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High School Graduation vs College Readiness Requirements

Despite what students and their families may assume, high school graduation does not equate to college readiness. In fact, a diploma does not necessarily make a student even eligible to apply to a CSU or UC.

The California Education Code (EC 51225.3) establishes a minimum set of requirements for graduation from California high schools (see table below). The requirements should be viewed as minimums and support regulations established by local governing boards.

State Mandated Requirements for High School Graduation

High School Subject Area
State Mandated Requirement for High School Graduation
English
Three (3) Years.
Mathematics
Two (2) years, including Algebra I, beginning in 2003–04. (EC 51224.5)
Social Studies/Science
Three (3) years of history/social studies, including one year of U.S. history and geography; one year of world history, culture, and geography; one semester of American government and civics, and one semester of economics.
Science
Two (2) years, including biological and physical sciences.
Foreign Language
One (1) year of either visual and performing arts, foreign language, or career technical education.
Visual and Performing Arts
One (1) year of either visual and performing arts, foreign language, or career technical education.
Physical Education
Two (2) years.
Electives
Not Applicable.

State Mandated Requirements for High School Graduation

High School Subject Area
State Mandated Requirement for High School Graduation
English
Three (3) Years.
Mathematics
Two (2) years, including Algebra I, beginning in 2003–04. (EC 51224.5)
Social Studies/Science
Three (3) years of history/social studies, including one year of U.S. history and geography; one year of world history, culture, and geography; one semester of American government and civics, and one semester of economics.
Science
Two (2) years, including biological and physical sciences.
Foreign Language
One (1) year of either visual and performing arts, foreign language, or career technical education.
Visual and Performing Arts
One (1) year of either visual and performing arts, foreign language, or career technical education.
Physical Education
Two (2) years.
Electives
Not Applicable.

In contrast, California’s definition of College/Career Readiness is a much more robust with students falling into one of three categories: (1) Prepared, (2) Approaching Prepared, or (3) Not Prepared. The California Department of Education’s description of the College/Career Readiness (CCR) indicator is provided to the right for viewing or download. One important note is that the High School Graduation Requirements are not included in the CCR. The reason for this is that the CCR takes the high school graduation requirements further to include additional coursework needed in order to make students eligible to attend a CSU or UC. 

The University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU) systems have established a uniform minimum set of courses required for admission as a freshman. The UC maintains public “a-g” course lists External link opens in new window or tab. that provide complete information about the high school courses approved for admission to the university. In addition to the required courses, California public universities have other requirements External link opens in new window or tab. for admission as a freshman.

One inconsistency that may pose confusion for students is that scoring a Level 3 on the CAASPP/EAP in both English and Mathematics equates to “Prepared” on the CCR but the CSU requires a Level 4 or a Level 3 plus extra college-preparatory coursework. If a student scores Level 3 in both English and Math but does not satisfy the extra requirement for the CSU, the student may need to enroll in additional support courses and/or enroll in Early Start in the summer before beginning college.

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