STEM Honors Diploma

High school students can gain state recognition for exceeding Ohio’s graduation requirements through a STEM Honors Diploma. High-level coursework, college and career readiness tests and real-world experiences challenge students. 

Students must meet all but one of the following criteria, unless it is a minimum graduation requirement, which are here for the class of 2017 and here for the classes of 2018 and beyond. Students must meet general graduation requirements to qualify for honors diplomas.

STEM Honors Diploma

Requirements State Minimum
Math 5 units
Science 5 units, including 2 units of advanced science
Social Studies 3 units
World Languages 3 units of one world language, or no less than 2 units of each of two world languages studied
Fine Arts 1 unit
Electives 2 units with a focus in STEM
GPA 3.5 on a 4.0 scale
ACT/SAT ACT: 27 or higher/SAT: 1280 or higher
Field Experience Complete a field experience and document the experience in a portfolio specific to the student’s area of focus
Portfolio Develop a comprehensive portfolio of work based on the student’s field experience or a topic that is related to the student’s area of focus


To be eligible, students must complete units, or credits, in specific subjects (see above chart). They can use Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, College Credit Plus and Credit Flexibility coursework to meet the unit requirements of an honors diploma. A single course can meet multiple criteria if it fits under multiple subject areas.

Students also can design their own independent study courses. This requires that someone with proper licensure in the subject area must teach or co-teach the courses used for an honors diploma.

Math – Students must take algebra I, geometry, algebra II (or equivalent), and one other higher level course OR a four-course sequence that contains equivalent or higher content. Students can meet the math criterion for the STEM Honors Diploma through successful completion of coursework that contains content equivalent to five units. 

Science – Advanced science refers to courses that are inquiry based with laboratory experiences. They must align with the grades 11/12 standards (or above) or with an Advanced Placement science course or entry-level college course (clearly preparing students for a college freshman-level science class, such as anatomy, botany or astronomy). Students can meet the science criterion for the STEM Honors Diploma through successful completion of coursework that contains content equivalent to five units, with two of the five units being in advanced science.

Social Studies – Students may get credit for both an American history course and/or the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate American history course (same for government and world history). If a district counts financial literacy as a social studies course, students can use it as an elective to meet the requirement. If the district counts financial literacy as a family consumer science or business education elective, it does not count.

World Language – Only credits from courses that are sequential and proficiency based (e.g., Spanish levels I, II, III or German I and II and French I and II) fulfill the honors diploma requirement. Sequential classical (e.g., Latin, Ancient Greek) and visual (e.g., American Sign Language) languages DO fulfill the honors diploma requirement. No units from language courses coded as “Foreign Language Exploratory” can count toward the honors diploma requirement. No units from culture-based courses can count toward the honors diploma requirements.

If a student opts to complete this criterion by taking two units each of two world languages studied, a student must complete a total of four world language units. This means two sequential, proficiency-based units in two different languages.

Electives – Courses labeled as STEM must include opportunities for project- and problem-based learning through the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. If used for mathematics credit, a single computer programming course may simultaneously fulfill the requirements for the fifth mathematics credit and a STEM elective. Use of one course to meet two criteria also may occur for STEM courses that align with science.

GPA – GPAs must be calculated on an unweighted 4.0 scale.

Fine Arts – Courses taken in middle school may meet the general graduation requirement of two semesters of fine arts, but a course must count for high school credit (be high school level work or above) to count for the honors diploma. Dance, drama/theatre, music and visual art courses all count as fine arts courses.

ACT and SAT score requirements – Students must have scores of 27 or higher on the ACT or 1280 or higher on the 2016 SAT or their equivalents on previous or future versions of the tests. The score for SAT was updated due to the new SAT exam. For students who took the SAT before March 1, 2016, concordance tables can be found here, and further information can be found on the College Board’s website. The ACT writing and SAT essay sections are not included

Field Experience - To fulfill the field experience criterion, a student must complete a learning experience that is pertinent to his or her honors diploma area of focus. Experiential learning is focused on the application of academic and technical skills within a student’s program of study. Experiential learning includes lab-based activities, co-ops, simulated workplace, mentorships, internships, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships. Lab-based experiential learning should simulate real-work worksites and expectations. Students should receive regular supervision and follow-up that is documented. Click here for more detailed guidance on field experience.

Portfolio - Work that is contained in a portfolio documents the student’s extensive knowledge and technical, critical-thinking and creative skills (representative of the student’s honors diploma area of focus) that the student has learned. Students must get their portfolios reviewed and validated by external experts. Click here for more detailed guidance on the portfolio criterion.

Last Modified: 9/30/2022 6:21:24 AM