Going Back to High School as an Adult

Posted on February 19 2024

Going Back to High School as an Adult


If you left high school without graduating and are now an adult, it’s not too late to go back to school and finish what you started. 

A high school equivalency isn’t your only option, either. You can earn a standard high school diploma, just like you would have gotten as a teenager, as an adult. However, as you know, life gets more and more complicated the older you get, so there are many things to consider before continuing your education as an adult. Continue reading to prepare for your return to school and get answers to some of your frequently asked questions. 


Can Adults Go Back to High School


Oftentimes, adults think that once they've aged out of the public school system, their only option is to earn an equivalency diploma. This isn’t the case, and there are a variety of programs available to help adults earn their high school diplomas. 

There are programs available oftentimes through state departments of education, local nonprofits, and private online high schools. We’ll get more into researching programs and finding a good fit for you in the next section. 


Questions to Ask Before Returning to School


  • Why do I want to do this? 
  • Always start with your why. Why do you want to go back to school? To have the education you need to get that promotion? Go to college? Finish what you started? Set a good example for your kids? Your reasons for wanting to finish high school are yours and will motivate you when things get tough. Think through your why, write it down, and put it somewhere you’ll see it while you’re working toward your goal. 


  • Do I have time to do this? 
  • Going back to school isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Finishing your high school requirements and earning your diploma takes time, so you’ll need to make sure your schedule allows you to return to school. If you are a busy parent, full-time employee, or caregiver, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue your education. There are a variety of programs out there that provide time and place flexibility so you can integrate your studies into your existing schedule. Make sure you research programs so you can choose a program that works with your lifestyle. 

  • Do I have the financial means and resources to do this? 
  • Depending on what type of high school program you choose, you may need financial or technological resources to complete the program. While there are a variety of free programs available, some programs are tuition-based. Consider tuition and the cost of books, supplies, and technology as you browse programs. 


  • Do I have a support system in place?
  • Whether you need childcare, access to wifi at a friend’s house, or encouragement, every student needs a support system. Make a list of all the people in your life who could be on your high school support team. It can include family members, friends, coworkers, or your social media followers — anyone you think could help support you on your journey. 


  • Where do I want to finish high school?
  • Especially in a post-COVID-19 world, there are a ton of programs and modalities for completing your high school education. There are in-person, online, blended, accelerated, synchronous, and asynchronous programs, to name a few. Explore options in your area and online to see what location (in-person, online, or blended) and time (set class times vs. working when and where it’s easiest for you) would work best for you. 


  • Is the school I’m considering accredited? 
  • Accreditation is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a school. Most colleges and universities require an accredited high school diploma or equivalency diploma for admission, and not having an accredited diploma can severely limit your education and career prospects. Additionally, if you ever need to transfer to another school, your credits may not transfer if you are attending an unaccredited school. When checking for accreditation, the best place to start is the school’s About Us page. Most accredited schools will include this information up front, so it should be easy to find. Learn more about accreditation on our blog. 



    Tips for Going Back to School as an Adult

    Keep your support team in the loop

    Keep your support team updated with your progress so they can encourage and support you throughout your high school journey. No win is too small when you’re working toward a big goal. 

    See if your work experience will count as course credits

    If you’re over the age of 18, odds are you have at least a year or two of work experience under your belt. When you’re working on re-enrolling and having your new school review your transcript, make sure to ask about work experience credits. 

    Some high school programs offer course credits for work experience. This could help you get re-started on your education a few steps closer to graduation than you would have been with just the credits from your transcript.

    Familiarize yourself with the resources available to you

    Your school will likely provide a list of resources to you, such as ways to contact your teacher or academic advisor or access tutoring services, libraries, and online platforms. Make sure to keep this in a place where you can find it easily if you run into any barriers. 

    Explore your interests

    Depending on what program you choose and how many credits you still need to earn before graduation, you may have the opportunity to take elective courses. It can be tempting to choose courses that could be easy for you, but this is a great opportunity to explore your interests and learn something new rather than just satisfying a credit requirement. 

    Celebrate your accomplishment

    Graduating from high school, whether you’re 18 or 48, is a huge accomplishment! When you graduate, celebrate your hard work. You deserve it!


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Should I get a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma?

    The decision is totally up to you. A high school equivalency diploma (commonly referred to as a GED) has become almost ubiquitous with a standard high school diploma, though there are several key differences. 

    Earning a GED is based entirely on test scores. You take exams in several different subject areas, and if you pass, you get your equivalency diploma. This can be a quick way to obtain the credential, but some people don’t test well or suffer from test anxiety. 

    Earning your high school diploma as an adult requires you to take classes and earn credits. Your success is based on your performance across an entire class vs. a single exam, which is easier for some people. 

    While most employers, colleges, and the U.S. military accept equivalency diplomas, some exceptions exist. So if you have career goals or a certain college or university in mind, make sure you check their hiring/enrollment requirements before deciding on whether to get your diploma or an equivalency diploma.

    What are the benefits of earning my high school diploma?

    Eligible for more jobs… Increased earning potential… Access to higher education…

    These are just a few of the benefits of earning your high school diploma. Check out these stats: 

    If statistics aren’t convincing enough, finishing something you started a long time ago will also make you feel pretty good about yourself. Who doesn’t benefit from a confidence boost?

    Can I go back to school if I’m a parent, a full-time worker, or both? 

    Absolutely. There are a variety of programs out there designed specifically to help busy adults graduate from high school. Many online programs are asynchronous, which means there are no set class times, so you can work on classwork anytime and anywhere. 


    The American Academy

    The American Academy is an accredited private high school offering an online diploma program that can be completed anytime and anywhere. We also offer individual courses.

    Next time you ask yourself, “Can adults go back to high school?” Remember, the answer is a resounding yes. And The American Academy is an excellent option for learners who need flexibility but still want support. 

    Every student is paired up with an Academic Coach who helps build a personalized education plan and checks in with them regularly to make sure they have everything they need to stay on track to graduation. Click here to learn more about the diploma program.