If you dropped out of high school by choice or necessity, a General Equivalency Degree can be your stepping stone to college and a great job. Most schools will gladly accept either a high school diploma or GED for university admission. Even Ivy League schools like Yale welcome gifted, nontraditional students whose education was interrupted. Moreover, you can find career programs at community and technical colleges that don’t require a high school credential to enroll.

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Colleges and universities that accept the GED are the norm. Good scores on the GED can qualify you for scholarships and show admissions recruiters that you are prepared for difficult classes.

Benefits of a GED

Many capable students do not finish high school due to life circumstances, such as raising a child, frequently moving or quitting to work in a family business. Whatever your reasons, you can still go to college and obtain a degree.

Students with a GED may apply for financial aid and scholarships. For instance, Hinds Community College in Mississippi offers High School Equivalency scholarships in the amount of $1,000 per semester. Students must have a composite score of at least 640 on the GED test.

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What’s more, studying for the GED polishes skills in English, reading, writing, math, science and social studies. If you do really well, you may not have to take college placement tests or complete remedial courses that suck up time and money. Better still, you may be awarded college credit for prior learning. GED preparation classes are offered at many community colleges and through community education programs.

Colleges That Accept the GED

Community and technical colleges have open admissions policies. Likewise, most four-year colleges that accept a GED consider the overall strength of the application when making admissions decisions. Students who barely pass the GED may be required to take noncredit development classes in subjects like math or reading, however. Look for schools that are fully accredited.

Tips for Standing Out

Most schools require the ACT or SAT college entrance exam. Standardized test scores help schools figure out how you compare to other students. Remedial classes and individual tutoring are offered to students who need to correct academic weaknesses in certain content areas.

You can set yourself apart by studying for the ACT or SAT college entrance exams and scoring higher than the average student at that school. Practice tests are available online. If the application asks about extracurricular activities, you can mention current hobbies or interests, such as volunteering at church or coaching little league.

Take your time on essay questions that ask about your reasons for applying and your career aspirations. Carefully proofread your responses to make a good impression. Meet the deadline for submitting your application and supporting documents.

Alternative Career Pathways

If you are a hands-on learner seeking practical skills to land a better job in the near future, you may prefer a vocational career over a bachelor’s degree. You can find adult learner programs that don’t require a high school diploma or GED.

Students with the ability to benefit from a career pathways program may qualify for financial aid if they are income eligible. Popular certificate courses include bookkeeping, computers and office administration. Some programs only entail a few weeks or months of training.

Students who have been out of school for a long time can benefit from taking a couple classes as a nondegree-seeking student at a community college with an open-door admissions policy. You can be working on your GED at the same time. Starting off gradually by enrolling in programs that don't require a high school diploma or GED can alleviate some of the anxiety and awkwardness you may feel heading to your first class with backpack in tow.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.