As standards for receiving high school diplomas have been raised, increasing numbers of students are having difficulty meeting them. In order to prevent multiple years of repetitions and the problems (such as overcrowding) that are created by repeating students, many schools are opting to give certificates of completion to certain students. A certificate of completion is not the same as a high school diploma, but it is accepted as a means to meet certain goals.

The Fundamental Difference

To obtain a high school diploma, you must meet all state standards for graduation from high school, generally including a certain number of credits taken, a specific curriculum of courses, and, often, a high school exit exam. A certificate of completion, on the other hand, simply states that you have completed four years of high school, without necessarily meeting state standards for graduation.

Similarities Between the Two

The certificate of completion is almost always a valid substitute for a high school diploma when it comes to seeking to enter community or technical colleges. Programs at these colleges often include the possibility of remedial coursework, which could assist you with any weak areas that prevented your receiving an official diploma. With or without remedial assistance, if you excel in a community college setting, your work there will determine your ability to enter a four-year college, not your lack of a diploma.

Possible Setbacks with a Certificate of Completion

The distinctions between the diploma and the certificate of completion could become more of an issue with employment or enrollment in a four-year degree program. Four-year colleges are often stricter about ensuring that their applicants actually graduated from high school having met all criteria, to better be able to handle college academics. Often employers advertise a high school diploma as a requirement for a particular job. Some employers may be strict about this as well. Others, however, may be more impressed by the general commitment to attendance and determination exhibited by a certificate of completion and, when factoring in your other work skills, may consider your preparation to be adequate. The most important thing is be honest about the specifics of your educational background.

Hoaxes About Certificates of Completion

The rumor mill of the Internet has spread some misinformation regarding certificates of completion. In an email distributed in 2006, the author describes the inability of certificate of completion recipients to enter any kind of school in the future or to work towards a high school diploma or GED at any point in their lifetimes. This rumor is untrue. If your certificate of completion will not allow you to do something requiring a diploma, you can always go back and complete the additional coursework or requirements.

Getting Your Diploma

In fact, this is what many people with certificates of completion choose to do. You can do this in one of three ways. You can actually re-enroll in high school and complete all outstanding requirements, or you can take classes to receive a general education diploma (GED), which carries the same weight as a standard high school diploma. You may even find, if you have taken coursework at a community college, that through that coursework you have met your original high school graduation requirements.