Do you need a high school diploma? (2023)

"Schools must expand beyond the traditional territorial control over conferring credentials and acknowledge that people can and do learn in unconventional ways."- Judy Arnall, Author Unschooling to University

Do you need a high school diploma?

Many would see this questions and ask, is this even up for debate? If that surprises you, then let us deliver a complete shock: the answer is, "probably not".

Why? Because there are a multitude of avenues and alternatives to a diploma. Avenues that are better, more fun, and more real than a piece of paper that reduces who you are, what you can do, and what you know to a list of



What is the purpose of a high school diploma?

Do you need a high school diploma? (1)

In theory a diploma tells the world that you are ready for the next stage in life:

  • Entry level work
  • Training
  • Apprenticeship
  • Work experience/volunteering
  • College
  • University
  • Starting an enterprise
  • Travel/Self-Exploration
(Video) What Is A High School Diploma Really Worth

The reality is that a high school diploma does not necessarily prepare you for, or guarantee you success at, any of these things. What a HS diploma tells the world is that you succeeded at the game of high school, i.e., you passed a lot of courses. If you scored top marks, it also indicates that you have spent a great deal of time studying and conscientiously doing what you were told to get good grades or, that you are academically inclined.

​But really, do marks on a piece of paper actually represent you? Do they say that you know who you are; that you know how to be happy; that you know how to think creatively; how to get things done, how to learn, how to collaborate, how to communicate? No, they don’t. And that is the problem because to succeed in all of the ‘next stage’ life items, these are the skills, attitudes, and knowledge that you actually need.Read about the 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

12 Top Skills For Any Industry: Transferable Skills To Make Your Career A Success

how do you enter post-secondary without a diploma?

As Judy Arnall writes in her book, Unschooling to University, “There are no shortcuts. One must be adequately educated to apply for post-secondary admittance, but school courses are not the only way to demonstrate competencies.”

And we can say the same about life; you must be adequately educated to reach your goals and succeed.

Making the decision to not take the required courses to get a regular diploma is not about avoiding work: it is about choosing the work you want to do instead of letting someone else choose a path for you. Unschooling your school is going to take effort and hard work because you are choosing to engage in real life learning and life is hard. But when you direct your own learning you get to decide how and when and with whom you do that learning and that makes all the difference. Real choice can turn learning from drudgery to excitement.

(Video) The importance of a High School Diploma

True education isn't about proving yourself to a system—through grades and courses—it is about proving yourself to yourself. There are few more satisfying feelings in life than self motivated accomplishment.

The five most straightforward ways to hack the system and get into post-secondary without a diploma are:

  1. Take Open University courses and use the credits to transfer into another institution.
  2. Use SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Testing Program) scores.
  3. Take only the prerequisite courses that university/college deems necessary.
  4. Do some living, figure out what you really want to study and enter as a mature student.
  5. Create a stunning portfolio and market it, along with your FL Diploma,like crazy!

Now it is time for you to do the work.

  1. University Admissions(Canada) University Admission (US)-Read the overview and explore the site in detail.
  2. Unschooling to University -Delve deeply into the rich content on this site and READ THE BOOK.
  3. Professor Carlos Ricci -Read his paper and explore the Nipissing University site, Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning.
  4. Jim Flannery- Get to know Jim, download hisaudio/app book Leave Schooland connect with others on Peer Unschooling Network
  5. Blake Boles -Study his site and READ ALLHIS BOOKS
  6. FL-Diploma - A school leaving readiness program. Your culminating project. Your “I am ready for life” thesis. Your way you prove yourself to yourself.

As we have said, there are no shortcuts.

Is being a life-long learner more important than a diploma?


Life provides a constant stream of issues that need solutions—what better way to handle life than by being a person who loves to learn, knows how to do it and adapts. Being a Free Learner gives you a myriad of opportunities to practice, practice, practice. It is estimated that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately work in completely new job types that don’t currently exist. So, how can an outdated system come anywhere close to preparing tomorrow’s adults for the world in which they are expected to thrive? A world that, as of today, hasn’t even been imagined. Do we really trust the high school curriculum to have, encourage, and develop that imagination when it has a strong history of doing the



The adaptability that comes with being a life-long learner allows you to future-proof your life, no matter what it looks like.

Why are the 6Cs the new standarD

There is an increased understanding of the vital importance of the 6Cs: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Critical thinking,Compassion andCommunity. And although school boards are slowly increasing their focus on the 6Cs, efforts to teach “about them” is not the solution. Focusing on your own interests and passions will naturally and seamlessly provide a multitude of opportunities for honing these skills through authentic, meaningful activity. In other words, if you are a FL you will inevitably rock at the 6Cs.

What does self-knowledge and well-being have to do with it?

​Everything. If you don’t know yourself, what makes you happy, what you enjoy, how to sustain your mental and emotional health, all the diplomas and degrees in the world cannot bring you a meaningful life. Play, exploration, experimentation, getting bored or frustrated, tying something else; these are the things that build self-knowledge. When you deepen your understanding of who you are, you learn what you need and how to take care of yourself—you learn how to maintain your well-being. And after all, what’s your life about if it’s not about you?

(Video) 10 Highest Paying Jobs You Can Do Without A College Degree Or High School Diploma
“We call on Canada’s governments and post secondary institutions to prioritize mentalhealth and wellbeing for students, teachers and teacher candidates.”
-Association of Canadian Deans of Education,Teaching and Teacher Education for Post-Pandemic Canada, August 2020

don't forget about social capital!

Social capitalis the value that comes from social networks, or groupings of people, which allow individuals to achieve things they couldn't on their own.When we pay attention to social capital, and how to build it, we help make the world a better place to live, one neighborhood, one school, one city at a time.

Do a Google search for ideas on building social capital or check out these simple examples from the University of Minnesota.

SummarY: Here is what is important

  • ​​Loving learning
  • Knowing how you learn
  • Life-long learning
  • ​Adaptability
  • ​6 Cs
  • Self-understanding
  • Wellbeing
  • Real life
  • Social Capital


​Being a FL and taking complete responsibility for your education is the process that will grant you all of the above. It is the process that counts. Being handed information to memorize will not turn you into the kind of adult you want to be. YOU have to do the work and if you do, you will love learning, know yourself, build adaptability, master the 4Cs, understand how to take care of your well-being and become a life-long learner.

Read more about people who have done just that: ThePursuit of Happinessand

Life After Graduation: A Free Schoolers Perspective


The process of acquiring theFL Diplomais your answer. The process is designed to help you create a personal plan for getting where you want to go. In that process you might discover that you want to:

  • complete the required grade 12 credits and get a diploma, or
  • take a few Open University courses and use them to prove your education level, or
  • start work as an unpaid intern and demonstrate why you should be hired, or
  • get involved in community work and make a difference and gain work experience, or
  • take an entry level job and earnmoney for an extended travel experience

The possibilities are endless. But the point is that it is personal, it is not simply marks on a paper. It requires you to decide what is next and then do the research to determine your best route.

Take a look at the Quick Guide to Employability.

Here is a great video from a Sudbury Valley School (an unschooling school in action!) that highlights how people have gone onto successful lives without a standard diploma.

(Video) How Dropping Out of High School Made Me A Millionaire

more info for parents


Can you go to uni without a diploma? ›

At Birkbeck, we encourage applications from students without traditional qualifications and we welcome students from all educational backgrounds. Our admissions tutors will take into account the knowledge and skills that you have developed outside the classroom, not only your previous qualifications.

What happens if you don't graduate high school in America? ›

You'll Have A Hard Time Getting A Job

High school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed than their diploma-holding friends. According to the Bureau of Labor, in 2007, the unemployment rate for high school graduates was 19.9 percent, while the unemployment rate for dropouts was 26.9 percent.

What can you get instead of a diploma? ›

The most common alternative for those who are seeking an alternative to earning a high school diploma is a GED certificate. GED stands for General Educational Development. In order to receive your GED, you must take the GED test.

Does diploma have no value? ›

Diplomas make you ready for the job market. Most people who opt for diplomas are taught the practical and technical part of a course, while degrees are more theoretical . People with degrees have fewer opportunities compared to those with diplomas who are now in demand for their technical skills.

Where do most high school dropouts end up? ›

High school dropouts are more likely to suffer from cancer, lung disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and on average their life expectancy is nine years shorter than high school graduates. High school dropouts also have a much higher probability of ending up in prison or jail.

What is the lowest age to graduate high school? ›

Kearney graduated from high school at age 6 and went to Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California, where he obtained an Associate of Science in Geology at age 8. In 1993, his family moved to Alabama. Circa 1996, he was interviewed by Meredith Vieira on Turning Point (ABC News).

Is it OK to not graduate? ›

Even without a college degree, it's still possible to get a job. There are many job positions that do not require applicants to be college graduates. However, the kinds of jobs available, as well as opportunities for the career and income advancement, may be limited.

Is GED easier than high school? ›

Earning a GED is not necessarily harder than getting a high school diploma, but the process between the two is different. This means while one is not more difficult than the other to earn, one of these options may be a better fit for you and better match your study habits and goals.

What is the highest paying job without a diploma? ›

Jobs that pay well without a high school diploma
  1. Packer. National average salary: $10.24 per hour. ...
  2. Florist. National average salary: $12.24 per hour. ...
  3. Warehouse worker. National average salary: $12.92 per hour. ...
  4. Security guard. National average salary: $13.28 per hour. ...
  5. Telemarketer. ...
  6. Receptionist. ...
  7. Gardener. ...
  8. Forklift operator.
4 Feb 2020

Why is a GED not as good as a diploma? ›

While earning a GED will provide the prerequisite for some colleges and training programs, it won't provide the learning needed to succeed in those programs, or provide students with the discipline that comes from taking courses to meet requirements.

Do employers care about diploma? ›

And remember those critical skills employers are looking for? Having a degree demonstrates that you have those. Many employers are even willing to leave a job unfilled longer so they can fill it with the right degree-qualified candidate. Your future employer cares about your degree, and so should you!

Are diplomas really important? ›

You Need a High School Diploma to Qualify for Most Training Programs. Not only will your diploma make you competitive for a job and promotions, but your diploma is necessary if you have dreams to pursue any specialized role or career.

Do you need a diploma to be successful in life? ›

That being said, you can certainly be successful without a college degree — your skills and talents can get you hired. Find out exactly what skills are needed for your career path and work hard to excel in them. You will have to be determined, self-disciplined, and goal-oriented.

Why do dropouts end up in jail? ›

“There is a higher chance of the people who dropout [of high school] to go to prison because they don't have a high school education to get a higher paying job, so that results in deviant behavior,” senior Victoria Melton said.

How many dropouts become successful? ›

Based on these numbers, the college dropout success rate is only at around 6%. There is no guarantee of financial success if one chooses to leave school and pursue an interest that could possibly be translated into a scalable business.

Can high school dropouts make it in life? ›

Statistically, high school dropouts live shorter, less fulfilling lives. Statistics show that dropouts have a life expectancy of nine years less than graduates. That is nearly a decade less, full of mixed experiences and quality years with family and friends.

What age can you legally leave school? ›

School leaving age

Children can leave school on the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach 16 years of age. They must however do one of the following until they are 18: stay in full-time education, e.g. at a college. start an apprenticeship or traineeship.

What's the oldest you can be in high school? ›

Elementary school is kindergarten through 5th grade (ages 5-10), middle school is grades 6-8 (ages 11-13), and high school is grades 9-12 (ages 14-18).

Who is the youngest graduate in the world? ›

Michael Kearney

He aced the John Hopkin diagnostics test for math, without any preparation. Michael Kearney received his high school diploma at the age of 6. During this time, he enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College. By 8, he received his geology degree and was announced as the world's youngest college grad.

What do you call a person who didn't graduate? ›

-ˈgraj-wət. : a person who is not a graduate. He became a college dropout, though nongraduate may be the more precise term.

Is graduating late considered a failure? ›

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2019 only 41% of college students graduate in four years. Meaning, the majority of students do not graduate within the four year time frame. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you end up graduating late.

Why do students fail to graduate? ›

Fear of failure is one among the top reasons why many students fail. They tend to have a negative attitude towards progress and they never take a step to better their grades once they fail in life. That is why it is important to teach them to learn from failures and quickly move on in life.

Can you go to uni with just GCSEs? ›

Most universities will look for an 4/5 at GCSE (A*-C under the old grading system) in English, maths and possibly science. Specific courses may also ask for minimum grades in certain relevant GCSE subjects, while competitive courses will look for strong GCSE results as an indicator of your academic ability.

Can I go to university without a high school diploma UK? ›

Since you're here, you may be wondering whether you have any chance of getting to any British university with poor high school exam results or even with no high school leaving qualification at all. Well, the answer is simple: yes! You can, indeed, study at a university in the UK!

Do I need qualifications to go to university? ›

What do universities require for admissions? You'll still be expected to demonstrate your ability and suitability for the course, either through a wide variety of qualifications such as an Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma, or relevant work experience.

Can I go uni without GCSE? ›

While universities usually require a passing grade in GCSE Maths and English, it's certainly possible to get in with no GCSEs. However, you will have to fill out your application with plenty of impressive-sounding skills and character traits.

Is a 6 good in GCSE? ›

6 = High B grade.

What grades should Year 10 be achieving? ›

Students in Year 10, in most subjects, are now working towards Grade 9 – 1.

What is a good grade in year 7? ›

New GCSEs and New Grading

7 A A grade 7 is a low or mid A. 6 B A grade 6 is a high B. 5 B/C A grade 5 is a low B ort high C. This is the minimum grade for a 'strong pass'.

Can you make it in life without a highschool diploma? ›

There are a variety of potentially easy and high-quality jobs out there that don't require a high school diploma or GED. These jobs can range from customer service to construction, as well as entry-level roles that can lead to high-paying positions with experience.

How can I live without a diploma? ›

There are many types of jobs available for people without a high school diploma.
Here are some examples of no high school diploma jobs:
  1. Barista. ...
  2. Personal shopper. ...
  3. Custodian. ...
  4. Housekeeper. ...
  5. Server. ...
  6. Security guard. ...
  7. Florist. ...
  8. Customer support representative.
4 Feb 2020

Can I go abroad without diploma? ›

Moving abroad for work is a big step, and there are a lot of logistics to navigate. Nevertheless, it's absolutely possible, even without a formal education. You may not have a degree, but your skills and professional experience can open doors to many career fields overseas.

What is the minimum GPA to go to university? ›

Top academic institutions might require students to have GPAs of 3.5 or higher. Of course, there are also schools with less demanding admission requirements, where you can apply with a lower GPA (2.5 or sometimes even as low as 2.0). Universities and colleges also look at the type of GPA.

Can grade 11 go to university? ›

The Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level is for those who truly aspire to go to university for a specific degree which may require the previous higher level subjects . . . if you want to go into arts, drama, entrepreneurship, or to the College of the Arts, or any other field that does not require an AS level, you can do that ...

What jobs require no university? ›

Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs That You Don't Need a Degree For
  • Firefighter. Firefighters can earn up to £40,000 per year, depending on their rank. ...
  • Police Constable. ...
  • Entrepreneur. ...
  • Train and Tram Drivers. ...
  • Training Managers. ...
  • Project Manager. ...
  • Air Traffic Controllers. ...
  • Sales Managers.

What if my child fails GCSEs? ›

GCSE examination resits

Most schools and colleges allow GCSE students to resit failed examinations. You can resit English and Maths exams in November and examinations in other subjects are then taken in the following June. You will need to double check the examination schedule with your school.

What to do if I fail all my GCSEs? ›

Resit your GCSEs through your school

You can still enrol to retake your GCSEs at a local school or college. This means you'll have a timetable and attend classes with other GCSE students. For Maths and English, resitting is compulsory if you haven't achieved a pass (grade 4).

What jobs can you get if you fail your GCSEs? ›

So even if you're thinking “I failed my GCSEs”, never fear! We'll answer all your questions about apprenticeships with no qualifications.
What can I do an apprenticeship in?
  • Construction.
  • Retail.
  • Hospitality (chef, waitress etc).
  • Beauty (hairdresser). ...
  • Business administration.
  • Animal care.
  • Carpentry and joinery.


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