Dropping out of high school may feel like the end of your educational journey, but there are some colleges that don’t require a high school diploma or GED.
If you’re ready to give academics a try again, you can start looking around for programs that don’t have high school requirements for admissions.
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Getting started in college can be more complicated with no GED or HS diploma, but it is possible. With the right approach to starting your college career, you can move step by step toward earning a degree.
Colleges That Don’t Require a High School Diploma or GED
Can you get into college with a GED? Yes, you can go to college even if you never graduated from high school! There are colleges that accept a GED, but you may not even need to get a GED diploma first. Some colleges will let you get started right away.
Community colleges can be a good place to begin your search for programs that don’t require high school diploma. They often have more flexible entrance requirements than 4 year universities.
A community college may start you off with placement exams so that you can be put in classes that match your academic level. Some community colleges even let you work on a GED and college studies at the same time.
After completing your community college classes, you might find it easier than before to get into a 4 year school. Plus, your community college credits can often count toward a bachelors degree program.
Trade schools can be another option for college hopefuls without high school diplomas. Yes, there are trade schools that don’t require a diploma or GED. Like community colleges, trade schools often have less-stringent admission requirements than universities.
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At a trade school, you can receive specific training for a hands-on field, such as welding or healthcare. At the end of your program, you’ll likely receive a certificate. Vocational coursework doesn’t always transfer to another college, but it may qualify you for a license or a skilled job.
In some cases, you may have other college options available to you as well. For example, some universities are more flexible with non-traditional students—people who have been out of high school for at least 6 years. Assembling a work portfolio that demonstrates your potential can help you with this approach.
Other schools allow students without degrees to enroll in individual classes. This usually means taking one class per semester and not counting the credits toward a degree. Test scores can be another way to prove what you know. If you have high ACT or SAT scores, some colleges will let you in even though you don’t have a diploma.
Passing tests from the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) can even help you earn college credits before ever stepping foot in a university classroom.
How to Go to College with No High School Diploma or GED
Getting into college without a diploma or GED starts with finding the right program. Here’s how you can go about finding the program that’s right for you.
- Think about your goals. What do you want to study? Once you’ve identified a career goal, it may be easier to narrow down your search for schools.
- Look for schools with flexible admissions requirements. Community colleges and vocational schools in your local area can be a great place to start. Online classes from community colleges elsewhere in the country may be another option. You can also check with four-year schools. Keep your eyes open for the word “non-traditional” in the admissions requirements. That’s sometimes a positive sign.
- Take placement tests. Colleges that admit no-GED students want you to succeed. Starting you off in the right classes is one step in that process. Placement tests are a tool that some colleges use to determine whether you’d benefit from catch-up courses.
- Think about getting high school credentials. Some trade or community colleges offer programs that allow you to get high school and college credits at the same time.
- Consider further education. Going to community college may be only your first step. After graduation, you might be able to transfer to a four-year school for a bachelors degree.
Once you’ve identified a potential college, you can reach out to the admissions office. You’re not the first person to be in this situation, and an admissions counselor has the experience to guide you through the process from beginning to end.
If you don’t have a GED or a high school diploma, what documentation can help you get into college? You may be asked to turn in materials like the following:
- Placement tests. These help colleges know what your first classes should be.
- Proof of birthdate. You may need to be at least 18 years old to get into college without a diploma.
- Standardized tests. SAT or ACT scores may provide clues to your potential.
- Work portfolio. Essays, reading lists, or project examples can showcase your knowledge or abilities.
These requirements can vary from one school to another. For example, not all colleges ask for SAT or ACT scores.
If you don’t have a diploma or a GED, you might be tempted to sign up for a college that has no admissions requirements whatsoever. Those types of programs, though, may not produce workforce-ready graduates.
Even though you didn’t graduate from high school, you shouldn’t settle for a program that’s below quality standards. How can you tell if a school is doing things right? You can look for institutions with regional accreditation.
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Holding regional accreditation gives a school a good reputation. Reputable college credits may transfer to other colleges, and a degree from an accredited college is respected more by potential employers.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Without a high school diploma or a GED, your financial aid options may be more limited. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to pay all of your tuition out of pocket, though!
You may qualify for the federal government’s Ability to Benefit (ATB) program. If so, you might be eligible for grants. An ATB program may apply to you if you enroll in a Title IV program that’s designed to get you ready for a career. Other requirements can involve passing an ATB test or earning at least 6 college credits.
To learn more about your eligibility for federal assistance, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can look at non-government student aid sources too. Some employers will help their team members pay for college. You can also try applying for scholarships.
Professional Organizations for High School Dropouts
Once you’ve decided to go back to school, it’s beneficial to have plenty of support to help you through the process. There are organizations whose mission is to provide the assistance that you’ll need.
An expert from one of these groups may provide guidance about the next steps you can take. These organizations might also connect you with programs for completing your high school studies, getting job training, or earning college credits.
What Is a GED?
General Educational Development (GED) is a credential that shows you know what high schoolers should know.
If you didn’t graduate from high school, passing the GED exams can be another way to earn a diploma. Finishing your GED might help you enroll in college or pursue a job. Earning your GED requires taking four different tests. The exams will cover math, language, science, and social studies. After passing all four, you can get your GED.
Is a GED the Same as a Diploma?
A GED credential is known as a high school equivalency diploma. It’s not issued by a high school, but it shows that your knowledge is comparable to that of a 12th-grade graduate.
You can often use your GED credential just like you would a high school diploma. Many colleges accept the GED in place of a HS diploma, especially if you have good SAT or ACT scores. Also, employers usually make no distinction between GED credentials and high school diplomas.
Do Colleges Accept High School Dropouts?
Just because you dropped out of school doesn’t mean that you have to give up on college. A large majority of colleges accept students who have GED credentials. Glowing references or strong ACT or SAT scores can also bolster your application packet.
If you don’t have a GED either, there may still be college opportunities for you. Some trade schools or colleges with GED programs allow you to earn a GED and college credits at the same time. By the time you complete this type of program, you’ll have both a high school diploma and workforce training.
Can You Go to College Without a High School Diploma?
Yes, you can go to college without a high school diploma. Though most universities require high school equivalency, this is not always the case, especially at community colleges and trade schools.
Can You Get Financial Aid Without a High School Diploma or GED?
There are financial aid opportunities that can assist people who haven’t finished high school.
Through the Ability to Benefit (ATB) program, you might be able to get Pell Grants from the federal government. To take advantage of ATB, you’ll first enroll at an eligible school and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
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You can look elsewhere for aid too. For example, you may find scholarship programs that are designed especially for people who didn’t finish high school. Your employer might chip in as well if your work has a tuition reimbursement program.
What Is Ability to Benefit?
Ability to Benefit (ATB) is a federal program that helps students who don’t have high school diplomas or GED credentials. Through ATB, qualifying students may qualify for government financial aid.
To participate, it’s necessary to enroll in an eligible program. Eligible programs generally have to be designed to get you ready for a career. Additional requirements include passing an ATB test or demonstrating your college abilities by earning at least 6 credits.
If you think ATB might be right for you, you can talk to your school’s financial aid department for more information.
What’s the Difference Between a GED vs. Diploma in High School?
High school diplomas and GED credentials are the two main ways to show that you have 12th-grade knowledge.
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Many workplaces accept both high school diplomas and GED credentials.
Can I Do Online College Without a GED?
Yes, you may be able to get into online colleges without high school diploma or GED requirements.
In general, good online and on-campus colleges have similar admissions requirements. To get into a reputable college without a GED, you might need to take the ACT or SAT, provide references, or prepare a portfolio that showcases your work.
A community college is generally a strategic place to start your no-GED college experience. Some community colleges also offer online classes.
Is College Worth It?
Yes, a college degree is worth it for many students. Earning college credits can typically help you earn higher pay or secure greater job stability. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is highest among people without high school diplomas. The unemployment rate for that group is 5.4%.
The rate of unemployment drops to 3.3% for those who have taken a few college classes. Graduates with an associate degree have only a 2.7% unemployment rate, and for those with a bachelor’s degree, the rate is just 2.2%.
Universities That Don’t Require High School or GED
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and the universities do not require a high school diploma or GED as part of the admission requirements.
Central Community College offers admission to students without high school diplomas or GEDs. Applicants who are 16 years old or older may apply for the GED program to earn a high school diploma or apply for one of the programs. The adult education classes offer free tutoring for math, reading, and writing but do not offer financial aid.
Central Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The College of Central Florida offers special admission to students without a high school diploma or the equivalent. Students must pass the Test of Adult Basic Education along with other program requirements to graduate. There are remediation options available for students who receive unsatisfactory scores on the test.
The College of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Colorado College does not require a high school diploma or GED to be admitted to the school.
Applicants must supply information about what they have studied and the competency levels they have in those fields. An application essay about intellectual and extracurricular achievements, 3 letters of recommendation from non-family members, and SAT or ACT scores must also be submitted.
Colorado College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Colorado State University offers admission to applicants without high school diplomas. Applicants must have completed a test-out equivalent, such as the GED, HiSet, or TASC. The test-out scores, ACT or SAT scores, a personal statement, an academic explanation, recommendations, and high school transcripts must be submitted when applying.
Colorado State is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Columbia Greene Community College offers admission to applicants who don’t have high school diplomas or the equivalent.
Applicants must be 17 years old or older and provide proof of withdrawal from high school. They also need to complete a placement exam. Before applying, applicants should connect with an admissions counselor to review the application process.
Columbia-Greene Community College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The Community College of Baltimore County offers an External Diploma Program for mature students interested in receiving a high school diploma.
The program does not require students to take courses in classes but instead is self-paced. Applicants must be 18 or older and are required to complete pre-resting to demonstrate grade 9 level math and reading skills.
The Community College of Baltimore County is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
El Camino College offers free GED and High School Equivalency programs to help those who did not complete high school prepare to receive a diploma. The school offers rolling admission and accepts applications year round. Those interested in the programs must submit their official transcripts from the last high school they attended.
El Camino College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Gateway Community and Technical College offers admission to applicants without high school diplomas. These applicants must have plans to receive a GED. ACT or COMPASS scores must be submitted before applicants can be enrolled. Students who do not have high school diplomas are not eligible for financial aid or an associate’s degree.
Gateway Community & Technical College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Hinds Community College offers admission to students who do not have high school diplomas through the MIBEST program or Vocational Admissions.
The MIBEST program allows students to receive foundational skills for careers. Vocational Admissions allows applicants to be admitted into a program after an interview with an advisor. They cannot apply for financial aid.
Hinds Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Houston Community College offers the Ability to Benefit program, which admits students without high school diplomas or GEDs.
Applicants need to either pass an approved Ability to Benefit test or enroll in an approved career pathway program. Those interested in the program may complete an online application and the ACCUPLACER to determine eligibility for the program.
Houston Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Lamar Institute of Technology offers admission to applicants who don’t have high school diplomas or GEDs. Applicants are accepted on an individual basis. Applicants interested in either Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees must submit TSI Assessment scores when applying.
Lamar Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Lawson State Community College offers admission to applicants who did not graduate high school. Under the Ability to Benefit program, students can enroll in courses but cannot receive an associate’s degree. Applicants must apply for admission and then attend the Ability to Benefit assessment held by the school.
Lawson State Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Niagara County Community College offers a High School Equivalency program which allows students the opportunity to complete 24 credits for an equivalency diploma. Students in the program are not able to receive financial aid. To be eligible for the program, applicants must meet the minimum placement assessment score.
Niagara County Community College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Oklahoma City Community College offers admission to students who have not acquired high school diplomas or GEDs. Applicants who are 21 years or older are not required to submit transcripts. Students without a high school diploma, GED, or transcripts may not be able to receive financial aid.
Oklahoma City Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
St. Charles Community College offers admission to students who have not received high school diplomas or GEDs. Applicants must apply online and complete an academic skill assessment to determine eligibility. A meeting with an academic advisor is required to determine if students should enroll in the adult basic education program.
St. Charles Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Tidewater Community College accepts applicants who have not received high school diplomas or GEDs. When applying, applicants must complete a placement test in reading, writing, and mathematics to determine if they are eligible for admission. Students without high school diplomas are not eligible for financial aid.
Tidewater Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Union County College offers admission to students in the Ability to Benefit program. These students are not eligible for financial aid. Additionally, students without high school diplomas or GEDs are ineligible to complete an associate’s degree. Students must complete a placement test after applying.
Union County College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University of California offers admission to students who have not received a high school diploma as long as they have a Certificate of Proficiency or a GED. Though applicants don’t need to have a high school diploma, they must still reach the high school course and GPA requirements.
The University of California is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
The University of Hawaii Community College accepts applicants who don’t have high school diplomas or an equivalent as long as they are 18 years old or older. Students who are between the ages of 18 and 21 may still work towards obtaining their high school diploma, while those who are older may work towards a GED.
University of Hawaii Community Colleges is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Wayne County Community College offers admission to applicants who don’t have high school diplomas or GEDs if they are 18 years old or older. The school offers assistance with admission, orientation, and registration. Applicants without high school diplomas or GEDs are not eligible for financial assistance.
Wayne County Community College District is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your College Degree Online Without A HS Diploma or GED
It’s not too late to get a college degree. You can make plans to enroll in college classes even if you never graduated from high school or completed your GED. You can start by checking out community colleges, vocational schools, or universities with flexible admissions policies. You may even earn high school credentials at the same time.
Even if your full-time job keeps you busy, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go back to school. Online courses can allow to you to do your college work at times that fit your schedule. With an accredited online program, a college degree may be within reach.