It can be a struggle to get through high school. Students may get a few credits behind, feel discouraged by the social environment, or have other challenges. But getting your diploma can turn your life around. It’s never too late, and there are good reasons to invest in yourself and your future.
Why finish high school?
- Earnings. With a diploma, you’re likely to earn 40% more income than someone without one.
- Employability. Your chances of being employed rise by 33% when you finish high school.
- Advancement. You need a high school degree to go to college, and for most good jobs.
- Satisfaction. You can take pride in your accomplishment and where you are headed.
- Being a role model. It is also meaningful to your friends, family, and community.
How can you make sure you graduate?
- Confirm which classes you still need to take. Ask your high school counseling office for your transcript to see all the classes you’ve taken so far and your grades. Go to your school district’s website and look for “high school graduation requirements.” Then you can check to see which required classes you still need to take by the time you plan to graduate.
- If you stay at the same high school, talk with your school counselor to register for the needed classes, and ask about education and career options after you complete your degree.
- If you need a new environment, request a transfer to a high school that's a better fit for you. You might need a different social scene, an academic focus that interests you, or a schedule that works better for your other commitments.
- Many areas also have alternative schools or online high schools, which offer non-traditional programs to complete your degree. You may be able to work at your own pace, and many offer special programs to help you transition to community college. Find them through your state’s department of education website.
- As much as possible, focus on completing school rather than working at a job, until you finish.
Make it a launching pad for the future
- If you feel like you’ve been unsuccessful in some areas of high school, explore other areas. Many students get motivated by participating in art, theater, sports, choir, band or orchestra, or clubs. You can develop new friendships and polish your talent at the same time.
- Take an Interest Assessment to explore career options and think about where you want to be after high school.
- Volunteer in an area that interests you; not only will you learn skills and contribute to the community, you’ll also find out more about what kind of work you’d like.
- Get a summer job to gain experience and save money for college or other training.
- Talk with family about how to pay for training after high school.
If you want to go to college
- Take challenging classes like Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB). They help prepare you for college work, and may even help you finish college faster.
- Find out if your district offers free tuition at a local college while you are still in high school. Earn high school and college credits at the same time.
- Register for and take the SAT or ACT college entrance exam, usually in your junior year.
- Join activities like music, art, theater, sports, and clubs to strengthen your college applications.
- Go to college fairs to learn about colleges and ask questions. Visit colleges you are interested in to take a tour, sit in on a class, and interview with admissions staff.
- Apply to 4-6 colleges that interest you, usually in the fall of senior year. Most offer a free application, and those that charge a fee may let you apply for help paying it.
- Attend a financial aid event at your school or a local college to learn how financial aid works and what you might qualify for. Use our Scholarship Finder to search for scholarships and apply for them in senior year.