High School Dropouts and Second Chance Education

GEDs, Community College and More


Just because you dropped out of high school doesn't mean it's the end of the line. Some 75% of high school dropouts eventually finish their education. Here's the lowdown on getting that second chance.

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Second Chances for High School Dropouts

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It's one thing to talk about finishing up that high school education, years after the fact. What you really need to know is how. It's not too late. With more than 29 million adults in the US who don't have a high school diploma, this is not an unusual thing for adults. There are options available for completing your high school education for all situations. Adults can complete the GED test, or they can enroll in an accredited online high school to earn a diploma.

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What is a GED?

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The GED test is a high school equivalency exam administered to people who did not graduate from high school but want a certificate indicating that they possess comparable knowledge. 

  • People who graduate from high school earn $568,000 more in a lifetime than people who don't graduate
  • The GED® test takes a little more than seven hours to complete. While that sounds like a long time for a test, once you have finished you will have what you need to move on to a community college or 4 year school.
  • More than 18 million people have passed the GED® test in the United States. 
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Dropping Out: Pros, Cons and Good News

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At first glance, dropping out of school is a terrible idea - but in a few cases, it may actually be a good idea. Sure, the outlook for high school dropouts is considerably more bleak than for teens who finish their education. But nearly 75% of the teens who drop out eventually finish,  the majority by earning their GED, others by finishing their coursework and actually graduating. If there are extenuating circumstances in your life that compel you to drop out, don't think your education is over. There are many ways to take a path to high school completion that can work for you.

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High School Dropout Statistics

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Tracking high school dropout and graduation statistics is a grim, confusing business - and percentages can vary so dramatically, it can be hard to know what to believe. 

  • About 25% of high school freshmen in the United States fail to graduate from high school on time. There are many reasons for this, including apathy and boredom, teen pregnancy, responsibility to family for financial or other support and overall poor performance are just a few of the reasons why some drop out of high school.
  • The U.S., which once had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries.
  • The dropout rate has fallen 3% from 1990 to 2010 (12.1% to 7.4%), which is good news for individuals and for our country.
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Community College 101

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Community colleges offer incredible experiences for any teen or 20something. For young adults trying to get their lives back on track after having dropped out, a community college offers even more - a chance to finish high school coursework, prepare for the GED exam, and kick start a career. There are a variety of options for attending community colleges, and there are over 1000 community colleges, both public and private, across the country. Community college is an excellent way to transition from the high school experience to a more rigorous 4 year college or university. 

Community colleges offer certification programs for careers such as cosmetology, health care, and computer services. 

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Community College and Overcoming Adversity


A survey by America's Promise Alliance, an organization focused on keeping young adults in school or getting them back if they have dropped out found that more than 30% of dropouts come from homes where there is abuse or neglect. Other factors that may contribute to the failure to complete high school include not being comfortable speaking or understanding English, lack of structure and support at home regarding schoolwork and a family history of dropping out.

Finding a teacher who can mentor you is the first step to succeeding, whether in high school or at the community college level. Explaining to family why it is important to finish your high school education - from earning power to self-esteem - can help to encourage support and patience while you complete your schooling. If you drop out and want to finish school, there are plenty of ways to do so. Don't wait to make this important decision.

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Your Citation
Burrell, Jackie. "High School Dropouts and Second Chance Education." ThoughtCo, Sep. 13, 2022, thoughtco.com/high-school-dropouts-second-chance-education-3570199. Burrell, Jackie. (2022, September 13). High School Dropouts and Second Chance Education. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/high-school-dropouts-second-chance-education-3570199 Burrell, Jackie. "High School Dropouts and Second Chance Education." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/high-school-dropouts-second-chance-education-3570199 (accessed March 24, 2023).