Dropping out of high school and getting a GED has consequences for success in college, the workplace or the military. GED recipients do not earn as much as students who stay in school and earn their high school diploma, and fewer GED diploma recipients finish college because they are not as prepared as high school graduates. In the workplace, employers show a clear preference for a high school diploma over a GED certificate.
Taking a Shortcut
As the National Center on Adult Learning and Literacy points out, "Research consistently shows that high school graduates do better in the labor market than do holders of the General Educational Development (GED) credential." Staying in school and learning how to manage time, schedules and tough classes may be better preparation for the future than taking the GED test. Russell Rumberger, a professor of education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, points out, "A high school diploma means you went to school for four years, did the work, passed the classes and didn't quit. A GED, on the other hand, is a shortcut."
If you have fairly strong academic skills and you drop out of high school and take the GED, you are not getting any additional college preparation. If you stay in high school, you have many opportunities to prepare for college by taking foreign languages, studying advanced math such as calculus or taking Advanced Placement classes. Another consequence of dropping out of high school is that while your academic skills might have been good enough for high school, they may not be strong enough for college. This means you will have to take remedial college classes that cost money and demand valuable time.
The Job Market
One recent NPR report made the claim that GED diploma holders do not do any better in the job market than high school dropouts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a GED does not increase the wages of dropouts. High school graduates fare better because they can handle the increasing sophistication of workplace requirements and the number of service industry jobs that require excellent speaking and interpersonal skills.
You may feel like dropping out of high school because you are anxious to enter college or vocational training programs. While the ambition to get ahead is admirable, a GED diploma might not be the best way to go. Many states have early college academies that allow you to accelerate your education by earning college credits and a high school diploma at the same time at a local community college -- making this option potentially a better choice than dropping out and earning a GED diploma.
JJ Stier , who earned a EdM from Harvard and MA from the University of Oregon, teaches English in higher education and K-12. She is particularly attuned to issues in education and parenting. She has spent many years in community colleges and universities teaching preparatory and developmental reading and writing and has served on committees that shape college policy in developmental studies.