Having a GED instead of a traditional high school diploma doesn’t mean you have to give up on bettering yourself by attending college and getting a degree. In fact, using your time and energy to narrow down the colleges and universities you’d most like to attend is a much better use of your time than worrying about what colleges don’t accept a GED. Even though you may have to put a little more time into getting through the admissions process and getting accepted, enrolling in college and eventually earning a degree is certainly still an attainable goal with a GED.
Can You Have a GED and Go to a University?
After life threw you a curveball, and you left high school, you went on to earn your GED. But you didn’t want that to be the end of your educational road. What now? Are you able to continue your schooling and earn a degree? The answer is most definitely yes. Opting out of earning a traditional high school diploma doesn't mean you have to abandon your plan to get a college education.
Most recent statistics from the GED Testing Service indicate that 98 percent of universities and colleges accept a GED in place of a traditional diploma, and an estimated 60 percent of those who hold a GED certificate are currently enrolled in a post-secondary school. Chances are that the school at the top of your list accepts students who have a GED, but determining your eligibility for admission with a GED certificate is only the first step.
You will also need to investigate what may be a lengthy list of admissions requirements for such things as college entrance exams, minimum GED test scores and letters of recommendation. As an incoming student, you are often required to take admissions tests such as the ACT or SAT. In some cases, though, this requirement is waived for those with a GED.
For example, at Bethune-Cookman University, students with a GED are not required to take entrance exams but are required to take the COMPASS exam, which is an untimed placement test used, primarily, to evaluate proficiency to see that it meets the college minimum as well as place students in the appropriate math and English classes.
Students who are not ready for a class like Composition I, for example, will be placed in a remedial writing course to improve their writing skills and prepare them for standard introductory courses. Most colleges have minimum GPA requirements for prospective students who have completed high school.
In lieu of these GPA standards, students with a GED sometimes need to have minimum scores on the GED exam. And if you have scored high enough on the GED, some colleges will convert those high test scores into college credit. Each of the subject area tests is worth 200 points, and a score of 145 on each is required to pass the exam and receive a GED certificate. According to the GED Testing Service guidelines, a score of at least 165 indicates a person is ready for college and may be exempt from taking placement tests.
Any scores that fall between 175 and 200 demonstrate exceptional knowledge and college readiness and may be worth college credit. Each school has its own policies in place regarding GED test scores, though, so you should contact schools you are interested in attending to get more information.
Being computer literate is also necessary to be successful in the world of academia, so a computer proficiency exam may be administered to assess a student’s computer competency. Depending on the results, the student may be placed in a basic computer class.
Additionally, having the basic study skills needed to keep up with classwork in all of your classes is not a requirement that can be tested and documented for admissions, but not having such skills will have a negative impact on your success and will make it difficult to last beyond the first semester or two. Every school’s Student Services office can provide resources to help you with basic study skills if needed.
Benefits of Community College
If you’re stressed out about your chances of getting into college, community college may be the best bet to ease your worries. There are many colleges that accept GED. The average acceptance rate at community colleges ranges from 77 to 80 percent according to Community College Review. Many students who have earned a GED attend community colleges and either earn their degree from that school or transfer to complete their studies at a four-year college or university.
Attending community college is a popular choice for all college graduates in the U.S. since 41 percent matriculated from community colleges according to recent data from the American Association of Community Colleges, or AACC. Starting off at a local community college allows you to start taking introductory classes without worrying about college admissions requirements at a four-year school.
Taking your pre-requisite courses at a community college before transferring will save you a lot money in tuition as well. The AACC estimates the average yearly tuition at a four-year college at $9970 while the tuition costs a community college for one year is only $3570. Before making a plan to transfer from one school to another, be sure to check to make sure the community college courses you plan to take are transferable to your desired college, so those credits will ultimately count toward your degree.
Taking introductory courses at your local community college will be particularly crucial to your academic success If you struggled with the material on the GED exam or had difficulty passing one or more sections of the GED on the first try. Brushing up on the basics and tackling and retaining new information will also be useful when preparing to take college placement exams and entrance exams, such as the ACT and SAT, if needed; some 4 year schools will waive entrance exam requirements if you have a GED and complete a year or two of community college.
If you dropped out of traditional high school at a young age or have been in the workforce for a few years, community college is the best option for getting reacquainted with life in the classroom and working on establishing good study habits and time management skills. You will also be able to prove your dedication and commitment by establishing good academic standing.
Ultimately, you will be able to provide proof to any college that you have what's needed to succeed after transferring. If you have to work while attending school, the majority of community colleges offer classes in the evenings, and sometimes even on the weekends, which is less likely to interfere with your work life.
Working Toward Your Goals
You don’t need to fret about what colleges don’t accept a GED since the vast majority of schools do in fact see it as a substitute for a diploma. However, some schools may sparingly admit students who hold a GED. Your application may end up at the bottom of the stack of applications of interested applicants since, fair or not, the consensus is that GED-holding students are not as educated, driven or focused as someone who’s been awarded a traditional high school diploma.
They may be characterized as having trouble following through on their commitments and balking when faced with a challenge. With these obstacles, you will most likely increase your chances for admission if you can gain job experience in a field related to your chosen major.
For example, if you're interested in going to nursing school, holding down a position as a medical assistant or EMT will help you become familiar with medical terminology, taking vitals and interacting with patients professionally.
Or if you’re interested in becoming a teacher, working in a daycare or as a paraprofessional in a public school will give you experience dealing with parents, managing a large group of children and interacting with special needs students. Even though some education, training or certification may be involved, the practical experience and knowledge you’ll gain will be well worth it.
You will likely have an advantage over other GED-holding applicants who don’t have such experience on their resumes, which increases your chances of getting noticed by college admissions. In the event you aren't able to get paid work experience, look into volunteer opportunities in your community.
Choosing to donate your time freely in places such as nursing homes, libraries or non-profit organizations will not only benefit those you are helping, but you will also gain valuable work experience; community service work is also a valuable addition to any college application.
Since required application materials often include letters of recommendation, you're in a good position to get a glowing report from someone who supervised your volunteer work. Even if you aren’t working at a job that will give you relevant major-related experience, you will be seen favorably by any boss if you have good attendance and a good attitude about your job. This will help to show you are a responsible, positive employee which just might help your chances of getting accepted into college.
No Diploma or GED
If you’ve dropped out of high school and haven’t gotten around to taking the GED exam, you may be wondering: Can you go to college without a diploma or GED? Actually, yes. You are still able to attend college without either a diploma or a GED.
Many schools let students who don’t have a high school diploma or GED take classes as non-traditional students. You're able to enroll in courses at a community college if you want to brush up on the basics or take a class related to a hobby or interest you have, such as a pottery class or a class on basic computer repair.
However, this will not serve you well if you are looking to enroll as a degree-seeking student, which requires you to choose a major or program of study as part of the admissions and registration process. However, you have another option if your ultimate goal is to get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
You can enroll in college as a non-traditional student and start taking core courses, which are introductory classes required of all degree-seeking students. While taking these classes, you can start preparing to take the GED exam. In theory, this is a viable solution but isn’t the best approach if you’re short on funds.
Can you get financial aid if you have a GED? In order to receive financial aid, you need to already have your diploma or GED certificate in-hand. In some cases, a college or university will help you earn your GED while you're enrolled in college courses. WSU Tech, a career college dedicated to helping its students learn new skills in specific industries, offers a dual enrollment program which lets students start taking classes for college credit while preparing for and eventually taking the GED exam.
WSU Tech offers such programs of study as dental assisting, aerospace manufacturing, police science and interior design as well as more traditional majors like math and English. Financial assistance is often available through that specific college or university to help pay for these programs which means you won’t have to seek federal student aid.
Check with schools in your area to see if any offer such options. If you are unable to find a school with such a program, the best choice before applying to any college, including a community college, is to already have earned your GED and have a good idea as to what your major will be.
Many colleges have general studies majors or degrees available, so if you are undecided, you can start classes as a degree-seeking student which won’t affect your ability to get financial aid. You're also able to switch majors at any time although doing so early in your college career makes the most sense; otherwise, you will prolong the amount of time you spend in school, which can result in racking up more debt and taking unnecessary classes.
- Community College Review: Average Community College Acceptance Rate (2017-2018)
- GED Testing Service: Understanding Your Scores
- American Association of Community Colleges: Fast Facts 2018
- WSU Tech: Have a GED and college dreams?
- Bethune-Cookman University: Admissions: GED Holders
- CollegeBoard: Why Community College
- Columbia University: Community College Research Center: Community College FAQs
- GradLime: Can You Get into College with a GED?
- LearningPath.org: Is the GED Enough to Get Me Into College?
- U.S. Department of Education: Federal Student Aid: Basic Eligibility Criteria
Jess Jones has been teaching college-level courses in English and Communications for the past 10 years. In addition to creating and facilitating peer-to-peer tutoring programs, she worked to develop new curriculum for classes designed to teach skills for success to incoming students. Jones holds a B.A. in English as well as an M.A. in English Language and Literature.