While the usual path to higher education means that a student graduates from high school and then attends college, the path to college does not always mean a high school diploma is necessary. Adults who do not have a high school diploma may still be able to attend college, and there are several different ways to achieve that goal.

Taking the GED test

Today, the GED allows adults to demonstrate high school-level knowledge with a series of five subtests on social studies, science, mathematics, writing (with some grammar and mechanics) and reading. Many communities have GED classes that will help adults brush up on the skills needed to pass the test. In some areas, the GED classes are free of charge and offer free child care. GED tests are accepted in place of a high school diploma at all colleges, universities and vocational/technical schools, according to the GED website. However, before attending a college or vocational/technical school, it is always best to check with them about whether or not they accept the GED test in place of a high school diploma.

Taking a High School Equivalency Test

Some states offer adults a high school equivalency test in place of a high school diploma. A high school equivalency test allows an adult to show high school-level knowledge in reading, writing and mathematics. Not every state offers a high school equivalency test, and each state that offers the test has its own policies. Adults who want to take a high school equivalency test will need to check with their individual state to see if they qualify to take the test in their state. Also, a high school equivalency test is accepted at some, but not all, colleges and universities. It is usually accepted at vocational and technical schools, but check with the school first. Some schools may require additional testing.

Adult High Schools

In many communities in the United States, there are high schools designed for adults to earn their degrees. Adults typically have a choice whether to attend the adult school during the day or at night. Most adult schools are funded by the local school district or by the vocational/technical schools within the community, but some adult high schools are operated by nonprofit organizations. Many adults ask the question: When should I attend an adult high school, and when should I test for my GED? The general rule is if it will take two or more years to receive a diploma, consider studying for the GED or the equivalency test instead. If, however, an adult has a year or less of high school credit to obtain, he or she should consider going to an adult high school.

Online Diplomas

There are many online high schools, and many online agencies offering equivalency tests for high school. If an adult decides to use an online high school or a website for an equivalency test, he or she should check first with either the college they plan to attend or the state department of education to make sure that the school or the website is accredited with the state. Otherwise, the college may not accept the scores or the diploma. Also, if the website or high school wants to charge a lot of money, look elsewhere. Most states have free online websites and high school equivalency exam study sites. Some states have free adult high schools online as well. If the adult student is unable to find what they are looking for in their area, check with the state department of education.