Second Chances for High School Dropouts

4 Ways to Finish Your High School Education

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Just because your child dropped out of high school doesn't mean his life is over. In fact, 75 percent of high school dropouts eventually finish. Finding the time and motivation to get a GED program completed can be complicated by real-life responsibilities and issues. Don't let those obstacles stop your young adult from completing his high school education. Here are ways your high school dropout can earn his diploma or a GED. 

What Is a GED?

Anyone 16 or older who hasn't earned a high school diploma may take the GED tests. There are 5 subject area tests to take to pass the GED: Language Arts/Writing, Language Arts/Reading, Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics. The GED tests are available in Spanish, French, large print, audiocassette and Braille, in addition to English. Fortunately, many government institutions and universities consider the GED just as they would a high school diploma in regards to admissions and qualifications. 

  • Community College: Most community colleges offer programs to help students complete their high school diplomas and/or earn a GED. Some of these classes are offered on community college campuses, while others are held at night on high school grounds. Call your local community college for details. Many community colleges now offer online programs as well.
  • Adult Education Programs: Most adult ed programs offer courses to help students prepare for the GED. Adult ed schools are typically run by high school districts, community colleges or a collaboration between the two, with funding provided by the state. Call your local adult education school for information.
  • Gateway to College: Founded in 2000 by Oregon's Portland Community College, this program bridges the gap for students ages 16-21 who have dropped out of high school but want to finish their coursework and go to college. Gateway's program, which combines high school and college coursework, is available on 27 community college campuses in 16 states, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is using it as a model for part of the foundation's Early College High School efforts. For details, visit the Gateway to College website.
  • YouthBuild: This 20-year-old program for high school dropouts ages 16-24 from low-income families, combines community service, vocational training, and leadership skills with a GED program. Students, many of whom have been in the foster care or juvenile justice systems, divide their days between high school and GED prep classes and projects building or renovating homes for low-income families. Kids participate in a 30-hour per week program that also offers job training, helping them to find work that will facilitate the start of their careers while building their communities as well. The program began in 1990 in New York City and has grown to include 273 YouthBuild programs in 45 states. This, too, is supported by the Gates Foundation. For more information, visit the YouthBuild site.
  • National Guard Youth "ChalleGNe" Academy: For 16- to 18-year-olds, Sunburst Youth Academy gives kids a chance to turn their lives around. The program is run by the National Guard, and there are 35 "Youth ChalleNGe Academies" around the U.S., an outgrowth of the Congressional mandate in 1993 to deal with the country's high school dropout crisis.
  • Therapeutic Boarding Schools: Programs at these schools help troubled teens identify the underlying cause of their issues. Various approaches combine academics and psychotherapy so teens can better understand and control their actions and behaviors. With insight and oversight from professionals, teens can begin to modify their behavior, stop acting out, and get back on a path to pursue their high school diploma. While some therapeutic schools can be unaffordable to many, local school districts and some insurance plans can help offset the costs.
  • Online Programs: For those students who have challenges with either time or location — for example, a parent who works full time or an ill homebound young adult — online GED programs are a great option. Most programs will allow students to access classwork, tests and more on their own schedule, giving them the flexibility to keep working or managing their health problems. Online GED programs, for the most part, should not be confused with homeschooling — they are specifically designed for online learning.