Millions of students have earned a GED diploma and gone on to get a college degree. In fact, 97% percent of colleges accept the GED credential just as they would a high school diploma.
Some competitive schools and programs, however, require a certain minimum GED test score for admission, and possibly other tests and requirements. Here’s what you need to know to get into college with a GED.
What Is a GED Diploma?
A GED diploma is an alternative to a high school diploma for students who didn’t complete the requirements to graduate from high school. To earn a GED, you need to take a series of tests that will indicate whether or not you have a high school level of education. This is known as the GED (or General Educational Development) test.
The test covers four subject areas: Social Studies, Science, Mathematical Reasoning, and Reasoning Through Language Arts. Each test is administered separately (so you can space them out), timed, and covers several topics in the 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
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Preparing for and Taking the GED Test
The first step to getting your GED is to create an account on GED.com. Once you have an account, you’ll be able to access free study guides and practice tests, register for low-cost online and in-person prep classes, and purchase a voucher for the official GED Ready practice test.
You can register to take the GED test online or at a local test center through your GED account. Some states require that you take the GED practice test to register for the official GED test in-person or online. You can look up your state’s requirements here.
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 typically available in your GED.com account within 24 hours of taking the test, though it can sometimes take up to three business days. The scoring section of your account will also include a detailed report of each subject test’s score and skills you can work on to improve their score.
Can You Go to College With a GED?
Absolutely! Nearly all colleges accept a GED diploma in lieu of a high school diploma. These include community colleges, vocational schools, private universities, and public universities. In some cases, however, you may need to meet a few specific requirements, or take a few extra steps, in order to be admitted with a GED.
Certain colleges, for example, may require a GED grad to show they’re ready for college-level courses either by submitting a high enough ACT or SAT score to the college or by taking the college’s placement test. The placement test score will be a factor in the admissions process.
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How to Get Into College With a GED: Step-by-Step
While most colleges and universities accept the GED diploma, this diploma can sometimes be perceived as less challenging than a high school diploma. As a GED student, you may also lack other things colleges might be looking for, such as transcripts that show academic performance or class rank.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps GED grads can take to increase their chances of getting accepted to college.
Check the School’s Admission Requirements
Some schools and competitive programs require students to have a minimum GED test score or some prior college credit to be considered for admission. Other institutions require applicants who hold a GED diploma to take additional placement tests. There is also a small percentage of schools that do not accept the GED diploma at all.
You can learn about requirements on a school’s website. If you can’t find enough information online, you can always call the school’s admissions office. The admissions staff can be a great source of accurate and up-to-date information on general admission policies, as well as standards pertaining to GEDs, such as getting credit for a College Ready+ score.
Consider Taking the SAT or ACT
Many colleges are test-optional now, which means students don’t have to submit SAT or ACT scores along with their applications. However, If you take one of these entrance exams — and get a higher-than-average-score — you could potentially increase your chances of getting in. Some schools (even those that don’t require the ACT or SAT) also use these test scores for class placement or scholarships.
The SAT scores range from 400 to 1600, and the national average is 1050. The ACT scores range between 1 and 36, and the average is around 21.
Write a Compelling Essay
The college admissions essay gives GED grads an opportunity to shine. Telling a personal story, perhaps about challenges that you have overcome or ways in which you have persevered, or describing how a volunteer activity has made an impact on your life, might be the thing that makes your application stand out against a stack of others.
Include Activities on Your Application
If you participated in extracurricular activities while you were in high school or volunteered with a community organization, putting that information on your college application can give the admissions team a fuller view of who you are as a person (instead of just looking at your test scores). You may also want to include any jobs you’ve had that are to the field you want to study.
Get Letters of Recommendation
Some colleges require two or three letters of recommendation. Even if a letter of recommendation is optional, including one can help your application stand out. A highly positive letter gives the admissions team insights into your character, while also showing that someone is willing to vouch for you. Good sources include former coaches, teachers, school counselors, supervisors, local leaders, and mentors.
Apply to Multiple Schools
A common — and recommended — strategy for all students is to apply to more than one school. Even if your goal is to attend a four-year college, you may want to include a local community college on your list. Community colleges often have “open enrollment,” which means that they don’t require the ACT or SAT tests. And, if you don’t get into colleges of your choice this go around, you might opt to get an associate degree at a community college, then transfer to a four-year college to complete your bachelor’s degree.
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Explore Scholarships and Financial Aid
Scholarships and other financial aid packages can reduce the cost of getting a college education. So be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This allows you to find out if you’re eligible for federal aid, such as grants, work-study opportunities, and even federal student loans. You can also qualify for state-level and school-based aid through the FAFSA form.
In addition, you may want to explore private scholarships opportunities using a database like Fastweb or SoFi’s Scholarship Search Tool. Your school’s financial aid office might know about more resources available, too.
If you need to borrow to pay for college, it’s generally a good idea to take out federal student loans before private ones. Federal loans have benefits that private loans don’t, including access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.
💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.
Just because you didn’t finish high school, doesn’t mean you can’t go to college. By getting your GED diploma, you can apply to virtually any type of secondary school, including community colleges and four-year universities.
To improve your odds of getting into college, you’ll want to make sure you meet all of the school’s admissions requirements, take any necessary entrance or placement tests, and put together a strong application that includes a great essay and personal recommendations.
To make going to college affordable, it can also be a good idea to start researching ways to cover the cost of your education. Options include: savings, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and federal or private student loans.
If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.
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