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

Are you looking for colleges that don’t require a GED or high school diploma? Wondering if you can go to college without a GED? Read this!

TCM Staff

23rd October 2021

Are you wondering, can you go to college without a GED?

To apply to any college or university, you usually need a GED or high school diploma as a prerequisite. 

However, if you don't have either, it’s still possible to continue your higher education and fulfill your dream of earning a college degree. 

Colleges are becoming more inclusive in their enrollment process, as they recognize many students might not have had the privilege of graduating high school.



Do I Need a High School Diploma to Go to College?


The short answer is no — you don’t need a high school diploma to go to college. 

People have many different reasons for not having a high school diploma or a GED.  Some people were homeschooled, or some may have needed to drop out and go to work. Others don’t achieve high school diplomas because of family-related issues, such as low income and low educational attainment of parents. 

Individual characteristics, such as low self-esteem, teenage pregnancy, and low aspirations are also factors in students not completing high school. Finally, many students who come from lower-income households may have been forced to place a higher priority on work than their education. 

Luckily, there are ways to pursue college education without a GED or high school diploma. 


How Can I Get Into a College Without a GED or High School Diploma?


Can you go to college without a GED or high school diploma? Many assume that you can’t; however, there are actually a few ways to attend college without a GED or high school diploma. 

Here is a list of options that allow you to pursue your college education without a GED or high school diploma:


1. Community Colleges

Community college is the most common option for people who want to go to college but do not have a GED or a high school diploma. Several community colleges don’t require a high school diploma or GED. Instead, they accept people by using an evaluation tool to assess a candidate’s qualifications for enrollment other than a GED or diploma. Examples include common standardized tests like the SAT’s or ACT’s

Some colleges may even recommend a course to assess a candidate’s knowledge and make sure the students won’t have any issues keeping up with the curriculum once they’re enrolled in the college program.


2. Earning a GED

The GED, or the General Education Test, is a test that you take instead of attending high school that proves that you have high school-level academic skills. The test evaluates you on a group of 4 subjects: math, science, social studies, and reasoning through language arts. 

Here are some criteria and steps to take to get your GED:

  1. Be at least 16 years of age

  2. Prepare for the 4-part exam through online classes and sample tests

  3. Register online for the GED exam

  4. Appear for the test

  5. Check the test result 4 hours after the exam. You need to score at least 150 to pass. However, you can take the test again if you don’t achieve a score of 150.

If you didn’t attend high school, a GED is a much quicker way to achieve the same value of a high school diploma. The process is only a few months of preparation and test-taking, as opposed to the 4 years of full-time study required to achieve a high school diploma. 

Although you can sometimes attend college without a GED, the college might not award you your degree until you obtain your GED.


3. Earning a High School Diploma Along With Your College Degree

If you still want to earn a high school diploma instead of a GED, you can sign up for an online high school diploma program. This program helps you earn your diploma part-time at home while you continue your college studies. 

Unfortunately, there are many online high school diploma scams out there. Watch out for these scams. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Anything that advertises that you can get your diploma from home, in one day, or ASAP is a scam
  • Anything that says you need to pay for the diploma (not necessarily the tests)
  • Anything that says they’re associated with the US federal government


4. Being Homeschooled

In 2019, an estimated 2.5 million students were homeschooled in the United States. If you were homeschooled, you can still attend college without a traditional high school diploma. In this case, you could provide the college with any documents from your parents or guardians that proved you attended high school from home. Since homeschooling is approved by the U.S. Department of Education, students who were homeschooled have no problem enrolling in college.


5. Non-traditional Student

The non-traditional student is older than the early-twenties range. Yes - going to college at 30 is possible.

Students who have not been to high school for over 6 years are considered non-traditional students. They can apply to college with life experience, skills and maturity in place of a high school diploma. Throughout the enrollment process, the college will look at work experience, recommendations, and standardized test scores such as the SATs. Some colleges may even allow you to attend some classes to see how you perform after being out of school for at least 6 years.


6. Join a Trade School

This might be one of the best options for people without a high school diploma. The students have endless options when it comes to studying at a trade school and this sort of education gives you on-the-job training. Trade school is also less expensive than college, and give you op.

Some examples of trade professions include: 

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Web Developer
  • Radiation Therapist
  • Plumber 
  • Electrician

These occupations require a learned skill set rather than book learning. 


7. Taking College Classes Without a Degree

If none of the above options work out, you can always take individual classes to learn the skills you want to possess. Taking courses will also diversify your career options and add to your resume.

Colleges have no problem letting you enroll for classes. They usually allow people to sit in or audit a class. By sitting in or auditing, you will not get a degree or a certificate. However, it is still helpful since you can access the same knowledge and opportunity for learning as any other student enrolled in the class. 

At the end of the day, going to high school does not prove that you are less qualified for university than someone who did go to high school. There are plenty of alternatives to a high school diploma that can help you pursue post-secondary education. 



Can I Enroll in an Online Undergraduate Program Without a GED or High School Diploma?

Accredited online programs have a compulsory requirement for a high school diploma or a GED certificate. However, many programs offer concurrent enrollment. This means that students can earn college credits while they pursue high school. 


Financial Aid for Students That Didn't Go to High School

Not having a high school diploma should not stop you from getting financial aid. However, US Federal Student Aid will require something equivalent to a high school diploma to grant financial aid. A GED or homeschooling certificate are both good options.  

Additionally, private organizations are more likely to grant loans or scholarships to people who don’t have a high school diploma. You can even appear for an Ability to Benefit exam to prove that you have academic knowledge that equals a high school diploma.

You may also read - Eligibility requirements for financial aid


List of Colleges That Do Not Require a GED or a High School Diploma

Here are a few colleges that do not require GED or a high school diploma,


Jobs That Don’t Require a High School Diploma or GED

Several job positions don’t require a high school diploma or a college degree, though they do require tangible skills:

  • Customer service representative
  • Restaurant server and support staff
  • Delivery job
  • Construction jobs, like laborers, roofers and landscapers
  • Taxi/Uber driver
  • Dog Walker
  • Automotive mechanic
  • Telemarketer
  • Painter
  • Politician
  • Singer
  • Dancer

Many people go to college and earn a degree, and end up finding an occupation that’s completely different from what they studied. Clearly, post-secondary education isn’t always linked to a particular career, which proves that you don’t need a degree to be successful in life.



There are many good reasons to get your GED or high school diploma. However, it's not the end of the world if you don't achieve this. That’s because many community colleges offer post-secondary enrollment options to people who never graduated high school. You can attend colleges without a high school diploma or GED. 

It’s also important to remember that many professions don’t require a GED or even a degree in general. 

Hard work and determination are the winning ingredients to anyone’s education, whether that’s accompanied by a GED or not.

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