A high school diploma and a GED credential basically mean one thing: that you possess high school-level knowledge and skills. It means you’re ready for college or for a job that requires you to have high school education.
Earning a high school diploma means finishing the four years of high school by getting a passing grade in all your classes and subjects. As simple as it may sound, not every student can complete high school for various reasons.
A 2015 Statistic Brain data reveals over 3 million students drop out of high school each year. The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network at Clemson University cites school-related, family-related, and employment-related reasons why students drop out of high school.
Here are common reasons why a student might not be able to complete high school:
- Missed too many school days due to illness
- Could not catch up with schoolwork
- Conflict with students or teachers
- Early pregnancy or parenthood
- Need to work to support the family
- Lack of parental support
- Financial problems
When students drop out, the next option is to complete the GED, the only high school equivalency credential that all the 50 states recognize. The GED only tests four subjects: math, science, social students, and reasoning through language arts and it takes just over 7 hours to complete. Tests are often scheduled on different days per subject. You need to be at least 16 years old to take the test and you should not be currently enrolled in high school.
Where the Real Difference Lies
While both credentials mean the same thing—that you have the knowledge and skills of someone who completed high school—schools and employers often ask you why you took the GED. And this is where the real difference lies. What you want your future college or employer to know is you have the right reasons for taking the GED.
It’s important that you are able to provide a solid reason why you chose to take this route instead of the more common way of getting your high school diploma, which is by finishing the 4-year high school study.
For example, if you were not able to complete high school because of money problems, you can tell future employers that you’re taking the GED to improve your chances of getting into college and landing a better job, despite your family’s financial situation. In reality, not all parents can afford to send their children to high school even if it’s free. There are hidden costs like school supplies, extra-curricular activities, food, and transportation. Taking the GED, for this reason, gives them the impression that you are the responsible and driven individual who won’t let challenges get in the way of achieving your dreams.
Sometimes, students take the GED to complete high school and consequently finish their university education earlier. If you are thinking of doing this, it is best to talk to consult your school’s guidance counselor so you can have a clear picture of the pros and cons of your chosen way to get a high school credential.
Once you have made the decision to take the GED, don’t just aim for a passing score, especially if you’re planning to take it to get into a good college or university. Some schools require scores that are above the passing rate. Prepare for the test by reviewing GED study guides, attending GED online classes and taking practice tests.