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Question: I am a junior at a college prep high school. I'd like to get out of high school and get on to college, but my high school won't allow students to take summer school classes and graduate early.

One of the counselors told me I could talk to (the local) community college and see about taking my GED. But my mom says she hates having spent thousands of dollars for tuition with no diploma to show for it, and she says that people will think I got a GED because I couldn't make it through high school. I've taken the ACT and my score is fine. What do you think I should do?

- Christopher, 17

Answer: From Pat and David: Hey, your mom's got a point. The GED serves a purpose for a lot of people, but it's not a diploma. A high school diploma indicates you've successfully completed high school requirements. The GED shows only that you have demonstrated competency in basic subjects.

We see the GED as an option for you ONLY if your goal is really to get on to college and continue academic work - and if you're really stifled and not just dropping out of high school because you don't want to do the work.

Before you make such a critical decision, we strongly recommend that you talk to the colleges you're interested in and ask them how they view GED students.

We also suggest that you go back and talk to your counselor and ask if there is any way to take some college courses along with your senior year curriculum.

Finally, since your parents obviously have a lot invested, the decision has to be one you work out with them. Take a hard look together at the different options. Think about the financial considerations, your academic readiness, your social maturity and the likely consequences for your current friendships.

Then come to a decision that's as agreeable and guilt-free as possible for all of you.

What's up: Over the past several months, we've printed letters from you saying that high school is boring; complaining that your friends skip school, cheat on tests and still get passing grades; and asking what's the use in going to class.

Well, you aren't the only ones with a gripe. Colleges and employers say they're tired of poorly prepared and academically weak high school students being "given" diplomas that are little more than certificates of attendance.

The call is going out for high school seniors to be denied diplomas unless they can demonstrate achievement and competency in such basic subjects as English, math, social studies and science. Some states and educators are starting to consider other options, including year-round classes and much stricter requirements for high school graduation.

How do you feel about all this?

First name_____________________________________________


I attend public______ private_______school and am in_____ grade

In my opinion, we would be better off if:

___ 1. High schools had stricter requirements that made it necessary for students to learn more and study harder for four years.

___ 2. High schools were more flexible. Students should be able to take an accelerated course and/or quiz out of required classes so they can graduate with a diploma (not just a GED) in less than four years and get on with college, vocational training, a job or the military.

___ 3. High school remains the way it is now.

If you have other ideas or comments, add them too.

Send your comments and questions to Pat and David, Talk to us, c/o Universal Press Syndicate, 4900 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64112.