GED vs.

What's the Difference and Why It's Important to Graduate

Explore the Differences Another Path Learn More


If you or your student has ever struggled with traditional high school, you’ve probably wondered what it would look like to take the GED®. The GED is another way for students to finish high school and offers many different benefits – especially for students considering dropping out

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Did you know?  Students Who Drop Out of High School Can Still Re-Enroll Up to Age 21.

While the GED has helped many students finish high school, it’s not exactly the same experience as graduating with a high school diploma. 

We can all agree that it’s important to finish high school. But how we finish high school can look different for everyone depending on a student’s unique schedule, needs and circumstances. 

So, let’s compare the GED vs. the high school diploma.

What’s the difference between a high school diploma and a GED?

Let’s start by defining the GED. The GED is a series of tests that cover four subjects – language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. It’s also known as a high school equivalency because it was designed to test students on the topics learned in a traditional high school setting.  

A GED and a  traditional high school diploma are two different paths to finishing school. There’s also a third way to finish high school and receive a diploma, through an alternative education program. We’ve broken down the major differences between these options: accessibility and overall experience. 

True OR False?

The GED and High School Diploma are Interchangeable.

False: While the GED and diploma both accomplish the goal of finishing a high school-level education, each path will provide its own unique experience that may or may not fit a student’s needs.

Path Comparison
AA Diploma
It's expensive.
It's free.
Can cost up to hundreds of dollars.
The traditional high school format just isn't for me. 4-6 classes a day doesn't work for my schedule.
A flexible learning & scheduling format that includes online and in-person support from local facilities where you can take 1 course at a time.
One remote format.
I need more support. Academically, socially and emotionally.
Personalized program that includes one-to-one help and instruction from on-site teachers, counselors, and life coaches.
Expensive online training.
I don’t have access to technology.
Wi-Fi and loaner technology so you have the tools to succeed.
You must provide your own technology.

How easy is completing the GED vs. a high school diploma?

Well, it depends on who you ask and what you consider “easy.” The GED and high school diploma offer two very different experiences, so ease and accessibility will look different depending on your unique situation and learning preferences. 


Cost – How Much Will You Spend?

One major difference between the GED program and earning a high school diploma is the cost.

Depending on how much you would like to invest in preparation, GED classes can cost hundreds of dollars in study guides and tutors. The GED test also has a fee associated with it. Understandably, the total costs of GED programs can be limiting for some students struggling financially. 

However, earning a high school diploma is free through the public school system. While a student is expected to provide their own backpacks and personal materials, they aren’t expected to pay for study guides or testing areas. 

As an alternative education program, Acceleration Academies partners with school districts to offer free education to high school students. Our flexible format includes all the instruction you need to graduate, on a personalized plan, at no cost.

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Format – Online, In-Person or Hybrid?

Do you have a preference for remote learning or in-person classes? Or do you excel with a combination of both? Another big difference between the GED and high school diploma is the format.

GED vs. High School Diploma

You can choose a GED program that is entirely remote or a program that includes classes at set times. These additional classes can help prepare you for the GED examination, but note that these preparatory classes are often optional. In the case of remote GED courses, many students will rely on self-guided study resources or find online tutors available for GED coursework. 

Traditional high schools typically meet every weekday for set times dedicated to a variety of courses. Students will receive a schedule at the beginning of each term and are expected to regularly attend classes for those timeframes. A typical day for a traditional high school student will include a bell schedule with a variety of morning classes, lunch in the cafeteria and afternoon classes before dismissal. A schedule like this can be limiting for students who have unique needs and responsibilities outside of school.

Acceleration Academies: A Format That Works for You

At Acceleration Academies, we combine the flexibility of an online curriculum with the support of in-person instruction. Our hybrid format gives you time 1 on 1 time with our content coaches and the space to complete your work online when it works best for you. Acceleration Academies provides spacious, well-staffed academies for our students. That way, there’s always a content coach there to help you with your studies, plus opportunities to work with other students in groups so that you won’t miss out on valuable relationships.

Support – How Much Help Will You Have? 

GED vs. High School Diploma

Because it is primarily self-guided, GED programs tend to have less hands-on assistance. The program moves at the individual student’s pace, and class meetings are often optional (if a student invests in preparatory programs). 

Public high schools have more community and collaboration built into their systems, simply by having students attend regular classes. With the presence of teachers and teacher’s aides, traditional high school students can receive more support and guidance directly in the classroom. 

Alternative Education Programs

However, flexible education and alternative education programs provide even more assistance for their students. These programs are usually more community-focused and can offer more support for students who learn best in smaller groups with more time for going over material and getting help with coursework. Alternative education programs typically have smaller student groups, which can also help those who feel anxious asking for more help in class feel less overwhelmed. 

Acceleration Academies

Acceleration Academies provides in-person support from teachers and tight-knit communities of students, so everyone gets the help they need with supportive peers around them.

Plus, Acceleration Academies structures its curriculum after each individual student, so they can focus on one course at a time and master it before moving on to another subject. 

Support with technology can also become a barrier for students. With a GED program, you often have to provide your technology if libraries or other public options are unavailable. Students enrolled in a traditional high school format will have access to the school’s technology. At Acceleration Academies, we also provide the flexibility of technology you’ll need and give each student a laptop to use in the academy and take home to complete classes and learn from our curriculum.

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Eligibility – Do I Qualify?

GED programs can be completed by people at any age, even if they’re older than the typical high school student. This helps people finish their education and have access to more opportunities later in life than they would without any sort of certification. 

However, traditional high school diplomas can only be earned by students within a certain age range, usually set by the state or the school district. While this means there’s a limited time frame for earning a high school diploma, there are more ways to graduate high school through alternative learning programs than ever before. 

At most Acceleration Academies locations, students are eligible to enroll if they’re under the age of 21 and have been promoted to 9th grade. With our unique program, students can choose to complete their coursework at a more accelerated pace, or they can go through each subject with more time to feel they have fully grasped the material.

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Outcomes for the GED vs. a High School Diploma

People often have questions about what sorts of doors getting a GED or a diploma can open in their future. We’ve already unpacked some of the questions of accessibility while you’re earning your education, but what about afterward? Here are some of the things to expect in your life after high school: 


Job Options & Earning Potential

By earning a high school diploma or GED, you’re already qualified for many different jobs. However, your job options may vary depending on whether you have a high school diploma or a GED. Individuals with the former are more eligible for 90% of available jobs; GED holders, on the other hand, may face certain stigmas during their job search.

It’s important to note that you may see earning differences between a GED and a high school diploma, as well. High school graduates earn approximately $1,600 more per month compared to those who obtained a GED, according to the US Census Bureau and The Bureau of Labor Statistics. During their lifetime, high school graduates can also expect to earn at least $500,000 more compared to those with a GED. 

Acceleration Academies grants students district-issued high school diplomas upon their completion of all necessary coursework and required attendance, opening up the same doors as diplomas from traditional high schools.


Continuing Education

You can go to college with a GED or with a diploma. Most schools recognize both within the US as a sign of your sufficiency in education and your ability to apply to a college program. However, some colleges may require you to submit extra references and test scores to ensure your acceptance to their programs if you’re only applying with a GED. 

Putting in the time to earn a diploma or a GED will pay off in your life, even if you decide not to go to college and want to join the workforce or the military right out of high school.

True OR False?

It's bad to get a GED instead of a diploma.

False: While having a GED isn’t a bad option, there are some clear benefits to earning a high school diploma.

So, How Do I Decide? 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Trying to decide between a GED and a diploma (whether it be through traditional public high school or an alternative education program like Acceleration Academies) can be difficult, but you have to think about what’s best for you and your situation. The important thing to remember when making this choice is that there are many options out there to help you succeed!

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when making this decision:

1. How Much Time Do I Have?

If you’re nearing the cut-off age of high schoolers for your state, you’ll need to meet with a guidance counselor or a trusted teacher soon to get back on track. Or, now might be the time to consider pursuing a GED program or a program like Acceleration Academies.

Acceleration Academies helps students build a schedule that fulfills our attendance requirements and provides the help they need to complete their coursework, all on a timeline that works for each individual student. Our flexible format means students can complete a single class in just 3-4 weeks, which is a huge help if students are in a time crunch to graduate.

If you aren’t nearing the cut-off age, you should still look at the time you have left in high school:

  • What do you want to get out of this experience? 
  • How do you want your relationships to develop – both in school and out?
  • Do you need extra support academically? 

Take some time to consider if the connections you’re making now are ones you want to continue cultivating within a high school setting, or if you’re ready to branch out!

2. What's My Learning Style?

Everyone has a different learning style, which makes education so unique! Think through times in your schooling when you felt supported by your teachers and other students. Consider the times, too, when you’ve felt lost or unproductive.

You can start to identify your learning style with the VARK model.


Most people prefer some combination of these four styles. You can dig deeper into your learning style by assessing the situation, too — the environment and those around you when you’ve had success learning.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When learning a new concept, would you rather get one-on-one instruction to help cement your understanding or get feedback on how you’ve interpreted it afterward?
  • Do you prefer group projects or working individually?
  • Can you focus better in a silent room or in a bustling place?
  • Would you rather learn from a lively lecture or through a lively discussion?
  • Can you learn about something on the spot or would you rather prime yourself beforehand?
  • Does the prospect of learning excite you, bore you, or intimidate you?

Determining your learning style will benefit your life outside of the classroom, as well. By identifying what you need to feel supported, inspired, and productive, you’ll be more likely to find an environment where you can thrive later on — in your career and beyond.

In addition to the different learning styles, some students need extra academic support from their teachers. If you have a learning disability that makes succeeding in a traditional high school setting difficult, Acceleration Academies has dedicated special education teachers to help you. We’re committed to helping students with IEPs and 504 plans succeed in their academic studies and their lives outside of school. Whether you have dyslexia, anxiety, or any other challenge in learning, Acceleration Academies has coaches ready to help you learn and grow. 

Switching to a program like Acceleration Academies can be beneficial for you if you want to achieve your goal of graduating with a high school diploma but need more freedom to learn in the style that works best for you. With this alternative education program, you can still get your diploma on your timeline, with more individualized support from our on-site teachers. 

3. What's My Schedule Like?

A lot of students tend to get their first jobs in high school. Some students have been working for a while in order to support their families. If that sounds like you, you may be experiencing some stress with trying to juggle your job and your academics. 

Finding a program that gives you the flexibility you need to finish school is essential. In most cases, this flexibility can only be found in an alternative education system, such as a GED program or a program like Acceleration Academies. These programs work with you to help you succeed in school, on your schedule. 

Beyond Traditional Schooling: What is Alternative Learning?

We’ve talked about some reasons you should pursue a high school diploma or a GED, but there are many other alternative routes to finishing high school. 

The term “alternative education” refers to any form of high school education outside of the traditional setting. This includes homeschooling, charter schools, micro-schools and more. Since 2020, alternative education has been on the rise because of its emphasis on flexible education.

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What Our Students are Saying

Acceleration Academies is another way to graduate high school. Check out some of what real students at Acceleration Academies locations around the US are saying: 


“They don’t let us give up. They tell you every day you’re going to graduate. And if you don’t go to school, they’re blowing up your phones.”

Celeste Medina


 “It’s like having a desk in your living room. It’s just like being at home.”

Aleizha Keliikuli-Kuhia


“Instead of being stuck in these cinder block classrooms with 30 other students where it’s loud and chaotic, I can sit back there and just chill. It’s a very open and accepting environment.”

Cassius Murray


“We’re all going through something, so we can all relate to one another. So we have a mutual agreement of respect. It just makes me feel good.”

Kendall Mast

Helping High School Students Graduate

Acceleration Academies offers students an opportunity to earn a high school diploma in a flexible, no-cost format. You could say it’s the best of both worlds when it comes to the GED vs. high school diploma decision. 

We approach class time with you first. Schedules are built with your unique circumstances in mind – plus, students always have coaches available to help. Our academies are spacious and inspire collaborative learning, so students can make lasting connections as they finish school.

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