Can You Go to College with a GED? [2024 Guide]

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Can you go to college with a GED? It’s a very common question among people who never finished high school but want to go to college.

Can You Go to College With a GED

Often people believe that because they never graduated from high school, they have no chance of being accepted into college. If you’re one of these people, we’re happy to tell you this isn’t true.

Although a GED (General Education Development) is not a high school diploma it’s equivalent to one. This is good news for you if you have a GED and want to further your education.

Can You Get Into College With a GED?

Yes, you may get into college with a GED. However, you may not be able to go to any college you want. There are a few colleges and universities out there that don’t accept people without either a high school diploma or a home school completion certificate, but only a very few.

In fact, approximately 98% of all colleges and universities accept students with a GED instead of a regular high school diploma (GED Testing Service). However, just because you may be accepted doesn’t mean there aren’t a few extra steps you may have to take for certain schools.

For example, if you have a GED instead of a regular high school diploma, you may have to prove you’re ready for college-level courses either by submitting a high enough ACT or SAT score to the college or by taking the college’s placement test.

A placement test will score you in all the core subjects and place you either in regular college courses or remedial courses.

If you’re required to take remedial courses in any or all the core subjects, you’ll have to take them first, without receiving college credit for them, before being allowed to take regular college courses in those subjects.

Can You Go to Community College With a GED?

Can You Go to Community College with a GED

Yes, you can go to community college with a GED. In fact, most community colleges have what is known as an open admissions policy.

What Is an Open Admissions Policy?

Sometimes referred to as “open enrollment,” an open admissions policy grants acceptance to any student who applies to that college, regardless of GPA, ACT/SAT score or lack of a high school diploma.

As long as you have a diploma, GED, or equivalent, you can be accepted at a college with an open admissions policy.

But, in addition to those schools, there are some colleges that don’t require the GED or high school diploma for admissions consideration.

Things to Consider

However, that being said, just because all two-year schools admit people with GEDs, there are some things you should check out first. In addition to submitting your ACT/SAT score or taking a placement test, you’ll also want to check out possible additional requirements for specific programs of study.

For instance, if you live in Alabama and have your GED, you’ll have unconditional and automatic acceptance to Northeast Alabama Community College after applying because of its open admissions policy.

However, just because you’re automatically accepted into NACC doesn’t mean you’ll also be accepted into its nursing program, which is highly competitive and only accepts a few of the brightest students each semester.

Before enrolling at a community college in your own area, make sure you check out the admissions requirements both for the school itself and the program you’re hoping to enter.

How Can I Go to College With a GED?

student in front of interviewers during admissions interview

The process of applying for admissions to college with a GED is very similar to applying with a diploma.

Step One: Research

Do some research and find the right college for you. You’ll want a school within your price range, in your area (or online), and that offers your chosen field of study. Once you’ve found it, check the admissions requirements to ensure they accept GED students. (Most do!)

Step Two: Check Admission Requirements

Next, make sure you meet all the admissions requirements. Submit all documentation needed. This usually requires completing the application, submitting a copy of your GED transcripts and standardized test scores, and providing proof of identity and residence.

If there’s an application fee, pay it right away or request a fee waiver. Most schools also require you to fill out the FAFSA, so do that ASAP, especially if you’re hoping for a scholarship.

Step Three: Check Your Inbox

Keep an eye out for any correspondence from the school. Some colleges still communicate via snail mail, but most use email. Make sure you read anything they send you, and if they say you’re missing something, submit it to them as soon as possible.

Step Four: Paying for College

Once accepted, paying for college is the final step. Any grants or scholarships you received will be applied first. You’ll be required to pay the remaining balance.

How Do I Know Which Colleges Accept GED?

college students walking together on university campus

As we’ve already mentioned, all two-year community colleges and almost all – if not all – state colleges accept students with GEDs. There are many online and four-year universities, and even some Ivy League schools, that accept students with GEDs.

Some colleges that accept GED include, but are not limited to, the following:

These are only a few of the “big name” schools that accept students with GEDs.

If you’ve found a school you really want to attend but aren’t sure if it accepts GED students, there’s a simple solution. Check out the admissions requirements page on the school’s website.

Most schools will have the info you need there. If you can’t find it with admissions requirements, try the FAQ section.

If both of those options fail, simply shoot a quick email or make a phone call to whoever is listed as the admissions department contact on the website. He or she will be able to tell you quickly whether or not GED students are accepted.

Is a GED the Same as a High School Diploma?

high school students taking a picture during their graduation

No, a GED is not the same as a high school diploma. When it comes to applying to many colleges, however, the admissions departments will often accept either GEDs or diplomas.

Furthermore, if you’re filling out a job application, it will usually have the two listed together in the education section as “High School Diploma/GED” or “High School Diploma or Equivalent.”

This often makes people think the two things are the same. However, strictly speaking, a GED is not exactly the same thing as a high school diploma.

A high school diploma is awarded to you after you’ve officially graduated high school. It’s a symbol that you’ve achieved a “formal education.” You were enrolled in regular or advanced high school courses, and you passed them sufficiently enough to graduate.

GED, on the other hand, stands for “General Educational Development” or – depending on who you ask – “Graduate Equivalency Degree.”

Receiving a GED doesn’t prove that you received a formal education. Instead, it shows that you were able to pass a series of tests – math, science, social studies, reading, and writing – equivalent to the knowledge you should have obtained in high school.

That does technically make them different. However, as we’ve already mentioned, one is almost as good as the other when it comes to applying for jobs, community or state colleges, trade schools, and even some four-year and Ivy League universities.

They’re both deemed acceptable when applying for federal grants and loans too.

What’s My GPA If I Have a GED?

What's My GPA if I Have a GED

If you received your GED instead of graduating high school, you don’t actually have a listed GPA. If you dropped out of high school in the 11th or 12th grade and immediately got your GED, then you could look at old high school transcripts and pull your GPA from that.

However, if you waited several years after dropping out of school to take the GED or if you were doing poorly in school before dropping out, you might not want to use your last-known GPA.

In cases like these, you can actually use your GED scores to determine your approximate GPA. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Look for each of the five section’s scores. Each will be between 200-800. Don’t use your percentile score; that’s something entirely different.
  2. Add up all five of your scores from each section.
  3. Divide the total sum by five (the number of sections on the test). This is your “average” score.
  4. Use the below table to determine your approximate GPA from your average score.

Here is your approximate GPA according to your average score:

  • 299 or lower – 1.0 GPA
  • 300 – 1.5 GPA
  • 400 – 2.0 GPA
  • 450 – 2.5 GPA
  • 500 – 2.9 GPA
  • 550 – 3.0 GPA
  • 600 – 3.4 GPA
  • 650 – 3.5 GPA
  • 700 – 3.7 GPA
  • 750 – 3.8 GPA
  • 800 – 4.0 GPA

If your average score isn’t as clearly defined as these, such as a 653, then use the chart to round to the closest score and GPA combo.

Can You Go to College Without a GED or High School Diploma?

Can You Go to College without a GED or High School Diploma

Yes, you may be able to go to college without a GED or high school diploma. Though it might be a little more difficult for you to go to college it isn’t impossible.

There are many trade schools and some community colleges which will allow students to enroll in them without any type of high school equivalency certificate as long as they take the placement tests.

However, if you’re enrolling in a school without any type of high school equivalency, you’ll want to schedule a meeting with an admissions counselor or your adviser early in the semester and talk to them about anything extra you might have to do to earn your degree.

For example, some two-year schools will allow students to enroll in college and take courses for college credit, but they won’t actually award them a degree until they’ve taken and passed the GED exams.

You also won’t be eligible for federal Pell Grant or loans if you don’t have a diploma or GED. To qualify for federal financial aid, you must “show you’re qualified to obtain a college or career school education” by having a diploma, GED, or home school certificate.

Most scholarships require the same thing.

This can make paying for college quite tricky since the money will have to come entirely from you. The best thing you can do for yourself and your bank account may be to study for the GED and pass it before enrolling in college.

You won’t have to jump through as many hoops to be accepted, and you may be eligible for financial assistance as well.

College studentswalking in campus corridor

So Can You Go to College With a GED?

The answer to this question is a resounding YES! Don’t let your lack of a high school diploma stop you from achieving your higher education dreams.

Whether you want to stay local, take classes online, or go to a large, prestigious university, you may do it solely with your GED if you’re willing to put in the work.

Being a high school dropout doesn’t have to define who you are. Take this opportunity to find a great college that fits your needs and enroll now. Applying for admission is usually a simple process, and at most colleges, it can be done online in moments.

Take the first step toward being your own college success story today.

Can You Go to Harvard With a GED?

Harvard university campus during spring

Yes, some students go to Harvard with a GED. According to Harvard’s own website, they “give careful, individual attention” to each application they receive, meaning there are no “set” guidelines for admission to Harvard.

Therefore, if your SAT/ACT scores were high enough, you could potentially be accepted into Harvard as a freshman with nothing more than a GED. However, this isn’t the most likely way for GED students to gain acceptance into Harvard.

If you only have a GED, your best chance at becoming a Harvard student is to first attend another school for at least a year – preferably two – and then apply to Harvard as a transfer student.

As is true with most universities, after you’ve received your associate’s degree and apply as a transfer student, your pre-college status no longer matters. It doesn’t matter what you scored on the ACT; it doesn’t matter that you dropped out of high school.

After you’ve started college, your college scores are what matter when transferring.

So, if you really do want to go to Harvard, don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up on your dream. Start a little smaller somewhere local, and work your hardest.

If you can maintain a solid 4.0 throughout freshman and sophomore years of college, you not only have a real chance of being accepted at Harvard, you might even have a chance at getting some scholarship money too.

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Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.