Can I get a high school diploma and college degree at the same time?

High School Diploma & College Degree at Once

Home > Ask the Guidance Counselor > Finding the Right Career > Can I get a high school diploma and college degree at the same time?

Dear Guidance Counselor,

I am a single mom of three kids and I would like to enroll in an online college but I didn't finish high school nor do I have a GED. How do I get my H.S. Diploma & start college in the medical field at the same time? What is your advice? Thank you, Beth

Dear Beth,

Good for you for trying to make some life changes to help yourself and your kids! Let's look at your options to continue your education while taking care of your family.

While I respect your drive and ambition, I do not think it is realistic to suppose you can get a high school diploma while also starting college. Such an option would be very challenging even for a student with no outside responsibilities; as a single mom with three kids I fear you would find it overwhelming to tackle.

Getting a GED or diploma

In any case, high school material generally must be learned first in order to then continue on with college courses. If you are in a hurry to start college, perhaps getting a GED, which is a high school equivalency degree, would be your best option. To take the GED, you prepare in the five areas through an online course, community course, or with home resources. Then you take the GED exams at a qualified and official testing center. The American Council on Education will help you locate the center nearest you. You cannot take the GED exams online.

If you are determined to get your high school diploma, an online diploma might be a good choice. Your local public high school might offer online classes, or you could sign up with one of the many private online high schools. Just make sure that it is accredited, and that the diploma will be accepted by the college of your choice.

Another option is to seek out a college that allows you to enter without a diploma. Some community colleges and programs for adults might consider letting you enter without a diploma. Admission counselors can tell you what your likelihood of success is.

Next steps

In general, you would be wisest to get the GED or your diploma first. You mention that you want to go into a medical field. Perhaps you could start with an associate's degree once you finish your high school credential. Associate's degrees take two years, are typically offered at community colleges, and cover many fields in the medical area. Jobs such as x-ray technician, sonographer, and medical assistant are ones that you can obtain with a two year training. Then if you want to advance you can go back to school for a bachelor's degree.

If you prefer to go directly from high school to bachelor's degree, expect to spend about four years full-time or more part-time in this endeavor. These years are a good investment in your future, yet given your other obligations, they will require you to create a solid time management strategy.

Continuing your education is an excellent plan, one that will most likely open up new future opportunities. I like your idea of getting a high school diploma or GED, as well as starting college. I just don't think you should try both at the same time.

Good luck in passing your high school credential and continuing on in your education!

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