Consider Your Options: Ways to Earn Your High School Diploma

Oct 20, 2021

There are a number of options available to individuals who want to earn a high school diploma. These alternatives include traditional class work and distance learning, as well as concurrent high school and college enrollment and high school equivalency programs.

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Earning a High School Diploma

Program Level(s) High school diploma
Program Options Adult education/completion programs
Distance learning
Concurrent high school completion programs through colleges and universities
National External Diploma Program
Program Length Varies by program
Curriculum Requirements Vary by state if you are seeking a state-issued diploma; non-state issued diplomas may have different requirements

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earning your high school diploma can open the door to higher education, better job opportunities and the personal satisfaction of having completed secondary schooling. Students have a number of program options for study and earning credit.

A high school diploma signifies that an individual has attained a certain level of mastery over the academic subjects typically taught in grades 9-12 in American high schools. Mandatory subjects and the number of credits needed to graduate will vary from state to state. Students who want an in-state high school diploma need to check with their state's education department to review requirements.

Every state offers either adult education or adult high school completion programs. Locations, hours, course offerings and cost will vary from one state, or even city, to another. Let's look at some popular options.

Distance Learning

Distance education programs can be a viable option for those whose home state doesn't offer an adult high school diploma program. Distance programs typically come in an online or a correspondence format. Online programs usually have courses or materials for student use on their website. Some require that classes be completed online. Correspondence courses send their study materials by postal or courier service. The student completes their lessons and returns the material to the school for grading.

Some distance learning programs accept credits previously earned or grant credit for life experiences. Proper accreditation, which is offered through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), can be a very important part of deciding on a distance learning school.

High School Completion Programs

Many states have colleges that allow adult students to complete their high school diploma with or without the option of going on to earn college credits. Colleges with high school completion programs generally have their requirements set in accordance with state or municipalities' education requirements. Typical names for these programs include Concurrent Enrollment, High School Completion Plus or Dual Enrollment.

National External Diploma Program

The National External Diploma Program allows adult students to earn their high school diploma by demonstrating high school level skills through life experiences. The program has two phases that students must go through. The first is a review of the student's knowledge of reading, writing and math, which also includes the student's life experiences.

The second phase involves the student demonstrating what they know through a series of exercises or real-life situations. These exercises are meant to assess 70 individual competencies and the student must pass all with 100% accuracy.

In summary, there are several options for non-traditional students to earn a high school diploma, including completing an online, correspondence or high school completion program, or taking part in the National External Diploma Program.

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