Life leads us all down very different paths, and sometimes that means some of us have had to leave high school before it’s finished. And that’s okay! Dropping out of high school may have been the right choice for you or a loved one at one point in time, but that doesn’t have to be the end of your educational journey. You may not have even realized it, but it is definitely possible to get a high school diploma after 21. Learners ready to take on the challenge do it all the time, and you can, too! But you may even be wondering, “is going back to school worth it?” We broke down your options for you so that you can make an informed, educated decision for your own education.
You may be wondering how to finish your high school diploma as an adult. After all, you can't necessarily go back to your former high school to finish up your classes. But there are several options that can help you earn your diploma and reach your goals.
In today’s world, online high school is a popular option to earn a high school diploma. While each online school tends to be different, one thing many have in common is that you can earn your credits anywhere you go. Whether you choose to work on your lessons in a public place like the library or the comfort of your own home, you can have the freedom to work in an environment that works best for you.
The GED is a series of four subject tests a person can take to demonstrate their high school academic knowledge. Learners that choose this option don’t actually get a high school diploma, but it is definitely a way to show employers and colleges that you have a high school level knowledge base. Those that pursue a GED can either study for the math, language arts, science, and social studies tests on their own or attend GED prep classes for a more supported approach. Additionally, GED is the name of just one test – there are several high school equivalency exam options available depending on the state you live in.
Although many public day schools are limited to students under 21, there are still in-person classes for adult learners. These classes tend to be at night to support learners working during the daytime. These classes may or may not be available in your area, and spots may be limited.
If you’re ready to finish your high school diploma, it’s important to make sure you choose the option and school that’s right for you. Before enrolling in an online high school program, you should
Not every school is a perfect fit for everyone, so take your time and find the perfect school for you. Consider if you want flexible class times versus set times, what classes the school offers and if it’s a common core curriculum, affordability and pricing options, and other qualifiers that may be specific to you or your needs.
An accredited high school may be the difference between your diploma being accepted by a college or an employer, or not. Accreditation ensures that your school has met educational standards so that you can earn a recognized diploma. According to the DEAC, the accreditor for James Madison High School, accreditation is the primary way that students, families, the public, and government officials know that an institution provides a quality education. It’s also worth noting if your school has a national or regional accreditation—or possibly even both!
Once you have your choices narrowed down to a few different options, it’s a smart idea to contact someone on the admissions team with any questions. Whether you’re wondering about the price, if there’s open enrollment, the flexibility, or even just need to verify that they are accredited, your admissions specialist is a knowledgeable asset for you on your journey to find the perfect fit. Don’t be shy about asking the questions that matter to you, because you’re the one enrolling, after all!
You’ve already put in so much time and effort, but the only thing you have left to complete are the credits necessary to graduate! Remember to not just breeze through your lessons, as failing a class might result in more time needed to complete high school. Study hard and get that degree!
There doesn’t have to be a limit! Online high school makes it possible for anyone to earn their diploma. James Madison graduate, Coretta Wilson, dropped out of high school when she became pregnant with her son. She watched him graduate high school, college, and move on to his bachelor’s degree before she decided that it was time to finish high school. Coretta accomplished her goal of graduating and advises others, “Don’t give up…because anything is accomplishable.”
Hear Coretta’s full story here.
Enroll in a new high school program. So you did the research and found a high school program that works for you and your needs. That’s great! Getting started and committing to a program can feel scary at first, but your admissions specialist can help address any of your fears. Once you enroll, you’ll have successfully completed the first step toward earning your high school diploma.
Request your transcripts from your previous school. If you have credits already under your belt, you may not need to start your high school journey from the beginning! Once enrolled, you’ll want to send your new school your transcripts right away. This is important to look into because if your credits transfer into your new school, it may cut a significant number of classes out from what you need to complete.
It all depends! Between online high school, the GED, and in-person night school there are many different factors that can contribute to the length of your high school completion. Here’s a quick look at how long it is to finish high school for these three options.
While everyone’s circumstances are different, we think that completing your high school diploma is totally worth it! Why? Well, high school diploma holders earn nearly $10,000 more per year, have over three times the number of jobs available to them, and even report a healthier lifestyle compared to those without. Not to mention the benefits of being eligible to join the military, qualifying for college and financial aid, and just being an example for your kids as well.
Before going back, consider your own reasons why you might want to do so, and which option clicks best for you and your lifestyle. If you’re looking for an accredited, self-paced, online high school, JMHS may be the perfect fit for you! For more information on enrolling in James Madison, reach out to our Admissions Specialist at and start owning your high school journey as early as today.