A guide for getting to graduation


Photo courtesy of Jensen Kugler

The Advanced Diploma and Standard Diploma only have a difference of four course credits. Students targeting an Advanced Diploma earn these extra credits through another Math class, Science class, Social Studies class, and at least three years of a Foreign Language class. The right diploma for any given student is dependent on that student’s interests and career goals, so neither is the right choice for everyone. When choosing to aim for a diploma type, students should consider their high school experience as a whole and think about how their classes can benefit them in the future.

FCPS students need 22 course credits to graduate with a Standard Diploma and 26 credits to graduate with an Advanced Diploma. Despite a wide array of courses to choose from, Spartans are prescribed a traditional, linear, and outdated path to graduation. 

“Although I didn’t take any classes I didn’t want to, there were several instances when my counselor tried to persuade me into taking classes that I didn’t need [to take to graduate], such [as] Physics or German 4,” said senior Tiffany Liu.

To find the graduation requirements for their chosen diploma, students should check the WS website, and they can find next year’s course offerings on the most recent Academic Advising website. The Academic Advising website can also help students understand differences between course levels, such as Honors and Dual Enrollment. 

Each graduation requirement has different guidelines depending on the subject. 

In order to earn their Science credits for a Standard Diploma, students must take three Science courses across two or more disciplines. For an Advanced Diploma, Spartans must take four Science classes across three or more disciplines. Contrary to popular belief, these courses do not have to be Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Outside of those traditional courses, WS offers classes like Geosystems, which combines geology, astronomy, and earth science. 

“I really liked Geosystems because it was a good blend of projects and lessons,” said Liu. “Mr. Lynn is also one of the nicest teachers, and his passion for the subject helped make the lessons interesting.” 

Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus, and Calculus make up a typical pathway to earning Math credits, but students can bypass one or more of these subjects. Lesser-known courses, like Computer Science and Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics, can fill in the required Math credits for graduation.

“[AP Statistics] gives you the [tools] to answer questions. And that can be, like, any kind of question you want, like, ‘how tall is an average woman?’ or ‘how likely are the Mets to win the World Series this year?’” said AP Statistics teacher Jordan Moellendick. “It’s not math for the sake of more math; it’s tools you can actually use in just about every area of your life.” 

English and Social Studies requirements are less flexible than Math and Science. Regardless of diploma, all students must take four English courses. Students need to take three Social Studies classes for a Standard Diploma and four for an Advanced Diploma. Social Studies credits must be earned across three disciplines: U.S. and V.A. History, World History, and Virginia Government. The only class that Spartans can leave off their schedule if they do not want to take a Social Studies course each year is World History 2 and its variations. 

However Spartans feel about their high school experience when it comes to a close, these years will inform their lives going forward, so course selections are important choices. 

“When students are coming in, and they’re looking at high school, I think [they] also need to have a little bit of [their] eye on after high school,” said counselor Sheryl Arenholz. “So I think for students that don’t know [what their future plans will be], it’s okay not to know. But be careful and mindful when you’re making decisions in your classes so you don’t shut a door too early, because you’re going to continue to grow and figure it out.”