There are many reasons why you may not have gotten your high school diploma. You may be wondering, “Can you go to college without a high school diploma?” The truth is that higher education is still an option. There are various different paths to take as someone who is reconsidering higher education without having earned a high school diploma.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions and answers so that you can feel informed to decide your next step.
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Common Questions and Answers
1. How Can I Get My Diploma?
If you left high school without a diploma, but you still want a high school diploma, you can take adult education programs at community colleges.
If you don’t want to take more classes, you can instead take one of two national tests (in the US), which are called the High School Equivalency Exam or the General Education Development Test (GED). Each test is administered to check that a student is capable of completing high school level work. If you pass one of these tests, you receive the equivalent of a high school diploma.
The High School Equivalency Test can only be taken by adults ages 17 and 18. It consists of five sub-tests in reading, math, social studies, and science.
The GED is offered by most adult education programs and community colleges. The test time takes about 7.5 hours as it involves multiple choice and an essay section. Students who will be 18 within 60 days or older can take the GED.
2. Can I Get a GED Without a Diploma?
Yes, the GED is in lieu of a high school diploma and serves as a substitution.
3. Can I Get Financial Aid?
Programs do exist to financially support students on their journey to earn their GED.
For example, students can join the Job Corps, a federal program that provides a monthly allowance for students who want to learn a trade while studying for their GED or High School Equivalency Exam.
4. Community College: No Diploma Necessary!
Can you go to college without a GED? Yes, there are some community colleges that have alternative requirements other than a high school diploma or GED to enroll.
For example, some may request SAT or ACT (standardized test) scores instead. Or, they may require that you take prerequisite classes to prove that you can handle the college-level coursework.
College Options Without a High School Credential
Without a college credential, you may still want to attend a specific institution that requires something more. If so, you have other options to consider, such as:
- Attend an adult high school: You can still earn your high school diploma by finishing classes in an adult high school.
- Take the GED exam: Take the exam which is an equivalent of having your high school diploma.
- Take individual classes: Rather than enrolling full-time in a college, you can still take individual classes without being formally admitted in the school (if the college has this option).
- Find a dual enrollment college: Some students may want to enroll in college before finishing high school. Some colleges offer students the option to enroll in college and forfeit their senior year of high school. This may require a high GPA and the passing of the GED first.
- Enroll as a non-traditional student: In America, some colleges allow students who are older than 24 and without a diploma to enroll as a “non-traditional” student. These schools will instead gage academic and college readiness through school projects, academic work, teacher recommendations, and the like.
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Alternative Routes of Education
It’s true that everyone has a different educational journey. There’s no need to judge one over the other because everyone does what is most suitable and feasible for their situation.
Here are some ideas for alternative routes to education:
- Home-Schooling: Perhaps you were homeschooled, so you didn’t get a traditional high school diploma. Don’t worry — you can still show that you earned the equivalent of a diploma through documentation provided by your parents or homeschool teacher.
- Non-Traditional Student: If you haven’t been in high school for more than 6 years, you’re considered a non-traditional student. You can still apply to college and showcase your life skills experience.
- Trade School: One of the most practical options for students without a degree is trade school. Trade school teaches on-the-job training for a specific skill set. It’s often less expensive than college.
Tips & Recommendations: Getting Your GED
Perhaps you already dropped out of high school, or you’re considering doing so. You have instead decided to earn your GED. Here are some top tips and recommendations to do so successfully:
- Outline Your Goals: Start with a big-picture outline of what you want to accomplish in life. You need to make sure that having your GED is enough to get you there.
- Know How You Learn: Everyone learns differently. Some students prefer study guides and being alone whereas others perform better in study groups. Understand what method best supports your success and stick to it.
- Designate a Study Space: Staying focused is one of the biggest keys to doing well on the GED and passing. Find a quiet study space or create one in your own home. Everyone prioritizes different needs in their study space, so be sure to suit yourself.
- Take Practice Tests: You know how they always say, “Practice makes perfect”? This is the case for the GED, too. Leverage practice tests to prepare yourself for the big day.
- Manage Your Time: Start studying at least 2-3 months before the test date. That way, you won’t feel crammed. Time management is one of the most important skills as both a student as well as in life in general.
- Don’t Stress: Take study breaks and remember to do things you enjoy to destress.
Dropping Out? Consider These Programs & Organizations First
Even though you now know the various alternatives to earning your high school diploma, you should still think twice before dropping out. For whatever reason that dropping out seems to be the best solution, there may be a better alternative and way to work around it.
These programs and organizations exist to help students with whatever their situation is to avoid dropping out:
Jobs that Don’t Require a Degree
If you’ve already dropped out of high school or you feel that standard education is not for you, you can still find a job. There are plenty of jobs that don’t require a degree. These include:
- Professional Cleaner
- Restaurant Staff Member
- Home Health Aide
- Executive Assistant
An Educational Revolution: Online Schools
It’s a well-known fact that traditional education does not serve everyone’s needs, nor is it always an option.
As an alternative, online education and institutions of higher education are becoming increasingly popular.
To illustrate, the University of the People was founded with the goal to revolutionize higher education by creating an entirely online, tuition-free, and accessible model. While it’s required that students have a high school diploma or equivalent, students from all countries and regions are accepted. The low barrier of entry supports the mission that everyone deserves an opportunity to obtain quality education.
The Bottom Line
While it is the case that higher education leads to higher salaries, it doesn’t mean that without a high school diploma, one cannot be successful. There are various alternatives to earning the equivalent of a high school diploma, or instead, continuing one’s education in non-traditional methods.