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High School Diploma vs GED


Statistics seem to suggest that it is better to stick out your last year or two of school and get your diploma, rather than getting a GED. 15% of GED recipients who go to college earn a degree, compared to 65% of those who went with a high school diploma. Research suggests that high school graduates are favored in entry level positions over GED recipients, and that GED recipients statistically earn less than those with a high school diploma. When comparing the success of those with high school diplomas and those with a GED, there seems to be little doubt that a high school diploma can make a huge difference in life.


But, is it a fair comparison?

First, let’s consider what a GED really is. GED is mistakenly thought to be an equivalency diploma by many people. In fact, it is not an equivalent. GED stands for General Education Development. It is a certificate issued to those who pass the exam, showing that they have at least a basic ability level.

Originally, the GED was implemented during World War II. It was meant to be an opportunity for veterans whose service prevented them from completing high school. In 1947, New York offered the GED to civilians. By 1973, 49 states gave the opportunity for those who, for various reasons, were unable or unwilling to complete high school.

While a GED is not seen, statistically, as an equivalent to a high school diploma, it does open doors for its recipients that are closed to high school drop outs. For one thing, 95% of American employers accept GED recipients, often on the same terms as those with high school diplomas. Additionally, 90% of colleges and universities recognize the GED.

So if most employers and colleges do recognize a GED, why is it that the statistics are so much more favorable to earners of traditional high school diplomas?

The reason may not lie in the inferiority of the GED certification, but in the commonalities among the recipients. People who opt for GED’s are usually people who had trouble in school, often people who had already dropped out, or those who have little desire or hope to finish. These troubles may include poor performance in school, lack of discipline or effort, undiagnosed learning disabilities, a dislike for their educational environment, boredom with traditional learning models, teen pregnancy, lack of parental support, or drug and alcohol addictions. In other words, GED recipients in general were not successful students who were likely to achieve a traditional high school diploma.

In this light, a GED is a step in a positive direction, but not a solution in itself to the problems that led to it. If the obstacles that prevented an individual from obtaining a high school diploma are not overcome, then those problems will continue to impede the person’s progress. It is not the GED itself that lowers a person’s chances for success, but that the people who obtain GED’s are generally people who had a lower chance of success to begin with.

No doubt, there are high school graduates who have had similar obstacles. But the difference is that these people were able to overcome them before it was too late. As the statistics show, they are reaping the rewards for their hard work, dedication and perseverance, both during and, most likely, after graduating high school.

But in the “real world,” is the high school diploma itself really superior to the GED certificate? In fact, yes; but, surprisingly, not by much.
For the GED recipient, success will depend upon the individual and their ability to overcome the problems that prevented them from finishing high school. The GED itself is only a slight handicap that, with effort and perseverance, can be overcome completely.

For example, if a GED recipient manages to obtain an Associate’s degree, or a certification from a trade school, they will have leveled the playing field. They will have an equal chance of getting into other schools, obtaining higher degrees, or securing positions and salaries comparable to that of a high school graduate with an Associate’s degree.

In essence, a GED itself is not a huge obstacle to overcome; it is the ability, performance and commitment of the individual that will, in the long run, determine one’s success in life.
This does not devalue a high school diploma; the experience and education obtained by one who has completed high school is an invaluable asset to a one’s personal growth. If a high school diploma is a possibility, one should strive for it. Taking a direct route to success whenever possible is quicker and easier than taking a detour.

GED recipients may never compare well statistically to high school graduates, in that higher earning potential and better career opportunities are often directly linked to the level of education one obtains. Since GED recipients are people who initially had problems in completing a traditional education, chances are that continuing their education may not be the beneficial, or even the preferred, path to take. But happiness and fulfillment is not something quite as easily measured by the statistics. However, success is possible for both high school graduates and GED recipients. Some people may start on the right track, while others will have to come to it when they are ready. As long as a person has the drive and determination to succeed, having either a GED or a high school diploma will help them along the way.

 

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