The thought of continuing your education after you drop out of high school can be overwhelming. Taking the initiative to research options for students wanting to complete their diploma requirements, however, is the first step in knowing that you can tackle the task. Whether your goals include enrolling in college or simply following through on the diploma you started while attending school, knowing that there are several avenues to earning your long-awaited high school credential helps the task become more manageable.

Return to Your Campus

Depending on the amount of time that has passed since you last attended, it may be possible to return to your old school to pick up where you left off. While most school systems have the option to restrict students over age 20 from enrolling in school, states such as Texas have recently mandated that the age restriction be raised to age 25, giving more time for dropouts to re-enroll in school. If you have recently left school and are considering completing your diploma, reach out to your old school or district office to find out whether you are age-eligible for the programs they offer for returning students. This option may be most advantageous for individuals needing a limited number of credits to graduate.

Take an Online Program

Returning students now have the opportunity to earn course credit via online programs. Organizations such as Penn Foster and James Madison High Schools provide convenient course options for individuals wishing to complete the requirements for a diploma. These programs, however, are for-profit and typically require tuition payments, which can sometimes restrict returning students who have financial challenges. School district–based programs, however -- like the Virtual High School program within the Spring Independent School District in Spring, Texas -- are grant-funded to help students under the age of 26 complete their program of study via online modules at minimal to no cost to the student. Both the for-profit and school-based models of online learning offer a convenient option for the returning student.

Attend Community College

Community college is an excellent resource to consider while weighing your options on how to complete your high school diploma requirements. Community colleges such as Clackamas Community College in Oregon City, Oregon, offer adult high school programs -- a means by which returning students can complete high school while simultaneously earning college credits. Adult high school programs enable students to get a transcript evaluation from a program adviser and then complete the remaining credits they need to successfully earn the diploma. For the returning student looking to move forward in his academic pursuits, this option is a way to become acclimated to the college environment while becoming a part of a cohort of returning students. The potential for long-term support from colleagues who share your higher education goals after dropping out of high school can become a priceless asset.

Earn a GED Credential

Taking the GED test is one of the most widely used means to earning a high school equivalency diploma, with more than 700,000 people taking the exam each year. Composed of reading, writing, science, social studies and math sections, the test -- which is regarded as a high school equivalent -- is well-suited for students who are good test takers and are dedicated to studying material extensively prior to the test. To receive a high school equivalency diploma, you must score at least 410 points on an individual test, and all your test scores together must add up to at least 2250 points. Students are allowed to take the GED up to three times per calendar year should they not have success on their first attempt. With the GED credential, students who previously dropped out of school are given access to all of the rights and privileges of a high school graduate, including eligibility to apply for admission to most colleges.

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