Postsecondary Options for Students Earning an Applied Studies Diploma

The Applied Studies Diploma is a recognized diploma by the Virginia Department of Education. Students who earn an Applied Studies Diploma are able to pursue multiple postsecondary options.

The Applied Studies Diploma is a diploma available to students who:

  • Complete the requirements of their individualized education programs (IEPs).
  • Meet certain requirements allowed by the Board of Education, but do not meet the requirements for another diploma.

Students who earn an Applied Studies Diploma can choose from the options below.

Continuing Education

Secondary Education Criteria

If you:

  • Live in Fairfax County.
  • Have an IEP.
  • Have not graduated with a Standard Diploma or Advanced Diploma
  • Are not 22 years of age (on or before September 30 of the school year).

then you may continue your education in your local school or the following programs for free:

Contact the Special Education Department Chair or the Employment and Transition Representative (ETR) at your school for more information.

Post-Secondary Education

You can attend Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and other community colleges with or without a high school diploma. You may not qualify for financial aid with an Applied Studies Diploma. Contact the college for more information about financial aid.

There is an entrance exam you must take before signing up for classes. If your score requires you to take a developmental (remedial) English (ENF) and Math (MTT) course, there is another “placement” type of assessment on the first day of the course. If you do better on this assessment, the instructor will help you register for another level of the course. Sometimes placement tests may be waived. The admissions office can provide more information.

If you are taking classes at the Annandale or Loudoun campuses, College STEPS has customized support for students with learning and social challenges. 

Certificate or Alternative Programs

Adult and Community Education (ACE)

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • You do not need a high school diploma.
  • You must be able to read and write in English.
  • ACE allows reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Class content and class pace cannot be changed for students due to state exams given at the end of some courses.


An apprenticeship is a training program that combines on-the-job training with related instruction through ACE.

Job Corps

  • Has hands-on career training and education to prepare young adults (ages 16-24) for a good job.
  • Has a diverse student population and welcomes all young people who qualify.
  • Offers free training and education to income-eligible young people.
  • Is a U.S. Department of Labor program.

Wilson Workforce Rehabilitative Center (WWRC)

The Wilson Workforce Rehabilitative Center (WWRC) provides training, education and other supports that end in industry-recognized credentials and competitive employment outcomes.

LIFE (Learning Into Future Environments)

George Mason's LIFE Program is a supportive academic university experience. They offer a four-year curriculum to students, 18-23 years of age, with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are eligible for Pell Grants through FAFSA.


The Virginia Commonwealth University ACE IT program is for students who have an intellectual disability. It offers students the social experience of college and prepares them for competitive employment. Students earn approximately 21 credits while living on campus.

More noncredit programs are on the Think College website.


When asked on a job application or by an employer if you have graduated from high school, the response is yes.

Competitive Employment

Supported Employment

Adults with more significant disabilities may benefit from job coaching.

  • The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board provides services for people of all ages who have mental illness, substance use disorders and/or developmental disabilities.
  • Specially Adapted Resource Clubs (SPARC) Solutions has adapted resource clubs where participants complete projects and guided lessons for life skills.
  • Autism Bridge to Learn and Empower (ABLE) provides employment services to adults with autism spectrum disorder, with an emphasis on transitioning youth. Call 703-461-6000

The Employment and Transition Representative in each high school can provide information and guidance for all of the programs and supports listed above. Please contact them with any questions.