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High school dropouts are not inherent failures

Take the SAT, graduate high school, go to college. High school dropouts are losers. Gap year takers are flighty. Community college transfers are uneducated. This is the narrative that is fed to young students across the United States.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Test of General Educational Development, also known as the GED, is a series of tests designed to demonstrate a person’s high school academic knowledge. The GED is commonly taken by those that were homeschooled or those who dropped out of or could not finish high school. The GED Testing Service website said that the tests are “an excellent alternative to a traditional high school diploma.” The site added that most – but not all – colleges accept GED test scores in lieu of high school diplomas. So why the belief that only a high school graduate, and a high school graduate with a high GPA and high-test scores at that, can succeed in college?

GED takers who passed the tests are, in fact, qualified to attend college. The GED site lists some statistics: 45% of those who pass the GED enrolled in a college certificate or degree program within three years. Of those, 35% of students enroll within one year of receiving their GED credential.

But taking the GED is not the only way students can diverge from the narrowly defined path of what makes a “good” college student. Some students choose to take gap years between high school and college, whether to travel, to study or participate in an internship, to look after their health or a family member in need or simply to hold down a job for a while before racking up massive student debt.

Another deviation from the typical college student’s route is community college. In recent years, the rates of community college transfers to four-year colleges in the United States has increased dramatically. In 2018, the University of California admitted almost 25,000 students transferring from community colleges. Transfer students make up approximately 38% of all students in higher education in 2018, according to The New York Times.

Still, there is a difference between what the statistics say and what is commonly believed to be true. The phrase “high school dropout” is synonymous with “lazy” and “stupid.” The truth of the matter is this: the average Seton Hall student probably talks each and every day to someone who did not follow the regimented path from high school to college without even realizing it.

Those who, for whatever reason, were not able to transition directly from high school to college can be just as smart, capable and active as those that did. Following a prescribed path through academic careers should not dictate whether or not a person is treated with respect.

Marie Louise Leone is a junior diplomacy and modern languages double major from Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at

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