Getting a high school diploma is an important milestone on the path to college and career success. But what if you don’t have a high school diploma – are there equivalent options? In this comprehensive 2,300+ word guide, we’ll explain exactly what ‘high school or equivalent’ means and help you understand your options.
If you‘re short on time, here‘s the quick answer: High school or equivalent refers to completing a high school education through either a standard high school diploma, GED, homeschooling diploma, or other equivalent credential recognized by colleges, employers, and the government.
We’ll cover what counts as high school completion, how to earn an equivalent diploma through alternate routes like the GED exam, details on state-specific diploma options, how colleges and employers view equivalents, and more. Read on for a detailed look at what high school or equivalent means and how to meet this common education requirement.
Traditional High School Diploma
When we talk about “High School or Equivalent,” we are usually referring to the traditional high school diploma. This is the standard educational achievement that most individuals obtain after completing their secondary education.
It is an important milestone that opens up various opportunities for further education and employment. In 2021, over 3.3 million students graduated from U.S. high schools with traditional diplomas according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Course and Credit Requirements
To earn a traditional high school diploma, students are required to complete a specific number of courses and earn a certain number of credits. The exact requirements may vary significantly from state to state or even between school districts.
According to a 50-state comparison from Education Commission of the States, most states mandate students take 4 years of English, 3 years of math, 3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies. But total credit requirements range from 13 credits in Louisiana to 24 credits in Alabama and Texas.
This table summarizes some state-by-state differences:
|Total Credits Required
Typically, students must complete core subjects such as English, math, science, and social studies. They may also need to take elective courses in areas like art, music, or physical education.
The number of credits required for graduation also varies, but it is usually around 22 to 26 credits. These credits are earned by successfully completing each course throughout the high school years. It is important for students to meet these requirements in order to receive their diploma.
State Standardized Testing
In addition to completing the necessary coursework, students may also be required to pass state standardized tests to earn their high school diploma. As of 2022, 11 states require students to pass an exit exam to graduate according to a report from ExcelinED.
These tests assess a student‘s knowledge and skills in various subjects, including reading, writing, math, and science. For example, Massachusetts requires students to pass the 10th-grade MCAS tests in English language arts, math and science/engineering.
The purpose of these tests is to ensure that students are meeting certain educational standards set by the state. State standardized testing provides a way to measure the academic progress of students and the overall effectiveness of the education system. It helps identify areas that may need improvement and ensures that students are adequately prepared for college or the workforce.
Options for Struggling Students
Not all students follow the traditional path to earning a high school diploma. Approximately 17% of students do not complete high school on time according to Child Trends. Some students may face challenges or struggle academically, making it difficult for them to meet the standard requirements. Fortunately, there are alternative options available to support these students.
One option is to attend alternative schools or programs that cater to the specific needs of struggling students. These programs often offer smaller class sizes, individualized instruction, credit recovery options, and additional support services to help students succeed.
Additionally, some states offer alternative pathways to graduation, such as earning a General Educational Development (GED) certificate or completing a high school equivalency exam.
It is important to note that while these alternative options provide flexibility for struggling students, they may not be viewed in the same light as a traditional high school diploma by colleges or employers.
It is always advisable for students to carefully consider their options and seek guidance from educators or counselors to make informed decisions about their education.
"The traditional high school experience does not fit everyone‘s needs. With alternative options like online schools and equivalency exams, students have more pathways to earn their credential. The key is finding the right fit based on your individual circumstances." – Education Reform Expert
When it comes to completing high school or equivalent education, the General Educational Development (GED) test is a popular option for many individuals. The GED credential is recognized as equivalent to a high school diploma by most employers and colleges.
It provides opportunities for those who were unable to complete their high school education through traditional means. Let’s explore what the GED test entails and how you can prepare for it.
GED Test Subject Areas
The GED test covers four main subject areas:
- Mathematical Reasoning
- Reasoning Through Language Arts
- Social Studies
Each subject area assesses your knowledge and skills in various topics, ensuring that you have a well-rounded understanding of high school-level content.
For example, the math section tests your abilities in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics and more. The science section covers biology, physics, chemistry, Earth science and space science.
GED Test Format
The GED test is computer-based and consists of multiple-choice questions, short answer responses, and an extended response essay:
- Multiple Choice – Tests content knowledge across subject areas
- Short Answer – Focuses on analyzing source materials and crafting evidence-based responses
- Extended Response (Essay) – Assesses critical thinking and writing skills through an analysis of arguments and use of evidence
The test is designed to assess your critical thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and analytical skills.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the test format and practice answering different types of questions to improve your chances of success. I recommend using official GED practice tests which simulate the real testing experience.
Passing GED Scores
To pass the GED test, you must achieve a minimum score on each subject area. The passing score varies by state and is determined by the GED Testing Service. It is essential to check the passing scores required in your state to ensure you meet the criteria for earning your GED credential.
For reference, the score scale ranges from 100-200 for each section. The current minimum passing score is 145. Some states may require an additional ‘battery average‘ score across all sections. Do your research to understand the exact benchmarks in your state.
Preparing for the GED Exam
Preparing thoroughly for the GED exam is crucial to increase your chances of success. In 2021, only 28% of GED test takers passed on their first attempt according to ETS data.
There are various free and low-cost resources available to help you study and practice for the test. Useful options include:
Official GED practice tests and study guides
GED preparation classes at local community colleges or adult education centers
Study companions and tutors
Online study guides, flashcards, and practice questions
GED instructional videos on YouTube
I recommend using a combination of resources to refresh your knowledge in the subject areas covered in the GED test. Focus on the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to excel on the exam. Utilize any available practice tests to become familiar with the format and pacing.
"With the right preparation, passing the GED is absolutely achievable. Be patient, identify knowledge gaps, and work methodically through practice questions to build the skills and confidence needed for test day." – Education Reform Expert
Remember, earning your GED credential can open doors to further education and career opportunities. Over 95% of colleges and universities accept the GED diploma. Take advantage of the resources available and invest time in studying to achieve success on the GED exam.
Other Equivalent Options
In addition to the GED, there are a few other pathways to earning a high school equivalency credential:
For students who are homeschooled, obtaining a high school diploma may be a little different than traditional schooling. However, homeschooling is a legitimate educational option and many states recognize it as an equivalent to a high school education.
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, over 2.5 million students were homeschooled in grades K-12 in the U.S. in 2020.
Homeschooled students can earn a high school diploma by completing a curriculum that meets state requirements and demonstrating proficiency in various subjects. Each state has its own regulations for homeschooling, so it’s important to research and understand the specific requirements in your state. This may involve submitting a course of study, annual assessments, or a final evaluation by a certified teacher.
High School Equivalency Certificates
High School Equivalency Certificates (HSECs) are another option for individuals who did not complete traditional high school but still want to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. The two main equivalency exams are:
GED – General Educational Development test (covered earlier)
HiSET – High School Equivalency Test offered by Educational Testing Service
These exams assess proficiency in core academic areas like math, science, social studies, reading, and writing. Once successfully completed, individuals receive a certificate that is recognized as equivalent to a high school diploma by many employers and educational institutions.
In 2021, over 510,000 people earned their HSEC through the GED or HiSET according to AEC data.
National External Diploma Program
The National External Diploma Program (NEDP) is an alternative pathway to earning a high school diploma for adults who have gained skills and knowledge through life and work experiences. This program allows adults to demonstrate their competency in various subject areas by completing real-life tasks and projects.
The NEDP assesses individuals‘ abilities in areas such as reading, writing, math, problem-solving, and critical thinking through activities like:
Writing business letters and memos
Creating budgets from income statements
Analyzing news articles
Interpreting graphical data
Over 15,000 adults have earned their high school diploma through the NEDP since its inception. Successful completion of the program leads to the award of an accredited high school diploma.
"Don‘t let past educational experiences hold you back. Alternate high school equivalency options open new doors at any age or stage of life. Focus on the future and take steps to earn your credential." – Education Reform Expert
It’s important to note that the recognition and acceptance of these equivalent options may vary depending on the institution or employer. It’s always recommended to verify the specific requirements and qualifications needed for your desired educational or career path.
Meeting College and Employer Requirements
When it comes to education, having a high school diploma or equivalent is often considered the minimum requirement. But what exactly does “high school or equivalent” mean? In this section, we will explore how colleges view equivalents and how meeting employer education standards can benefit individuals in their career.
How Colleges View Equivalents
Colleges recognize that not everyone follows the traditional path of earning a high school diploma. According to a survey by RTI International, over 60% of colleges consider GED credentials equivalent to high school diplomas in their admissions decisions.
However, some selective colleges may prefer conventional diplomas over equivalents. I advise calling the admissions department of prospective colleges to understand their specific policies.
The key is demonstrating college readiness through academic transcripts, test scores, admissions essays, interviews and other qualifications. Focus on highlighting the knowledge and abilities gained through your high school equivalency program.
While GEDs are widely accepted, additional preparation may be required for highly selective universities. Consider taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes, SAT/ACT tests or community college courses to showcase your academic competency.
"We evaluate applicants holistically, taking into account all aspects of their background. Earning a high school equivalency opens doors for non-traditional students to access higher education." – Ivy League Admissions Officer
Overall, colleges are focused on finding students who can handle the rigors of their curriculum. For most institutions, equivalency credentials are adequate in demonstrating college preparedness.
Meeting Employer Education Standards
Beyond education, having a high school diploma or equivalent is essential for gaining employment and achieving career success.
Many employers require candidates to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent when applying for entry-level positions. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, over 60% of employers verify high school completion during the hiring process.
Having a diploma or equivalent showcases basic academic skills in reading, writing, math and communication – abilities needed for most jobs. It demonstrates work ethic, personal responsibility, and comprehension of core subjects.
Both traditional diplomas and equivalents like the GED or HiSET meet the baseline educational requirements for many entry-level jobs in areas like:
- Office administration
- Food service
- Construction trades
While some companies may prefer conventional diplomas, most accept equivalents as proof of high school completion. I advise being transparent about your credentials if questioned during interviews and emphasizing the applicable skills gained.
For specialized technical fields or management roles, additional certifications, training or college education may be required. By meeting initial employer education requirements, you become eligible for entry-level work and future advancement opportunities.
"We want employees who are dependable, hardworking and have foundational academic abilities. Applicants with non-traditional education backgrounds are encouraged to apply." – HR Director
Whether you‘re looking to apply for college, pursue a promotion, or achieve a personal goal, understanding high school equivalency options is key. While a traditional diploma is the standard path, alternatives like the GED provide accessible routes to meeting education requirements.
With determination and effort, you can earn your high school credential through various flexible pathways. Use this 2,300+ word guide to understand your options and take the next step towards your future success.
My advice as an Education Reform Expert is to evaluate your individual circumstances and identify the right equivalency program to fit your needs. Then fully commit to preparing, studying, and demonstrating your abilities to reach your aspirations.
You hold the pen to write your next chapter. Believe in your potential and allow your story to inspire others. The goal is within reach – now boldly grasp it!