Finding a College That Doesn’t Require the GED or High School Diploma

Students don't need a high school or GED diploma to enter college. Here, we outline how to find a college that doesn't require either.

May 27, 2022 • 6 Min Read

edited by Veronica Freeman

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Can You Go To College Without a GED or High School Diploma?

Typical college admission requirements include a high school diploma or a passing score on the GED test. Some schools accept other high school equivalency tests. However, nontraditional learners without either may still attend college. Colleges that don't require a high school diploma help students pass the GED test and start a degree or certificate program.

This page explains how to attend college without a high school or GED diploma. Please use the embedded links to learn more about these resources. Prospective students should also contact local junior or community colleges to learn more about GED-preparation programs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Attending College With No GED Diploma

Can I Go to College Without a High School or GED Diploma?

There are many no-GED colleges throughout the nation. These schools allow learners to take single courses and register for a GED-preparation program. These institutions may also give the GED exam or another high school equivalency test on campus. Passing one of these tests qualifies learners to enroll in any certificate or diploma program.

If I Don't Have a High School or GED Diploma, What Are the Requirements for College Admission?

Some schools offer these learners special enrollment processes. Steps include completing the application and taking a skills assessment. Like the GED test, this skills assessment measures academic knowledge. Incoming learners also submit the FAFSA. Unfortunately, these students do not qualify for some forms of financial aid until they pass the GED or HiSET exam.

What Certifications Can I Get Without a High School Diploma?

Colleges that don't require a high school diploma offer many academic programs. These may include skilled trades, beauty and cosmetology, and massage therapy. A college that doesn't require a GED or a high school diploma offers enrollees the same education support services their peers enjoy.

Am I Eligible for Financial Aid if I Don't Have a High School Diploma?

Only high school graduates and learners who pass a high school equivalency test qualify for federal financial aid programs. However, students without a diploma or GED certificate may still receive institutional financial aid. First-year students should speak with a financial aid advisor to research their options. Private financial aid can help learners pay for a GED-preparation course and their degree.

What Do I Do if I Was Homeschooled and Completed My Studies but Didn't Receive a Traditional High School Diploma or GED Certificate?

Homeschooled learners can explore many options when applying to college. A parent or teacher creates a unique transcript and diploma based on the student's high school work. Homeschooled students can show that their education met federal and state law requirements. This makes them eligible to complete the FAFSA.

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Options If You Don't Have a High School Credential

A college that doesn't require the GED may offer prospective students other options. These may include individual classes, vocational programs, and adult high school.

1. Attend a College With No GED or High School Diploma Requirements

Colleges that don't require a high school diploma often ask applicants to complete a multistep admissions process. Applicants may need to speak with an admissions advisor or submit high school transcripts. Learners without these records may take one or more placement tests.

College applicants without a degree should limit their search to local community colleges and vocational schools. These institutions cater to prospective students needing to pass the GED test or take remedial courses.

2. Enroll With High School Equivalency

High school equivalency tests include the GED and HiSET exams. Applicants provide official scores with their application. Some colleges use a score cutoff for admission or enrollment in specific programs.

Applicants who do not meet a school's cutoff may still receive conditional admission. These learners must maintain good grades for a specific period and take remedial courses. Students receive unconditional admission once they complete these steps.

3. Take Individual Classes

Many junior and community colleges allow students to enroll in individual classes. Learners may enroll for personal enrichment or professional development. Students without a high school diploma may enroll in a GED-preparation course. These courses emphasize the writing, math, and reading skills the GED test assesses.

Some colleges that don't require a high school diploma allow students to earn college credit while preparing for the GED test. However, they may limit which courses these learners can take.

4. Attend a Vocational School

Vocational schools provide career-aligned curriculum. Potential majors include automotive technician, business office administration, and electrician technician. These programs feature hands-on learning and take one year or less to complete.

As of Dec. 2021, many vocational trades pay $20 or more per hour. Workers may need an associate or bachelor's degree to further increase their salary potential.

5. Attend Adult High School

Many private organizations and school districts offer adult high school. Nontraditional students learn in a classroom setting with other nontraditional learners. Some programs offer night and weekend courses for working students. Participants who meet their school's education requirements receive an official high school diploma.

School districts limit enrollment to residents and do not charge a fee. Other programs include free GED-preparation and adult basic education courses. The latter may charge tuition.

6. Take the GED Exam

The GED test includes four sections, each covering a different academic topic. Unlike other tests, people may attempt the entire test in a single day or split it up over four sessions. Test-takers can register for the test on the official GED website. This process involves selecting a local testing center.

People who fail one or more sections may retake them at any time. However, if test-takers fail two retakes, they must wait 60 days before trying again.

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Colleges That Don't Require a GED Certificate

Traditional four-year colleges and universities require a high school diploma, standardized test scores, recommendation letters, and essays. Two-year schools use fewer requirements. However, prospective enrollees need a high school diploma or passing scores on the GED test. These colleges may also require an interview with an admissions or academic counselor.

Junior and community colleges ask that incoming degree-seekers take one or more placement tests, such as the ACCUPLACER. These computer-adaptive tests gauge learners' English and math knowledge. Schools use the results to place learners into their first courses. New students with ACT or SAT scores may not need to take a placement test.

Prospective students should consider their education and career goals before applying to colleges that don't require a high school diploma. Learners can access many free assessments online to discover their strengths and interests. These and other steps ensure that college applicants select the right school and program.

Getting Your High School Diploma as an Adult

Prospective nontraditional students can research their county's adult education programs. High school programs use a mix of online and in-person courses. Learners' graduation requirements depend on their high school transcripts. Students may need to earn credits in English, algebra, or physical sciences. Many programs use a self-paced curriculum. This feature means learners can earn their degree full time, part time, or in an accelerated format.

Districts offer these programs at little to no cost to residents. Those who earn a diploma may qualify for new job opportunities. Others use the degree to apply to an associate or bachelor's program.

Getting Your GED Certificate

The following sections describe the GED exam and the test-taking process. Visit the embedded links to learn more about each test section, study tips, and scheduling. Please note that information such as price may have changed since this article's publication. Contact a local testing center to learn more.

  • What Does the GED Test Look Like?

    Four tests comprise the GED exam. These include mathematical reasoning, reasoning through language arts, social studies, and science. The math portion lasts 115 minutes. Students may use an approved calculator. Test-takers spend 150 minutes on language arts. The test features an essay section. The 70-minute social studies portion assesses academic skills over content knowledge. The final science section lasts 90 minutes. All parts allow test-takers to finish sooner than the time limit.

    As of Dec. 2021, test-takers must earn a minimum 145 score out of 200 to pass. Those who earn a 175 or above could receive 10 undergraduate credits they may apply toward a degree.

  • How and Where to Take the Test

    Students can register for the GED test through their online account. Learners not wanting to test in person due to COVID-19 concerns can request testing at home using a virtual proctor. People with a physical disability may request testing at home and other accommodations. Test-takers choose a test day and the number of test sections. Students may pay with a credit or debit card. Costs vary by state.

    Choosing a test site involves reviewing an interactive map. The website provides information about directions and parking fees. People can use a provided phone number to ask about site policies and rules.

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GED Tips and Recommendations

Students can follow a few tips to increase their chances of passing the GED exam on their first try.

1. Know What You Want To Accomplish

Learners should consider what they hope to accomplish by passing the GED exam. They may want to get promoted at work or start a degree. Visualizing desired outcomes can boost motivation. A practice test reveals how much work test-takers need to invest to earn their desired score.

2. Identify How You Learn Best

Everyone learns best in different ways. Some prefer light music in the background while others need silence. Some learners like studying with a partner while others do best studying alone. Learners can experiment with different study methods to find what suits them.

3. Create a Dedicated Study Space

A dedicated study space can reduce distractions, allowing learners to focus on the material. This space should resemble a school classroom or test center. Students may choose to go to the library or a coffee shop if their home does not provide a good study space.

4. Use Practice Tests

Practice tests provide many benefits to students preparing for the GED exam. A first practice test reveals individuals' strengths and weaknesses. Learners can use this information to create a customized study plan. Taking extra tests allows students to track their progress. Practice tests also help learners become familiar with the test format.

5. Give Yourself Time

Successful GED test-takers give themselves plenty of time to prepare. This time varies among people, as not everyone needs the same preparation. Developing a study schedule can help learners reduce stress. Students who give themselves enough preparation time may earn higher scores.

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Alternatives to the GED Exam

Students can explore GED alternatives, such as the HiSET. Many schools accept this high school equivalency test for admissions purposes. Please note that the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) has been discontinued as of Dec. 31, 2021.

High School Equivalency Test (HiSET)

The HiSET shares many similarities with the GED test. An important difference involves the language arts section. The HiSET features two language arts tests. One focuses on reading and the other focuses on writing. The writing portion requires one essay and many multiple-choice questions. Like the GED test, each HiSET section uses a different time limit.

Benefits of passing the HiSET include qualifying for military service, community and four-year colleges, and career advancement.

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Resources for Students Who Did Not Finish High School

This site provides students who did not finish high school with academic and career services. Other resources include tutors available 24/7 and free online learning technology. This site offers resources to unemployed Americans ages 16-24. Participants receive free education, counseling, and training in the construction industry. The construction training involves building homes for low-income residents.

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Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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