If you didn't finish high school, the General Educational Development test is the first step you'll need to take to become eligible for college. According to Jobs for the Future, only about 10 percent of people who pass the GED graduate from college, so while a GED certificate is a helpful first step, it's not the only step you need to take to get into and complete college.
Without a high school diploma or GED certificate, you won't be able to enroll in college. Most schools accept a GED certificate because it is considered a high school equivalent, but a few schools bar applications from students with GED certificates. According to the Tempe Union High School District, 95 percent of colleges accept GED certificates. Check your school's admissions requirements before you begin the application process.
A high school diploma isn't the only requirement for getting into college. Most schools require students to take standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. They'll also examine your GPA, extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations. If you dropped out of school several years ago or early in your high school career, you might not have much information to put on your college admissions application, and you may need to begin at a transitional school, such as a community college.
While a GED certificate can help you meet the prerequisites for getting into school, it won't necessarily prepare you for the rigors of college. The GED certificate can't measure soft skills, such as the ability to study under pressure, read at a reasonable speed, write long and compelling essays or communicate with professors effectively. Some students who drop out of high school may need help developing these skills. Without these soft skills, succeeding in college can be difficult even if you're able to get in.
Paths to College
If you're struggling to get into a four-year school or unsure about whether you're ready, a community college is an excellent alternative. Technical and trade schools can also give you the background you need to excel in college or get a good job. You might also consider auditing a few college classes to get a feel for the environment before you take the plunge.
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.