Is there a stigma attached to the GED?

My question: Is dropping out of school and getting a GED a good idea, or should you stick around to get your high school diploma even if it means an extra year? The lengthy paragraphs below are background information pertaining to my question:

I have a cousin (I’ll call her Jill) studying in the US right now - it’s her first time abroad (she’s Korean). She’s been there for a year now, attending the local high school (somewhere in Arizona, I think) and she likes it a lot. In fact, she likes it so much that she wants to stay in the US and get her BA (she’s in 11th grade right now). A few days ago she contacted me and wanted my advice on her future plans.

The mother of the host family she’s currently staying with has convinced Jill that it would be better for her to drop out of high school, take the GED, get into a community college, and later transfer to a 4-year university. Jill is currently a year behind - she was in 12th grade in Korea, but my aunt sent her a year back when she moved to the US because she thought Jill wouldn’t be able to keep up. The host mom thinks that Jill would be wasting her time finishing 11th grade and then doing 12th grade all over again (she would end up attending high school a year more than one normally would). Jill is an intelligent girl - a straight-A student both in Korea and in the US - but she’s not fluent in English, and I guess the host mom thinks it’ll be easier for Jill to take the GED and get into community college (and transfer later), than it would be for her to take the SATs and get into a decent 4-year college.

I haven’t been back to the US in over 10 years, and I attended high school and college here in Seoul, so I’m not sure on how this all works. However, I am pretty sure that dropping out of high school and taking the GED (or is it getting a GED?) is not the best idea. It’s not as if Jill is having problems at her high school - she’s adjusted very well, both academically and socially. Plus, I’ve heard that there is a social/cultural stigma attached to the GED. My personal opinion is that Jill should just stay in school for the extra year and study for the SATs, but her host mom (whom I’ve never met personally, but seems like a formidable woman) insists that Jill would be better off taking her advice.

So, can anyone offer me some other advice here? Is my impression of the GED a distorted/prejudiced one? Is it relatively easy to transfer credits from a community college to a 4-year one (I’ve heard it’s rather difficult)? Or am I right, and should she just stay in school and study for the SATs? Any opinions/advice would be great.

I’d say a lot of the time, there is a stigma attached to the GED, but there are exceptions. A family friend was one - she was a good student, but got fed up with high school in her last semester because of disciplinary issues, and dropped out. She got her GED right away, enrolled in college, and eventually ended up teaching college (creative writing).

Another old family friend used to teach GED classes when I was a kid, and he told us that 1/3 of Illinois high school graduates couldn’t pass the GED. I’m not sure whether that says something about the GED, or about Illinois high school graduates, but there you have it.

There is a stigma attached to the GED, if that’s where you stop. Tis better to have a HS diploma than a GED as your highest level of education. Once you go to college and get a degree, nobody really cares if you had a HS diploma or a GED!

The only stigma I’ve ever heard was that it implies that a person is a quitter; someone who doesn’t follow through on things. I don’t think anyone tacks a “stupid” tag onto it. But if a person goes to college and does well, it would be apparent that they aren’t stupid or a quitter. Your actions after the GED are more important than the fact you got one.

I’d known several GED people while in the military. A number of people get them to go into the military, either to skip 12th grade, or as a requirement after having dropped out.

My experience was that what mattered far more was what the person did after getting the GED than whether they had a HS diploma or a GED.

If the woman in question is willing to try to work up from a community college to a four-year school, there’s nothing that I know of that will hurt her in the long run, either in the job market (in the States) or with education. The question I have is how much more difficult it will be to get the visas she’ll need with the plan of GED/CC/4-yr school, compared to getting a student visa for a regular four year school. Before the woman makes any final decision, make sure she talks to INS to see if it would hurt her visa status.

If you’re going for a college degree, nobody will care about your high school career. It sounds like a good plan to me.

Echoing the rest, if your answer to “What’s your education level?” is “G.E.D” then yes, there’s a stigma attached. But if the answer is “4-Year from university of Someplace” or even “An Associates from Somewhere Commnity College” then no one is going to ask about your high school diploma status.

Actually, likewise for community colleges and transferring. Tell someone you have a Bachelors from State U. and no one asks “Well, where’d you spend your first two years of college? Hmmm??”

My sister was homeschooled and got her G.E.D. Went on to college, with double major in English Lit. and Spanish. Continued with Master’s in English. I don’t think her G.E.D. was any problem at all.

My half-brother dropped out of high school, got involved with the wrong crowd and was heading to either a life just trying to stay out of jail (or worse). The Marine recruiter told him that if he got his G.E.D. and passed a drug test, he could enlist. The recruiter helped set him up with study sessions and such. My brother was able to pass both requirements and did his service. Now he is thinking about community college or JC or something like that.

So, in my sister’s case it was not an issue and in my brother’s case it was about the best thing that he could have done.

I think the GED idea is a poor one, but not for the stigma attached (as others have pointed out, it is perfectly feasible to go on to Bigger and Better Things with a GED). The problem as I see it is this:

Throwing her into a college environment, even a community college, is downright cruel if she is still learning the language. The ESL resources are less available for someone in college than in high school, and some college-level professors don’t have the level of patience for the mistakes she is bound to still be making as a high-school teacher would.

As I tell the students in my class at the beginning of each semester: “College is NOT high school. The demands made on you are far greater than what you are used to. Most of you haven’t been properly prepared for this, and you will get frustrated.” Starting college is stressful and fast-paced enough; your cousin doesn’t need the added strain of struggling to understand what is being said around her. Tell her to stay in high school and take advantage of the chance to make stupid language mistakes where it doesn’t count quite as much.

Her highschool probably has a program where she can take classes at the local college. That seems like the best option especially since her English isn’t up to snuff.

I got a GED and entered college at 17, and never regretted it. I got a lot of lectures about how the GED wouldn’t take me as far in life as a HS degree. Perhaps that’s true, but it’s never affected my life. No one has ever asked me if I got a GED or a HS degree. When it comes to the “what’s your highest level of education?” question, the options are always “high school”, “some college”, or “college graduate”. I always check “some college”, I’ve never had to write in GED.

Same here. I got my GED, and didn’t go on to college, but it’s not as though anyone has ever asked to see my diploma. I finished high school, I check the “High School” box.

Now, for your cousin, the language thing is a problem, but unless that’s being adequately addressed by the high school she’s attending, it might be a more constructive use of her time to get her GED, then enroll in an intensive ESL program in preparation for college.

I failed my sophomore year of high school because I was out for nearly six months with mono. I failed my sophomore year of high school redux because I was bored, pissed, and frustrated with being forced to repeat a year, even though I’d passed all my finals.

Getting a GED was a much better option for me then continuing on in high school. It’s not for everyone, or even for most people, but it’s not something to dismiss out of hand.

I got my GED at the end of 11th grade because my school wouldn’t let me graduate even though I had taken basically all of the classes that I could and they couldn’t give me a decent schedule. I went onto college and graduated in May. I’m a grad student now and no one ever asks about my degree unless they find out I’m only 20. Then they want an explanation, but everyone is impressed by it.

The GED stigma is more a marker for the reasons for dropping out than the GED itself. That said, however, the low end of the HS food cahin would not be able to pass the GED. The mid-to-upper HS food chain completers have a much better education than the GED.

I agree that once you’ve got something at the bachelor’s level or higher, from a college of sufficient quality, nonone cares about the GED. You might bonus points for clawing your way out.

But willingly dropping out? Choosing to drop out and get a GED?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Agree 100%.

When I was in college, as a Psych major before changing to Computer Science, the head of the department, a PhD, was ex-Navy, got his GED after getting out, and just went from there. Brilliant man.

I’d say there can be social stigma to having a GED, but I’ve never seen any in the corporate world. The social end seems to come from the fact that people don’t realize there are other reasons people have a GED besides dropping out of school.


I’d say there is some stigma to the GED but it’s changing. When I graduated High School there were three types of people and ONLY three types who got GEDs (as far as public perception went): 1) those who were two stupid to pass the high school classes, 2) those who couldn’t behave themselves enough to stay in high school, or 3) just plain quitters.

That perception has changed a lot with time. Especially with more and more people deciding to go for a GED with quite legitimate reasons. And in recent years the GED exams have gotten significantly harder. I remember when the GED exams were redone in my state they showed before and after comparisons and it was like night and day. The new GED exam is way tougher than the SATs or ACTs, and a lot more time consuming. The old GED was like one of those standardized tests you take in grade nine or so just so the federal government could evaluate the high school.

Some of the more complex math questions on the old GED in my state was, “Plot the coordinates (3,4) on this graph.”

Now more advanced high school level algebra is a mainstay (quadratic equation and such.)

To the actual question at hand I think it would be a bad idea to drop out of high school and take the GED for this person.

First, it’s just one more year in HS and I honestly think it will be a much better situation for her all around.

For several reasons:

  1. One more year to familiarize herself with the language in a less challenging environment

  2. It is much easier to get scholarships and stuff lined up if you’re graduating from HS and directly applying to a college versus being a transfer student. At some universities it can be difficult getting the same scholarship opportunities as a transfer student versus someone who applied directly out of high school.

  3. Depending on what university/college she is interested in and what field of study, a large portion of her credits may not transfer. In my experience most national-level universities are loathe to accept credits in the more “hard” sciences from community colleges. Chemisty, bio, math et cetera often just won’t transfer.

So that year in community college could be ultimately a huge waste and wouldn’t be advancing her really all that much versus just going to HS for the final year.

She could also take college courses while HS, either from a local college or via the AP classes. And AP credit is widely accepted nationwide.

Thanks for all the advice so far - it’s been very helpful.

So if my cousin ended up applying directly to a university (versus a community college), her GED would not put her at a disadvantage - correct? One of my friends said universities will tend to choose a student with a high school diploma over a student with a GED, assuming that everything else about them is more or less similar.

In Korea, it’s hell until high school, but university is a breeze. I’d forgotten how college can be tough in the States. I suppose my cousin may be under the misconception that college life will be easier than high school (that’s how it is in Korea).