College is a key ingredient in the recipe for success, but to go to college, you'll first have to complete high school or get a GED diploma. If you've been out of school for a while or don't think you can stomach another day of high school, this prospect can be daunting. There are some options for taking college courses without a diploma, but you'll still have to get your diploma or GED certificate before you can graduate college.
If you're currently a high school student, dual enrollment is one way to get to college faster. Some community colleges allow high school students to take college classes as they're finishing up their diploma. You can get both high school and college credits for these classes. For example, at Kennesaw State University, high-achieving high school students can take up to five courses per semester, completing their freshman year of college prior to graduating high school.
If you don't plan to seek a college degree, you can enroll as a non-traditional student. Some schools allow students to audit classes. This involves taking the class and completing coursework without getting college credit. Georgia State University, for example, allows adults older than 62 to enroll in the university and audit courses.
Some schools allow students who have not yet completed high school to enroll on a provisional basis. East Central College, for example, admits students without a diploma, but requires them to enroll in adult literacy classes. Students must complete a GED diploma before they can graduate. The federal government doesn't offer financial aid to students who have not graduated high school, so you'll have to finish your diploma before you can get financial aid.
Some universities and community college offer certification programs that are distinct from college degrees. For example, Bellevue College offers a technical communication certificate for people who want to rapidly enter the field. If you enroll in a certificate program, you won't be receiving a college degree, and some schools will let you skip the prerequisite of a diploma or GED certificate. You might, however, still have to get your diploma before you complete your certificate.
- Remington College: No GED or High School Diploma
- Santa Fe College: High School Dual Enrollment
- Minnesota State Community and Technical College: Non-Traditional Students
- The New York Times: Can't Complete High School? Go Right to College
- Kennesaw State University: Dual Enrollment Honors Program
- Georgia State University: Undergraduate Admissions
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.