Go to College Without a High School Diploma

Keep Your College Hopes Alive by Reviewing These Options

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Don’t give up on your dream of enrolling in a college or university just because you didn’t get your high school diploma. Although most colleges require a high school diploma to enroll in any program that grants bachelor's degrees, several options are available for students who lack the paper to prove that they graduated high school.

1. Community College

Most community colleges assume that a certain percentage of their student body is applying without a high school diploma, and they plan accordingly. They often have programs specifically designed to help people without diplomas who show the potential to succeed. Since more and more community colleges are creating online programs, many new options have also opened up for distance learners. Check with your local schools to see what programs they offer, or search online to find a program that matches your needs.

2. GED Programs

Some colleges allow students to enroll with a GED. Designed to be a high school equivalency test, the GED proves that passing students have an education comparable to the current graduating class of seniors. You can find free GED preparation courses online.

3. Nontraditional Student Status

Students who have been out of high school for a long time may qualify for nontraditional student status, which generally means that the student is older than the average enrollee. Almost all online and traditional colleges have an organization dedicated to helping such students find success. You may be able to bypass traditional requirements, such as the high school diploma, by proving relevant life experience and demonstrated maturity.

4. Concurrent Enrollment

If you still want to get your high school diploma, you may be able to take online college classes at the same time you’re working on your high school credits. Many colleges have special programs that negotiate concurrent enrollment, which allows a student to attend two schools at the same time. The good news? Many high schools allow students to earn double high school credit by completing college courses, which means you may be able to kill two birds with one stone—double the credits, double the diplomas!

The Bottom Line

Students have many motivations for attending college; one of the primary reasons is financial. As of May 2017, holders of bachelor's degrees earn 31 percent more than workers with an associate degree and 74 percent more than holders of just a high school diploma. When it comes to lifetime earnings, the difference is about $2.3 million over a lifetime between bachelor's degree holders and high school diplomates, and that's a good reason indeed to stay in school.

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Your Citation
Littlefield, Jamie. "Go to College Without a High School Diploma." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, thoughtco.com/attend-college-without-high-school-diploma-1098410. Littlefield, Jamie. (2021, July 30). Go to College Without a High School Diploma. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/attend-college-without-high-school-diploma-1098410 Littlefield, Jamie. "Go to College Without a High School Diploma." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/attend-college-without-high-school-diploma-1098410 (accessed March 27, 2023).