Going to college after earning a GED® diploma is far from impossible. Students who didn’t spend four years in high school—dreaming of the fun they might have in college—can still make those dreams a reality.
What Is a GED Diploma?
A GED diploma is an alternative to a high school diploma for students who didn’t finish the requirements to earn one. The test covers four subject areas: Social Studies, Science, Mathematical Reasoning, and Reasoning Through Language Arts. Each test is administered separately, so students can take them at their own pace, meaning all four tests don’t have to be taken on the same day. The tests are timed, though, each covering several topics in the particular subject area.
• Social Studies (70 minutes):
◦ Reading for Meaning in Social Studies
◦ Analyzing Historical Events and Arguments in Social Studies
◦ Using Numbers and Graphs in Social Studies
• Science (90 minutes):
◦ Reading for Meaning in Science
◦ Designing and Interpreting Science
◦ Using Numbers and Graphics in Science
• Mathematical Reasoning (115 minutes):
◦ Basic Math
◦ Basic Algebra
◦ Graphs and Functions
• Reasoning Through Language Arts (150 minutes):
◦ Reading for Meaning
◦ Identifying and Creating Arguments
◦ Grammar and Language
Preparing for and Taking the GED Test
Creating an account on GED.com is the first thing to do. After creating an account on the official GED website, students will be able to access free study guides and practice tests, as well as purchasing vouchers for the official GED Ready® practice test and in-person or online prep classes. It’s recommended that students prepare for the test by attending GED prep classes and taking practice exams.
There are more than 6,000 prep centers and more than 3,000 test centers in the US, with programs administered by local school districts, community colleges and adult education centers. There is also an online testing option, which can be taken anywhere the student has internet access and, ideally, has a quiet, private place to test.
While it’s recommended that students prepare for the GED test by taking practice exams, it’s not required if taking an in-person test. For those opting for an online test, however, they must first take and pass the GED Ready practice test within 60 days of taking the subject test.
Each of the four tests is taken and scored separately, and there are three scoring levels.
• GED Passing Score: Scoring a 145 on each test subject is a passing score, the minimum needed to obtain a GED diploma.
• GED College Ready Score Level: Scoring between 165 and 174 on each test subject indicates a readiness for college-level coursework.
• GED College Ready + Credit Score Level: Scoring between 175 and 200 indicates not only a readiness for college-level coursework, but possible eligibility for college credit, depending on the college program.
Test scores are available in the student’s GED.com account within 3 business days of taking the test. The scoring section of the account will also include a detailed report of each subject test’s score and skills the student can work on to improve their score.
Can You Go to College With a GED?
Absolutely! The GED diploma is accepted by 97% of colleges in the US. Many GED grads enroll in college, 35% within one year of earning their GED and 45% within three years. Nearly all GED grads—90%—re-enroll in college courses each semester. The boost that comes with earning a GED diploma lasts in the form of persistence in completing college courses.
How to Get Into College With a GED: Step-by-Step
Most colleges and universities accept the GED diploma in lieu of a high school diploma. In some cases, though, the GED diploma can be perceived as less challenging than a high school diploma. GED students may also lack other things colleges might be looking for, such as transcripts that show academic performance or class rank.
To overcome the challenge of this perception, the GED grad might want to talk to a college admissions officer to get suggestions about how to improve their chances of being admitted. Options might be taking placement exams to show skill levels in certain subjects or asking about testing out of certain courses if the student feels their skills are strong enough in a particular subject to do so.
The college admissions essay is another place where a GED grad has a chance to shine. Telling a personal story, perhaps about challenges that have been overcome or ways in which a student has persevered, or describing how a volunteer activity has made an impact on the student’s life might be the thing that makes one student’s application stand out against a stack of others.
There are a number of steps GED grads can take to increase their chances of getting accepted to a college.
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Looking at a College’s Requirements
Talking to an admissions counselor about a college’s requirements to be accepted is a good place to start. It can be a good way to bring the GED diploma into the conversation and see if there’s anything they can do to bolster their application.
SAT or ACT Scores
Most colleges and universities require a college entrance exam, either the ACT or the SAT. Higher than average scores on one of those tests might increase a student’s chances of admission. The SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, and the national average is 1051 . The average ACT score is 20.6 , with the highest possible score being 36.
Including Activities on an Application
If an applicant participated in extracurricular activities while they were in high school or volunteered with a community organization, putting that information on a college application will give the admissions team a fuller view of who the applicant is as a person, instead of just looking at their test scores. Discussing a job they had that is related to the field they want to study might also be good to include.
Letters of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation from a teacher, employer or someone who knows the student well can be helpful to include with a college application. Sometimes, two or three letters of recommendation are required by the college. The ideal letter might include insights into who the student is as a person, aside from their academic record, as well as demonstrating to the admissions team that someone is willing to vouch for them.
Recommended: Tips for Asking a Professor for a Letter of Recommendation
Apply to Multiple Schools
A common—and recommended—strategy for all students is applying to more than one school. Applying to a community college might be a good place to start, as they are usually “open enrollment,” which means that they don’t require the ACT or SAT tests. A community college might require placement tests in Math and English to determine the level at which an incoming student should be placed. After completing an associate degree at a community college, transferring to a four-year college or university would be the next step toward completing a bachelor’s degree, if desired.
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Getting a GED is a big step and has the potential to lead to higher lifetime earnings. High school graduates or those who earn a GED diploma typically earn $9,204 more per year on average than students who drop out of high school. And those with an associate degree earn about $7,300 more per year on average than the typical high school graduate or GED holder.
If you received your GED and now you’re applying to college, look at all federal student aid options. But if there’s still a balance to pay after those options have been exhausted, and you don’t know how you’re going to pay for college, SoFi may be able to help. SoFi offers private student loans for undergraduate and graduate degrees with no fees, competitive rates and flexible payment options.
SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.
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