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Did I graduate high school, officially?
March 14, 2012 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Did I graduate HS? How does education verification (like a background check) for a high school diploma work? (Specifically, with small private schools.)

In the USA: Is there some state registry of students who have completed high school in a given year (perhaps some list that private schools would be required to report to the state each year) that background check companies will check with? Or would they contact the schools directly?

I finished high school years ago but did not get my diploma because I never completed a research paper. In the interim, I have graduated from college with a bachelors degree and also took the GED, just in case. But I'm curious what employers who run an education verification on me will see, and how to present myself on form applications. (Past employers have never run checks on me.)

In most situations like this I'd figure that I am not on record anywhere as having graduated high school (from my actual school--not via GED), but my school is small and odd and sometimes disorganized and it is not outside the realm of possibility that I got reported to some state agency as having graduated. (I was actually in the running to be valedictorian other than this incomplete, so they probably expected I'd turn in the paper eventually.)

I'm not trying to hide anything per se and if necessary would explain this to potential employers in person. I'm mostly curious vis a vis how to present myself on standard form applications that ask what high school one attended and whether one graduated, especially with big companies that might run checks automatically. If I'm on some official registry as having graduated (and thus for all intents and purposes did graduate, despite this missing research paper), it would be easiest to just say yes on those forms.

So how do I figure this out? Is there a state registry I can contact? Forms that I can have someone send to the school to get information on me? Do I have to somehow get an education check run on myself? If so, do all of the different companies verify stuff the same way?

I would like to stress that calling my school and identifying myself to ask them how they handled it is not an option for me (it's a small, informal, chatty, nosy community, I'm living a life they wouldn't approve of, and I'd rather not talk to them.)
posted by clever anonymous username to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I'm not following your question. If you've received a bachelor's degree, you've either graduated from high school or received a GED. How did you get admitted to college other than by having graduated high school or having received a GED (barring exceptional circumstances such as being a prodigy)?

Isn't evidence of having been granted a bachelor's degree sufficient proof of your educational background?

Sorry if I'm missing a fundamental aspect of your question?
posted by dfriedman at 10:12 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I doubt anyone would care seeing how you have a degree. Have you had a friend call posing as a prospective employer?

[I didn't pick up my diploma for a few years either because I owed money for something. I finally got it when I needed it to enlist in the Army.]
posted by just sayin at 10:13 PM on March 14, 2012


Could you call your school, give them a fake name, and pretend to be running a background check on you? E.g., "Hello, this is Florence Hooverschmidt calling from the Awesomeness Institute. I am calling to verify the credentials of Clever A. Username, who attended your school from 1992-1996. Can you please verify his attendance and tell me whether he earned a high school diploma?"
posted by decathecting at 10:14 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


My employers who've run education verifications have never asked about high schools. I think once it's established that you've graduated college, nobody cares about high school.

I will say, though, that someone I know was in an "exceptional circumstances" (i.e. prodigy) situation and skipped the last year of high school entirely to go to university. She was unable to get jobs during university that required a high school diploma, as her high school refused to grant her one because she hadn't completed all her required courses before she bounced.

She just graduated from med school and I think basically everyone involved is past it :) Since she got her B.S. I don't believe it's ever come up that she didn't graduate high school.
posted by troublesome at 10:18 PM on March 14, 2012


decathecting, having a friend call is a possibility. But I want to figure out if that's what potential employers are likely to do (especially big national companies), or if it will be done some other way.

And yes, I realize that for jobs where things depend on a single person's judgment and reason, my bachelors will be sufficient. But that won't be the case everywhere, especially now that I'm applying to jobs at some chain retail stores (yay shitty economy!) Mostly this is about making sure I have dotted all my Is and crossed all my Ts in any very regimented application process.
posted by clever anonymous username at 10:20 PM on March 14, 2012


Also, guys, could we please not derail this into how I managed to get where I am or whether anyone will care about this? That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking about what employers will find out when they run checks on me.

If you are a manager or HR person for a national retail chain (or other business that asks about HS graduation on its application) and know that they do not verify high school graduation if someone has a bachelors, that would be helpful. But otherwise, opinions aren't so helpful here.
posted by clever anonymous username at 10:30 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't work in the recruiting department of my large company, but I frequently run recruiting panels. Our application asks about high school, but only the terminal degree is verified; i.e. if you have HS diploma, BA, and MA, only the MA is routinely verified. YMMV, of course, but I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:38 PM on March 14, 2012


I deal extensively with background checks in my career.

In the USA: Is there some state registry of students who have completed high school in a given year (perhaps some list that private schools would be required to report to the state each year) that background check companies will check with?

No. There is no such registry.

Or would they contact the schools directly?

Yes. They would contact the school directly.

Because you have your bachelor's degree, and schools are very bad at responding to inquiries, the chances are very small that anyone would doubt your word that you graduated high school. Except for the small detail that you took the GED ... which can be verified by that board of education. Real high school grads don't take the GED.

So if you're worried people will think you didn't graduate, you should probably look to your own action in taking the GED rather than worry about what your odd high school will or won't say.
posted by jayder at 10:54 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


So if you're worried people will think you didn't graduate, you should probably look to your own action in taking the GED rather than worry about what your odd high school will or won't say.

In other words, don't tell anyone you took the GED.

They're going to verify the highest degree before anything else. If the B.A. is verified, they're not going to go searching for a high school diploma. You're fine.
posted by lewedswiver at 11:02 PM on March 14, 2012


Because you have your bachelor's degree, and schools are very bad at responding to inquiries, the chances are very small that anyone would doubt your word that you graduated high school.

Does this apply to outsourced background checks as well--that the backround check company will stop searching after confirming the terminal degree?
posted by clever anonymous username at 11:13 PM on March 14, 2012


I don't know. I see state-prepared background checks. There is really no ONE kind of background check. Somebody, at some background check company somewhere, could be super diligent and call your high school even though they've confirmed your college degree. You seem to think there's an absolute, final answer to this, and there isn't.
posted by jayder at 11:22 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but I can tell you that in my State, there is no official way to find out if a person graduated High School in the State. Not even from the high school where the alleged graduation was earned.

It's a "privacy issue".


posted by caclwmr4 at 11:31 PM on March 14, 2012


I can't verify, but I was always told that passing the GED *was* graduating high school. You have earned a diploma just as if you'd sat in the classes. I don't think there's supposed to be any distinction between the two ways of getting there.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:55 PM on March 14, 2012


I don't know about background checks per se but there are definitely circumstances where high school is required. State-funded, grant-funded, and other positions where the money is tied to very specific requirements. I went to massage school in NY state, and as a regulated, licensed trade school they didn't care about college, grad school, work experience, etc. I had to present an official sealed high school transcript to get in. Did you not have to submit a high school transcript to get into college?

I think it would be worth the peace of mind to request a transcript from your high school. Without actually seeing what they have on record, you are just speculating about what company x might find out, & you'll remain anxious about it.
posted by headnsouth at 3:39 AM on March 15, 2012


A friend of mine had this happen recently. He applied to a very large company here, for a regular position (not CEO or something). This is a company with a product you've probably heard of, with thousands of employees and main offices in three states. They did an extensive background check, and did check high school, something I'd never heard of before.

What the HR person did was request transcripts from the high school. As it had been some 30 years since he finished high school, it took a while for the school to send them, but they did locate the transcripts and send them in. The transcripts included every class he took, the grade he received for those classes, and what his final status was when he left (graduated, etc.). It was the same as when a college asks for a transcript from a high school.

You can request a copy of your own transcripts from your high school without going into details about why you need it. Depending on how long ago it was, it may be archived but they should still have it. If the school doesn't have it, check with your state's Board of Education. For example, if you are in Texas they keep record of whether you graduated but not the actual transcripts themselves (which would be the information you wanted anyway).
posted by Houstonian at 3:46 AM on March 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Could you call, not give your name, and ask if you can do a paper now to get the diploma?
posted by Bun Surnt at 4:33 AM on March 15, 2012


Actually, I think the school system has worked pretty hard to keep the GED from meaning "high school graduate." Technically the term is high school equivalency. They gotta maintain that education monopoly. That said, if you have a Bachelor's degree it's a moot point. Nobody will care. If you are worried about a security clearance or something like that, I'd go with the GED as you know that can be verified. If somebody asks it's easy enough to explain that you took off for college without completing a class and thus didn't think you technically were awarded a high school diploma, so you took the GED.
posted by COD at 6:08 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What COD said. Also, schools routinely send transcripts for college apps, scholarship applications, etc. I suggest calling the school and simply requesting a copy of the transcript, no need to chat or share, just give them a mailing address. You'll have more peace of mind knowing exactly what they have, but you have accepted and verifiable credentials with the GED and the bachelors. I handle some records-related FERPA work for a state agency and, while your question is state dependent, omnibus state records repositories are mostly in the planning stages after race to the top. The likeliest scenario is that a person so inclined to find out about your high school final status would contact the school and ask for enrollment/diploma verification -- to which the school would reply with your dates of enrollment and then a single word response such as graduated or withdrawn. The only way for you to know is to make the request yourself.
posted by cgk at 6:31 AM on March 15, 2012


Maybe you could pay the modest application fee to your local community college, with no intention of actually enrolling, and see what the school sends them.
posted by jayder at 2:05 PM on March 15, 2012


COD: "Actually, I think the school system has worked pretty hard to keep the GED from meaning "high school graduate.""

IIRC, mine says "Arkansas High School Diploma" on it, so it seems to mean just that.
posted by wierdo at 6:24 PM on March 15, 2012


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