least 2.5 on the State Uniform Grading Scale.

Specialization Seals of Distinction

  • Complete the requirements for the standard diploma.
  • Earn a GPA of at least 3.0 on the State Uniform Grading Scale.
  • STEM Specialization: Complete four elective courses in one area of STEM or across four areas of STEM that go beyond those required for the standard diploma, including at least two courses at the honors level or higher.
  • Military Specialization: Complete four courses in JROTC and a score of 31 or higher on the ASVAB assessment.
  • Arts Specialization: Complete four elective courses in areas of the arts, including two courses at the honor or AP/IB levels. Demonstrate mastery on a performance task including earning a score of 3 on an AP exam or a 4 on an IB exam.
  • World Language: Complete a four-course concentration in a language other than English and/or demonstrate proficiency at the “Intermediate Low” or higher level on the American Council for Teaching of Foreign Language or by earning benchmark scores on designated exams. English Learners may complete the same requirement, showing proficiency in English with a level 5 composite score or higher on the ACCESS language proficiency test.

Assessment Requirements

South Carolina administers the End-of-Course Examination Program assessments in four gateway subjects: English/Language Arts, mathematics, science and social studies. Gateway courses include Algebra 1, Intermediate Algebra, Biology 1, English I and II, United States History and the Constitution, and other approved courses with corresponding academic standards. End-of-course assessments count as 20% of final course grades. Students must pass Biology I and U.S. History and Constitution courses to graduate high school.

Tenth grade students must be offered one or more of the following: the PSAT, the PreACT and ACT Aspire. Students in their junior year are required to take the Ready to Work and Essential Soft Skills assessments that measure career readiness and skills development. If necessary, students may retake one or more portions of the Career Readiness Assessments in grade 12. Students in grade 11 must also be offered the opportunity to take the ACT or SAT at no cost. The writing portion of the ACT is not optional.


South Carolina
Accelerated Learning Options in High School

Competency-Based Credit

South Carolina allows Competency-Based Education — sometimes called Mastery-Based or Proficiency-Based Learning — in which students pursue personalized, flexible pathways and mark their progress through performance or application of a designated competency, often measured through assessments and personalized learning experiences. Districts are accountable for ensuring that students meet academic standards in proficiency-based courses, and may offer one-quarter, one-half or full-credit courses.

Career and Technical Education

South Carolina has adopted the National Career Clusters Framework and offers over 300 courses across the 16 clusters. Career and Technical Education courses may be included in dual enrollment agreements. Applicable dual enrollment CATE courses may be taken at both high school and college campuses and may award credit at both levels. Three-semester college courses count as one high school course and must be included in postsecondary programs at accredited institutions, be part of a state-recognized CATE program, and be approved by the Office of Career and Technical Education.

Dual Enrollment and Dual Credit

Juniors and seniors in high school who have nearly mastered the complete high school curriculum are eligible to participate in dual enrollment and to enroll in a postsecondary institution and take college-level courses. Principals must recommend dual enrollment students before they become eligible for dual credit opportunities.

To enroll in courses at four-year institutions and two-year regional campuses of the University of South Carolina System, students must have GPAs of 3.0 or higher. To enroll in courses at technical colleges, students must meet the requirements set by the specific institution. District school boards may establish policies allowing students to take college courses. These policies may allow for cooperative agreements with one or more postsecondary institutions. The tuition and fees are the responsibility of the student unless otherwise stipulated by local school districts.

Dual Credit may be awarded at the discretion of the district boards of trustees. Policies may allow courses that are applicable to baccalaureate or associate degrees to be offered by a postsecondary institution through cooperative agreements. Three-semester-hour college courses transfer as one unit of credit in such cases, and tuition costs and other fees are the responsibility of the student unless otherwise specified in the local district policy.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate

The South Carolina Department of Education funds and coordinates training courses for aspiring AP teachers. South Carolina also offers three International Baccalaureate Programs to high school students: The IB Middle Years Program (to the age of 16) and the IB Diploma Programme and IB Career-related Programme (for students age 16-19).

South Carolina has existing policies regarding credit acceptance for postsecondary institutions. In most cases, students scoring a 3 or better on AP exams and a 4 or better on IB exams should receive college-level credit in the comparable postsecondary courses.

Early College High Schools

South Carolina has several early college high schools located throughout the state which allow students to earn credits toward a postsecondary degree or credential while completing a high school diploma. Students, often in their junior and senior years, can earn up to two years of college credit, usually in courses taken on the participating college campus.

Early High School Graduation

The Commission on Higher Education directs districts to develop early graduation applications that outline the implications for State scholarships and establish district-wide deadlines for students to apply for early graduation. School or district-level administrators must certify that students have met the requirements to graduate early before students are allowed to apply. 


South Carolina
Postsecondary Admission Requirements

Four-Year Institutions

The governing boards of four-year colleges and universities establish admissions standards. However, state law requires that the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education review minimum undergraduate admissions standards for in-state and out-of-state students. The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education sets a minimum high school curriculum for four-year public college admission.

Minimum Pre-College Curriculum Requirements



Course Requirements






Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II and a fourth unit (e.g., trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, discrete math or a senior-year capstone course

Lab Science


Two units selected from biology, chemistry, physics or earth science

Social Studies


One unit of American history

Half units of economics and government required.

World history or geography strongly recommended

Foreign Language


Two units in same language

Fine Arts



Physical Education or ROTC





Computer science strongly recommended but not required




Each institution can make exceptions in admitting students who do not meet these prerequisites, limited to individual cases in which failure to meet one or more prerequisites is due to circumstances beyond the students’ reasonable control.

Two-Year and/or Technical Colleges

Students designated as baccalaureate-ready must meet the same admissions requirements set for students who apply to the system’s flagship. Regional campuses designate applicants who do not meet system standards as provisional admits. Provisional enrollees undergo placement testing in English and math to determine readiness for college-level courses. Failure to reach readiness benchmarks results in students’ placement in co-requisite courses.

While technically allowed by commission rules, the University of South Carolina System’s Board of Trustees prohibits the delivery of standalone remediation at regional campuses.

Technical colleges operate as open-admissions campuses. The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education requires applicants to be 18 years old. Younger applicants must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent.

While board rules do not require adult applicants to hold a high school diploma, some institutions require them for enrollment in a degree or certificate program.


South Carolina
Postsecondary Placement Policies

The University of South Carolina System

State policy prohibits the delivery of remedial and developmental education courses at four-year institutions.

While technically allowed by state law, system policy also prohibits these courses from being offered at the board’s three two-year colleges. These institutions provide enriched sections of entry-level courses. Institutions may require students to complete testing by subject (e.g., math and foreign language) to determine course placement.

Technical College System

Technical college students may present qualifying SAT or ACT scores or participate in placement testing. Students must take institutionally determined placement tests in reading, writing and math. Institutions place students who do not meet placement benchmarks in developmental education courses.


South Carolina
State Financial Aid for Undergraduates

Merit-Based Aid

The state funds five financial aid programs. The three largest programs provide merit-based aid. Students may accept only one of the merit-based scholarships, even if they meet eligibility requirements for multiple awards.

Students may qualify for the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship by meeting one of the following set of criteria: (1) 1200 SAT or 27 ACT, 3.5 grade-point average and Top 6% Class Rank or (2) 1400 SAT or 32 ACT and 4.0 GPA. Freshmen may receive annual awards up to $6,700. In future years, college students may receive annual awards up to $7,500 if they maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA. Students graduating in the Class of 2021 and beyond who meet the eligibility criteria may also use a Palmetto Fellows Scholarship at a two-year institution or technical college.

Students may qualify for the Legislative Incentive for Future Excellence or LIFE Scholarship by meeting two of these three criteria: (1) 1100 SAT or 24 ACT, (2) 3.0 GPA (3) and Top 30% Class Rank. Students may receive a maximum award of $4,700 award and a $300 book stipend if they maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA and meet credit completion requirements. Beginning in the Fall 2021 term, students who are enrolled in identified associates degree programs that exceed 68 credit hours to completion, at eligible institutions, may receive a LIFE Scholarship for up to six consecutive terms.

Students who do not qualify for the Palmetto or LIFE Scholarships may receive the South Carolina HOPE Scholarship with a high school GPA of 3.0.

The state’s Uniform Grading Policy calculates high school GPA based on a 0.0 to 6.0-point scale.

Palmetto Fellows and LIFE Scholars must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and earn at least 30 credit hours at the end of each academic year to remain eligible. Palmetto Fellows and LIFE Scholars may receive an additional $2,500 enhancement in their second, third or fourth year if they enroll in certain math and science majors (computer science, engineering, nursing, pharmacy). Freshmen must complete at least fourteen credits in math and science subjects to receive the enhancement. 

The HOPE Scholarship is a freshmen-only award. Recipients may qualify to receive the LIFE scholarship in subsequent years if they maintain a 3.0 college GPA. Students may receive a maximum award of $2,800.

Need-Based Aid

The South Carolina Need-Based Grant program provides annual awards up to $2,500 for full-time students (or $1,250 for part-time students) with demonstrated financial need. Students remain eligible if they maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA at the end of each academic year.


The Lottery Tuition Assistance Program provides supplemental aid for students enrolled at the University of South Carolina’s two-year campuses and Spartanburg Methodist College. The maximum annual award is $1,140 per term for full-time students or $95 per credit hour for part-time students. The program does not award grants based on merit or need. Institutions must apply all federal grants and the South Carolina Need-Based Grant before awarding financial aid from this program.

The SC WINS Scholarship is a statewide technical college scholarship program designed to address workforce shortages in South Carolina. The Scholarship supplements Lottery Tuition Assistance program funding to help cover any tuition and mandatory fees left after applying all other scholarships or grants. Students must be receiving a LTAP scholarship and meet the USAD income eligibility guidelines for free and reduced-price meals and must be majoring in a critical workforce area as defined by the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education


South Carolina
Postsecondary Feedback to High Schools

The South Carolina Department of Education compiles the College Freshman Report on the number and percentage of South Carolina high school graduates who attend college. The report indicates the number of college courses that students passed or failed by the subject area. The summary also includes a percentage breakdown by high school of the postsecondary activities of high school graduates, including college enrollment, gainful employment and military enlistment.

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education compiles an annual report on the admission standards for first-time entering freshmen. The report includes data on applications, acceptances and enrollment and specifies the minimum SAT score required of most applicants for admission.