From Struggling Student to High School Graduate: How to Make the Shift

4 min to read
A young high school student in a green sweater is sitting at her desk planning her high school graduation from Connections Academy online school.

It can be painful for a parent to see their teenager struggling with school or struggling to graduate high school due to either academic or personal circumstances. Yet, graduating from high school is oftentimes crucial for achieving long-term success. Luckily, there are high school interventions and alternative high schools for struggling students, and many of these options can help students obtain the necessary education while pursuing a path that will help them be happier and more successful.


One high school intervention for struggling students is to obtain a General Educational Development (GED) credential. A person must be at least sixteen years old, and a GED requires passing a series of four tests to show that the test taker has achieved a high school level of education. The four main testing areas are: math, language arts, social studies, and science. The tests can be retaken up to twice annually.

 A GED can be a good option for students who want to get started on a trade or technical career


Schools and employers usually view a GED as equivalent to a high school degree, and most accredited colleges will accept a GED credential.

 Also, GEDs usually do not require additional classes, and the tests can be taken in person or, in some cases, online. The tests can also be taken at separate times, which allows students to focus on studying one topic at a time. Further, the tests are not expensive.

What to Consider

Graduating from high school early may necessitate the student taking summer classes or take extra classes during the year. 

Also, graduating early means the student may miss out on school social events such as prom and graduation.

Early College High School Initiative

The Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI), also referred to as “early college,” works with management programs, school districts, high schools, and/or universities to help students earn college credit while they pursue a high school diploma. So, instead of taking high school courses and a few college courses, such as when students pursue dual enrollment, the courses themselves are viewed as college curriculum that is tailored to high school students. At minimum, a graduating student will earn at least twelve credits from their early college that are transferrable to many other colleges should the student pursue a four-year college degree. Students can also earn an associate degree if they graduate from their ECHSI programs. 

ECHSI can be a high school intervention for struggling students, or it can be an option for students who want to start early on their college education.


The idea of earning college credit can be appealing to students who want to get a head start on their higher education. Early colleges also expose students to the rigors of higher education and help them to adapt to those standards and develop effective study habits.

What to Consider

Some states regulate ECHSI programs more strictly than others, so the curriculum and requirements may vary.

Furthermore, early colleges often require some tuition, but many families can receive financial assistance or tuition waivers if they meet certain requirements, such as being low-income or part of an underrepresented group.

ECHSI schools typically have an application process, so a student could be denied entrance, and ECHSI programs may not be offered to high school freshmen.

Online High School

Online high schools can offer students the opportunity to learn material away from the traditional, brick-and-mortar school. They are run by for-profit organizations, charter schools, or school districts, and they must adhere to state and national curriculum standards.


Online school allows for schedule flexibility that can accommodate students’ job responsibilities, internships, travel, medical appointments, etc.

Online school for struggling students can allow students to learn at their own pace. It can also distance students from any negative situations they may have had at their brick-and-mortar high schools such as bullying. Online high schools also often require a parent or other trusted adult to play an active part in their student’s education, which can be beneficial for students struggling to graduate from high school 

What to Consider

Students may face the challenges of creating a learning environment that does not distract them, staying self-disciplined and self-motivated to complete their education, managing their time efficiently, and transitioning from brick-and-mortar schooling to online schooling.

Traditional brick-and-mortar school is not the only option for students struggling with high school. There are several paths that parents can take to ensure that their students are receiving critical education in a manner that works best for their students’ situations, learning styles, and goals.

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