I'm applying to a online Bachelor of arts degree at a very well established university in the United States.

However, I'm almost through the application process and at no point did they require an actual print of my high school diploma. They simply asked me to sign (digitally through docusign.net) that I have completed high school. I've been corresponding with an agent of theirs and according to him they are just reviewing what I've sent them (which does not include a diploma) and after that I can enroll.

I do have a high school diploma but how come they don't require proof of this?

EDIT: Continued story:

I recently got accepted into a university and they had me attest to having a high school diploma, which I did. After being accepted without needing to provide any proof of having said diploma, I naturally asked why they didn't ask me to provide proof of graduation.

They replied: "We randomly select 1 out of every 20 students to provide further documentation. You would’ve been selected at this point so it looks like you were not chosen."

Is this normal in the United States? Where I'm from (Iceland) this just sounds plain weird...That potentially 95% of students can get in without a diploma at all?

  • 1
    I suspect the point of traditional (i.e. brick and mortar) colleges demanding to see proof of high school graduation or equivalent is to insure that they don't waste time and class-space (i.e. money) on a student who won't fit in and won't graduate. A misfit student will impose lower (though not zero) costs on a on-line program. Maybe they just don't consider the cost of a more careful check worth their time at this point? Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 0:25
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    Why would they? One of my undergraduate classmates was expelled from high school a month before graduation. When he contacted the university admissions office for advice, they asked "Did you get an admission letter?" When he said yes, they said "Well, then you've been admitted. See you in August!" and hung up.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 2:08
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    For the traditional admissions process, most high school students apply to university before they finish. It is in fact not feasible to require that they submit their high school diplomas, as most applicants will only earn said diplomas a few months into the future. (Note that the United States is not unique in that regard: in Britain the admission process will often ask the "high school" for predicted/expected grades on the standardized exams; though the British practice of extending "conditional" offers doesn't seem popular in the US.) Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 7:55
  • It does not sound normal, but it could be legitimate. what school is this for?
    – user22224
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 23:38
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    Most US universities will ask for a transcript from high school to be sent to the university upon graduation (as a condition for acceptance). Most HS students who apply to a university do not yet have a HS diploma because the application process happens in the fall of the last year of HS. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 22:59

3 Answers 3


This is not normal in the US -- but that doesn't mean it's an illegitimate process. Private institutions can select applications using whatever criteria they deem appropriate; so while it sounds a bit questionable to me, it's perfectly within reason.

It is also perfectly valid to admit students without a high school degree; it happens to be uncommon, but depending on the subject matter of the BA, it may not be (at least in the university's eyes) a strict necessity, provided your other credentials are sound.


Contrary to popular belief, in the United States a high school diploma is not required to enrol in a bachelor's degree. Indeed, there are no universal requirements at all. Each university is allowed to set its own admission standards, which might make a high school diploma manditory.

Personally, I obtained a bachelor's degree and a PhD without completing a high school diploma. At Simon's Rock College, nearly all the students are completing bachelor's degrees without completing high school. The practice of blurring the boundaries between high school and college is a trend right now.


From a technical standpoint proof is really hard. Anyone can print up a fancy looking diploma on nice paper, so a diploma is not really proof. Similarly a dishonest student could produce fraudulent letters of reference.

Even if the university independently found the contact information for the school, got in touch with someone who could verify if someone was a student they would not be done yet. The university would then need to verify the student was in fact who they said they were. While forging government documents (e.g., a passport) is more extreme than forging a diploma, if the verification of the diploma was only done on the basis of a name, then a dishonest student only needs to find someone who had the same name as them and graduated about the same time as them.

  • I'm not sure your second paragraph represents a real risk to the school, as the dishonest student would never receive any credit, as it would all be listed under the other name.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 20:41

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