Without a doubt all California youth, regardless of formal school status, require some form of education after high school.

Whether you are a special-needs, foster, homeless, immigrant, incarcerated or other transition age youth, there are a number of opportunities and programs available to help you leave high school prepared for college, careers and life.

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Employment, training and social service agencies are key partners with high schools, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and career technical colleges which offer Federal, State, and local funds to assist a student preparing for college and career education.

Following are examples of high school exit options, programs and activities that may be available for transition age students to prepare them for their transition to life after high school:

Outreach & Student Services

Outreach & Student Services

Many colleges and youth agencies have outreach and student services programs, such as TRIO designed specifically to help transition age youth.

Click here for a list of outreach and student services programs in colleges and universities throughout California, including services for youth impacted by the juvenile justice system.


High School Diploma

High School Diploma

To earn a recognized, accredited high school diploma, students must complete the required courses, meeting California graduation requirements.

If you cannot graduate by the end of your senior year, ask your teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator if your school district allows seniors to stay in high school over the summer or sometimes for an additional year to complete their course work.

If you are in special education, you can stay in school until you are 22 years old.


Early College High School

High School Diploma Equivalent

If you choose not to take additional courses, you can take one of two national tests – the High School Equivalency Exam or the GED – instead of completing coursework.

If you pass one of these tests, you will get the equivalent of a diploma.

Both tests measure a student’s ability to do high school-level work, but they have different eligibility requirements and different strengths and weaknesses.


Alternate Diploma

Alternate Diploma

In California, special needs students with the most significant cognitive disabilities may be awarded an alternate high school diploma based on alternate academic achievement standards, but that diploma must be standards-based.

Multiple options are provided for students to demonstrate competency.

Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who are working towards an alternate diploma must receive instruction that promotes their involvement and progress in the general education curriculum.


Diploma Plus

Diploma Plus Program

The Diploma Plus Program is designed to prevent transition age high school students from dropping out of school.  Students are referred for enrollment through counselors and administrators from their home- based high school.

Students work at their own pace for progressive performance. Students cannot graduate early, but by working hard, they can make up lost time and get back "on track" with their graduating class.


Dual & Concurrent Enrollment

Dual or Concurrent Enrollment

Dual or concurrent enrollment program refers to a partnership between a college or university and a school district in which the student who has not yet graduated from high school is able to enroll in college courses and earn college credit.

Credits can be transferred to the college or university in the partnership, and applied toward completion of a degree or educational credential, which the student would earn after leaving high school.


Early College High School

Early College High School

The Early College High School experience is a partnership between a school district and a college or university that allows a student to simultaneously complete requirements toward earning a regular high school diploma and earn credits that are transferable to the college or university within the partnership.

Students enrolled in Early College High School earn credits as part of their course of study toward a college degree or credential at no cost to the student or student’s family.




Internships are formal agreements whereby a student or youth is assigned specific tasks in a workplace over a limited period of time.

They can be paid or unpaid, depending on the nature of the agreement with the company and the nature of the tasks.

Internships not only provide students actual work experience and the opportunity to develop skills, but also the opportunity to determine if the type of work involved is in keeping with the individuals’ career interests, abilities and goals.




An apprenticeship offers on-the-job training in the skilled trades so you can learn to be, for example, a carpenter, plumber, or electrician.

Some apprenticeships require a high school diploma or equivalent, but some do not. Many apprenticeships also include paid work components.

Often, these programs involve an employer and a community college or university and a trade union. An individual applies for specific training and, once accepted, is able to participate in the apprenticeship program.

Employment opportunities are usually offered to an individual who successfully completes an apprenticeship program.



Paid Employment

Paid Employment involves jobs that are negotiated with an employer. These jobs always feature a wage paid directly to the student or youth.

Such work is scheduled during or after the school day.

Paid employment is frequently an integral part of a student’s course of study or simply a separate support experience.

Often times, these employment experiences are the first steps towards building a meaningful career for any student.


Job Corps

Job Corps

Students who join Job Corps are paid a monthly allowance. Job Corps helps you learn a trade at the same time you are getting a high school diploma or GED.

It also helps its graduates find jobs. This is a competitive program, and admission is not guaranteed. You must be a U.S. citizen to qualify.


California Conservation Corps

California Conservation Corps

You can earn a GED or high school diploma as a member of the California Conservation Corps (CCC), a competitive state program for 18- to 25-year-olds.

You also learn life skills and work hard doing fire protection, emergency response or environmental conservation such as building trails, planting trees or working in a salmon fishery.

The CCC pays minimum wage and offers a grant for further education after you successfully complete the program. Some programs provide housing or a chance to travel to another country.



Regional Occupational Centers and Programs

California’s regional occupational centers and programs (ROCPs) offer career technical classes – for example, firefighting, carpentry, graphic arts, auto mechanics or health-related careers – to high school students and adults.

No diploma or equivalent is required to take the courses, though high school students have priority for enrollment. Each center offers its own set of programs, and many of these centers also offer GED courses.