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What is the Difference Between History and Social Studies?

February 17, 2016

what is the difference between history and social studies

What is the Difference Between History and Social Studies?

Social studies” and “history” may be interchangeable terms for some colleges. You may have noticed that some college websites require four years of social studies while others require history. What is the difference between history and social studies?

When colleges request four years of social studies or four years of history, they both probably mean the same thing. Social studies (also called social sciences), is actually a broader term having to do with human social interaction. It can include history, government, economics, psychology, sociology, and probably some other “ologies” that I can’t think of right now.

Geography can consist of either political geography (a social science) or physical geography (which could also be a science – not to confuse you or anything).

Many colleges specify what KIND of social studies they want to see. Often they require American history, American government, economics, and world history. You don’t have to stick with just these four though. You can branch out and have your child study even MORE social sciences if you want to. We did in our homeschool because my kids loved social studies!

What social studies are you covering in your homeschool? Please share in the comments!


Please note: This post was first published in June 2009 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


  1. Lisa says:

    Lee, you are a dear! Love your SIMPLE explanations for things.

    I’m reading your book “Setting the Record Straight” and it is SO helpful! I truly thank the Lord for you and all your help. You’re helping take the fear out of this for me.

    God bless and keep up the awesome work,

    PS – I’m from Washington, too! We had to move 3 years ago and I miss my lovely rainy state so much. So I feel like I’m talking to a “friend” when I read your stuff or write you. :) Take care and enjoy the mizzle!

    October 20th, 2011 at 7:48 am

  2. Lee says:

    thanks so much for your feedback! Let me tell you a Seattle story, so you won’t miss it so much. Last week I found a slug on our car windshield. Parked in the garage. It’s like he came out of nowhere, and dropped on my windshield in the middle of the night inside the garage. We’ve had LOTS of jokes about how it rains slugs….. And yes, major mizzle this morning :)

    October 20th, 2011 at 7:57 am

  3. Becky says:

    Thanks so much for such a simplified answer. It’s great to have an easy answer.

    By the way, I’m from WA, too, so I sure understand raining slugs! Disgusting critters. lol

    June 5th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

  4. Joshua says:

    Thank you for the clarification, but what if the college requires 3 years of a Social Studies class and ALSO 3 years of History. What does that mean than?

    August 30th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

  5. Assistant to The HomeScholar says:

    Dear Joshua,
    The expectations of colleges vary. As Lee was saying above, “Many colleges will specify what KIND of social studies they want.” If you have a specific college in mind, you may want to consider joining the Gold Care Club, and Lee can help you navigate through the specific requirements for that particular college:
    Assistant to The HomeScholar

    August 30th, 2012 at 11:20 pm

  6. Sharon says:

    When should my high schooler try the PERT test for dual enrollment?

    November 10th, 2012 at 1:46 pm

  7. Lee says:

    I’m not familiar with that test, so look it up online first. Then make sure colleges will accept that test for dual enrollment.

    November 11th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

  8. Jo Anna says:

    Our Family lives in the SW corner of Washington…next to Portland Oregon and it rains slugs clear down here too = )
    Be Blessed!
    Jo Anna

    May 23rd, 2013 at 12:31 pm

  9. Tina H. says:

    There’s more to it than that, actually. The term “social studies” was invented to begin the process about 100 years ago of minimizing history, civics, and geography. All the various “-ologies” are are meant to undermine the importance of those three major areas of importance and as that happened those key areas (especially history and civics) were also polluted with politically correct, revisionist lies. We’ll be sticking to what’s really important here – accurate history along with related geography and a full study of civics, particularly the Constitution. The “-ologies” are just humanistic clap-trap. And we won’t be calling any of it “social studies” on our transcripts.

    March 7th, 2016 at 3:15 pm

  10. Assistant to The HomeScholar says:

    Dear Tina,
    That’s an interesting way to look at it. We study the constitution too, my husband insisted on it.
    Assistant to The HomeScholar

    March 8th, 2016 at 8:22 am

  11. Assistant to The HomeScholar says:

    Dear Jo Anna,
    I imagine it would be tough to keep them out of your garden then! ;)
    Assistant to The HomeScholar

    March 8th, 2016 at 8:23 am

  12. Christine Marsh says:

    If my daughter is taking Biology with a lab (Apologia) as a freshman, can I count it as an honors class on her transcript? Also, Algebra II as a freshman?


    April 17th, 2016 at 6:36 pm

  13. Lee says:

    Christine, you can call it honors if the authors/publishers of your curriculum, Apologia Science, say it is a honors course, then you can call it honors or if your child passes a honors level test after taking taking the course, then you might call it honors. (AP or CLEP exam from
    If your child does more than the expected work, beyond high school level, then you might call it honors. (Adding a college textbook or college level supplement.)
    There is no country-wide definition of “honors.” It just generally means “more than usual or expected.” I hope that helps,

    April 17th, 2016 at 7:20 pm

  14. Christine Marsh says:

    Thank you, Lee!

    April 17th, 2016 at 7:24 pm

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