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College 101: High School Diploma or GED?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

You’ve already made the decision to attend college. That’s an awesome choice that will take you to many interesting, new places and will help you build a lasting career.

But how do you get there?

With some preliminary schooling, of course. This guide will help you decide whether you should prepare for college with a high school diploma or a General Education Diploma, commonly called a GED.

These two things are different in a number of ways: level of difficulty, and amount of time it takes to complete. Both options are worth considering; however, by the end of this, we hope to have convinced you that earning a high school diploma or GED is a must in order to advance your education so that you can ultimately earn more.

So, a high school diploma or GED? Let’s answer that question.

High School Diploma or GED: How to Decide

Most of us know what a high school education entails: four years of school, Monday through Friday, let’s say 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. That sounds like a lot, but most of us have done it! You can, too. There are some adult high school programs that are available online and you may be able to learn at your own pace. However, be sure that the high school you select is accredited and recognized when you attend college, especially if you plan to apply for financial aid in college.

A GED is a lot different in terms of what you learn and at what pace. GEDs are widely recognized. Let’s compare the two, starting with the GED.


Any student 18 years of age and older, who have dropped out of high school, is eligible to take their GED in lieu of a diploma. However, some states will allow non-high school attendees to take the GED as early as 16 years of age if certain conditions are met. It is important to check the rules in your state. Every year, 750,000 people consider this route.


  • The amount of time taken to complete a GED is drastically lower. It entails the amount of time it takes to study for the exam, and the time it takes to complete the series of tests.
  • Many people who study for their GED do so online or study on their own time utilizing the various free books and materials available.
  • Those who need a second chance are able to meet employers and the continuation of education with the GED. Anyone who has failed classes or dropped out of high school can still consider this route, no matter how old!


  • Unfortunately, only 1 out of 10 people who receive their GED will continue on to get their college degrees.
  • This might be because the GED is not looked at as an equal equivalent. In most cases, research has shown that those with GEDs are no more likely to get a good job than dropouts unless they obtain a college education.

High School Diploma

Ah, the four years of schooling and awkward growing up that are either dreaded or favored, and there is no in between!


  • It doesn’t look like you took a quick way out. A diploma means you put in the work: four years of diligent studying, passing tests, and being active in a classroom environment.
  • High school diplomas from an accredited institution are widely accepted by colleges.
  • A diploma could equal better wages for whatever your future career is.


  • Time.
  • Coming-of-age social interactions!
  • And did we mention, time?

Did We School You?

So, the question still remains: high school diploma or GED?

If you feel like you can put in the time and the effort, a high school diploma may be for you. But there are pros and cons to both, beyond what was listed here, and the choice is up to you. Don’t be afraid to do more research before making a solid decision.

Interested in attending InterCoast but still need your high school diploma? We can help you!  InterCoast offers students an opportunity to obtain a high school diploma while attending many of our programs! (Some restrictions may apply)

If you have any questions along the way, consult us! We’d love to help.

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Callum Palmer
Callum Palmer
4 years ago

I have a friend who I went to high school with who never graduated. As you said here, it would be a good idea to pursue a GED. Since they are a bit older, they’ll have to see about taking some classes to prepare them for the test to pass.

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