Can You Get Into a Bachelor’s Degree Program With a GED?

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Key Take­aways:

  • Most col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties accept a GED as an equiv­a­lent to a high school diplo­ma for admis­sions, although some insti­tu­tions may have addi­tion­al requirements.
  • Prepar­ing for and pass­ing the GED involves tak­ing tests in four sub­jects, which can be com­plet­ed much faster than a tra­di­tion­al high school diploma.
  • GED hold­ers have access to the same finan­cial aid oppor­tu­ni­ties as high school grad­u­ates, includ­ing fed­er­al loans, grants, and schol­ar­ships specif­i­cal­ly for GED students.
  • Col­leges may require GED hold­ers to sub­mit addi­tion­al mate­ri­als such as stan­dard­ized test scores (ACT or SAT), let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion, and per­son­al essays to strength­en their applications.

Not everyone’s path to col­lege is the same. Some stu­dents com­plete tra­di­tion­al high school and move on to col­lege using their high school diplo­ma to sat­is­fy basic admis­sions require­ments. How­ev­er, a diplo­ma might not be a viable option in oth­er cas­es. That’s where the GED pro­gram comes in.

Whether you’re a cur­rent high school­er con­sid­er­ing get­ting a GED or some­one who already has one, your options for get­ting a bachelor’s degree are wide open. In fact, most col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties offer path­ways to com­plete a degree for stu­dents with a GED. 

Nev­er­the­less, it’s impor­tant to under­stand col­lege admis­sions with a GED, includ­ing the admis­sions require­ments for GED hold­ers at dif­fer­ent types of insti­tu­tions. That’s where this guide comes in!


What is a GED?

GED stands for Gen­er­al Edu­ca­tion­al Devel­op­ment. To get a GED, you must pass four sub­ject-mat­ter tests: Math­e­mat­i­cal Rea­son­ing, Rea­son­ing Through Lan­guage Arts, Sci­ence, and Social Stud­ies. Each test takes at least an hour, and you can take the tests indi­vid­u­al­ly or all at one time.

You must be at least 16 years old to take GED tests. Fur­ther­more, you can­not be cur­rent­ly enrolled in high school. The tests are admin­is­tered through­out the year at approved sites, and you can pre­pare for these tests by tak­ing prac­tice exams, enrolling in GED prep class­es, or par­tic­i­pat­ing in online GED prep courses.

The pur­pose of the GED is to pro­vide a path­way to high school equiv­a­len­cy for stu­dents who didn’t com­plete a tra­di­tion­al high school cur­ricu­lum. Though the essen­tial knowl­edge gained in a GED is the same as a tra­di­tion­al high school pro­gram, in a GED vs. high school diplo­ma com­par­i­son, time is the most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence: A diplo­ma takes four years to com­plete, while a GED takes per­haps a year to pre­pare for and a few hours to com­plete on test day.

The obvi­ous ben­e­fit of earn­ing a GED is that it allows you to speed up com­plet­ing the equiv­a­lent of a high school diplo­ma. For exam­ple, you might start prepar­ing for the GED exams when you’re 15, study for a year, and when you’re 16, take the exams. If you pass, you can imme­di­ate­ly apply to col­lege or join the work­force with a cre­den­tial that sig­ni­fies you have the equiv­a­lent knowl­edge or skills of a high school graduate.


GED vs. High School Diploma: College Admissions

Most col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties accept a GED in lieu of a high school diplo­ma. The key word here is “most,” though. Rough­ly five per­cent of insti­tu­tions will not admit stu­dents with a GED.

How­ev­er, GED col­lege accep­tance is extreme­ly com­mon. In many cas­es, uni­ver­si­ties stip­u­late that you must have a high school diplo­ma or its equiv­a­lent to apply. But the GED (or a diplo­ma, for that mat­ter) is just one com­po­nent of col­lege admis­sions. You will have to meet oth­er require­ments and will like­ly have to sub­mit sup­port­ing mate­ri­als to make your case for admis­sion, such as:

  • Pro­vid­ing stan­dard­ized test scores, like ACT or SAT.
  • Sub­mit­ting let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion from aca­d­e­m­ic references.
  • Writ­ing an admis­sion essay.
  • Demon­strat­ing Eng­lish pro­fi­cien­cy (if Eng­lish is not your native language).

Even though the GED is equiv­a­lent to a high school diplo­ma, there is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion that the GED is easy. Study­ing for the GED exams takes a tremen­dous amount of time and effort, and while it is a faster path to diplo­ma equiv­a­len­cy, it is not an easy journey.

Anoth­er mis­con­cep­tion about the GED is that most col­leges do not accept the GED as evi­dence of com­plet­ing a high school cur­ricu­lum. But, as not­ed above, the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in the U.S. accept the GED for admis­sions. This includes com­mu­ni­ty col­leges, trade schools, and four-year col­leges and universities.

Admission Requirements for GED Holders

As dis­cussed above, pass­ing the GED is just one part of your GED to bachelor’s degree jour­ney. By and large, col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties require you to achieve cer­tain scores on the GED subtests. 

For exam­ple, a 145 is a pass­ing score on the GED. How­ev­er, to max­i­mize your chances of meet­ing GED admis­sion require­ments, you like­ly need at least a 165 (the col­lege-ready score range is 165–174). Bet­ter still, scores of 175 or above are con­sid­ered col­lege-ready and cred­it-wor­thy. This means that you demon­strate a lev­el of pro­fi­cien­cy equiv­a­lent to that taught in low­er-divi­sion col­lege cours­es, and your score might allow you to earn col­lege credit.

The spe­cif­ic admis­sions require­ments for GED hold­ers vary from one insti­tu­tion to the next. They also vary from one type of insti­tu­tion to the next. As a gen­er­al rule of thumb, com­mu­ni­ty col­leges have the low­est stan­dards for admis­sion. In fact, you may only need a GED to be admitted.

How­ev­er, four-year pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties often have more strin­gent require­ments like those list­ed ear­li­er, such as sub­mit­ting ACT or SAT scores, let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion, and an essay. Pri­vate col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties typ­i­cal­ly have the most strin­gent admis­sions require­ments. For exam­ple, they often require high­er stan­dard­ized test scores than pub­lic insti­tu­tions. Like­wise, pri­vate schools are the most like­ly to not accept a GED.

A com­mon­al­i­ty between uni­ver­si­ties accept­ing GED cer­tifi­cates and high school diplo­mas is the impor­tance of ACT or SAT scores. These tests — which have fall­en out of favor in recent years — are intend­ed to mea­sure your aca­d­e­m­ic abil­i­ties and pre­dict your suc­cess in col­lege. A high score tells col­leges you’re like­ly to be a suc­cess­ful stu­dent (like­ly being the keyword.)

The rela­tion­ship between the GED and SAT/ACT scores is sim­ple: the low­er your GED score, the greater the need for a high­er SAT or ACT score. Remem­ber that a 165 is a pass­ing score on the GED, but that might not make you a com­pet­i­tive appli­cant for col­lege. It’s best to pro­ceed with your GED and ACT/SAT prepa­ra­tions to get the high­est pos­si­ble scores, as this will give you a bet­ter chance of gain­ing admis­sion to your cho­sen schools.

Steps to Improve Your Chances of Admission

Uni­ver­si­ties accept­ing GED appli­cants offer broad advice for improv­ing your admis­sions chances. This includes the following:

  • Pre­pare a strong appli­ca­tion in which you high­light your aca­d­e­m­ic abil­i­ties and rel­e­vant knowl­edge and skills.
  • Sub­mit at least two or three let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion from peo­ple famil­iar with your aca­d­e­m­ic abilities.
  • Write a com­pelling per­son­al state­ment in which you go beyond your GED scores and ACT or SAT per­for­mance and dis­cuss who you are, why you want to go to col­lege, your career aspi­ra­tions, and so forth.
  • Cite extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties or work expe­ri­ences that speak to your inter­ests, skills, and abil­i­ties out­side the classroom.

Mov­ing from GED to uni­ver­si­ty stud­ies can also be enhanced by tak­ing col­lege prep class­es. Basic col­lege cours­es can often be com­plet­ed with­out being admit­ted to the school. Com­plet­ing these class­es with good grades can help you make your case for full admission.

Colleges and Universities with GED-Friendly Admissions

For­tu­nate­ly, you have many GED high­er edu­ca­tion options to choose from. Accord­ing to the GED test­ing ser­vice, approx­i­mate­ly 98 per­cent of col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in the U.S. accept the GED. This includes the fol­low­ing major schools:

  • Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Los Angeles
  • Uni­ver­si­ty of Michigan
  • Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas
  • Uni­ver­si­ty of Alabama
  • Notre Dame University

These and oth­er pub­lic and pri­vate insti­tu­tions offer sup­port ser­vices for GED hold­ers and high school grad­u­ates. This includes tutor­ing ser­vices, tech­nol­o­gy assis­tance, vast library resources, and aca­d­e­m­ic advis­ing, to name a few.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for GED Holders

The GED finan­cial aid options are as diverse as those for high school grad­u­ates. With a GED, you can apply for all types of fed­er­al finan­cial aid, includ­ing grants and loans. There are also schol­ar­ships for GED holders.

For exam­ple, you can apply for schol­ar­ships from pub­lic and pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions, state and local gov­ern­ments, and oth­er enti­ties that help off­set the cost of tuition, fees, books and sup­plies, and oth­er expens­es relat­ed to get­ting your col­lege degree.

But, apply­ing for finan­cial aid the right way is impor­tant to max­i­mize your chances of get­ting an award. This starts with fill­ing out the Free Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid (FAFSA) well in advance. This is a required step nec­es­sary to apply for the broad­est range of finan­cial aid opportunities. 

Next, pri­or­i­tize apply­ing for grants and schol­ar­ships, as these types of aid don’t require repay­ment. Look for work-study options after that, which essen­tial­ly trade your work for tuition assis­tance. Loans should be your last resort, as they can quick­ly pile up and require a sig­nif­i­cant pay­ment for a long time after you graduate.

Potential Challenges and How to Overcome Them

When apply­ing to col­lege with a GED, you’ll find that the process can be a lit­tle chal­leng­ing. On the one hand, unlike a typ­i­cal high school stu­dent, you won’t have a guid­ance coun­selor to help you work on col­lege appli­ca­tions, find finan­cial aid oppor­tu­ni­ties, and obtain let­ters of rec­om­men­da­tion. Instead, you’ll have to work hard to com­plete these steps independently.

How­ev­er, you can also seek the help of a men­tor — be that a par­ent or guardian, a friend who’s in col­lege, or some­one who’s already com­plet­ed col­lege — to help you nav­i­gate the require­ments for apply­ing to schools.

Anoth­er obsta­cle in the GED hold­er col­lege appli­ca­tion process is keep­ing track of all the dates for sub­mit­ting appli­ca­tion mate­ri­als. These dates vary from one school to the next, and with dead­lines for finan­cial aid thrown in, it can be a lot to keep track of. Using a cal­en­dar or the cal­en­dar app on your phone to note due dates will help you stay on track and avoid miss­ing deadlines.

Last­ly, over­com­ing GED chal­lenges includes devel­op­ing an admis­sions pro­file that enhances your attrac­tive­ness as an appli­cant. As dis­cussed ear­li­er, you can boost your admis­sions chances by scor­ing well on the GED, ACT or SAT, hav­ing work expe­ri­ence or par­tic­i­pat­ing in extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, and so forth. This requires extreme ded­i­ca­tion and plan­ning well ahead of time, so it’s best if you start build­ing your admis­sions pro­file now rather than wait­ing until you pass the GED test.

Future Opportunities with a Bachelor’s Degree

The GED to career oppor­tu­ni­ties are vir­tu­al­ly lim­it­less. Once you’re admit­ted to col­lege, you can pur­sue a degree to help you become a teacher, a doc­tor, a lawyer, and many oth­er pro­fes­sions. Need­less to say, the val­ue of high­er edu­ca­tion for GED hold­ers is extreme­ly high. Using your GED to get into col­lege opens many doors for invest­ing in your future and earn­ing much high­er wages, too.

No mat­ter your rea­son­ing for get­ting a GED, it’s just the start of your edu­ca­tion­al jour­ney. With a ded­i­ca­tion to plan­ning ahead, prepar­ing for the GED, and tak­ing the nec­es­sary steps to make your col­lege appli­ca­tions stand out, you are like­ly to find that you can join the many suc­cess sto­ries for GED col­lege students!