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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Inspired Start: Experiences of Adult Students Confronting the GED Process

  • Author(s): McKay, Pilar Erin
  • Advisor(s): Erickson, Frederick
  • et al.

Options are limited to gaining a high school equivalency for dropouts. The General Education Development (GED) exam provides people who have left school one way of gaining their secondary school credential. Employing the use of in-depth interviews, auto-ethnography, and participant observation, this study reports the descriptive findings of twelve GED preparation class students to understand why they left school, what motivates them to return and continue attending preparation classes, and how they will use the credential after they pass the exam. Despite most students reporting a pleasant elementary school experience, students entered high school with a decreased commitment towards schooling and an increased interest in socializing. Eventually, a precipitous drop in participation led them to dropping out of school. Returning to the GED process, for many students, was the product of a sudden life event - whether it was health-related, personal, or economic - students found themselves in a situation where they were inspired to gain the equivalency. Most students planned on entering a career after gaining their equivalency, either with their next step to re-enter the workforce or continue their education. The GED process is not simply about the certification, it is about the personal redemption of the dropout to prove to themselves and their families that they have matured and overcome their situation.

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