Can a High School Dropout go to College: Step-by-Step Guide

Can a high school dropout go to college? It’s a big question for many students who don’t finish high school no matter their reasoning. In 2022, the high school dropout rate was 5.3%.  There are different circumstances for every student that can cause them to decide to not complete their high school education. Some students get arrested, get pregnant, get expelled, or don’t want to go to school anymore. No matter your reasoning, if you want to finish high school then it’s important thing to know if dropout students can go to college and find colleges that accept high school dropouts.

4 Reasons Students Drop out of High School

1. Getting Arrested 

If you’re arrested while you’re in high school and don’t finish, getting your GED or high school equivalency diploma is a great idea. Students with misdemeanors and even felonies can get accepted into college. You may have to explain yourself to the college admissions officers, so be sure to prepare some talking points or an essay. 

2. Getting Pregnant

When high school students get pregnant, it’s hard to balance parent life with going to school which causes some people to drop out. If you’re in the stage of life with your child where you can go to college, it’s time to get your GED to get the process started!

3. Getting Expelled

Expulsion from school is serious and students have to tell the admissions committee about it. Fortunately, you’re still eligible to get your GED and attend college but you’ll have to explain your expulsion to the admissions officers. 

4. Not Wanting to Finish High School

Not having the desire to finish high school is a reality for a lot of students. Maybe you weren’t in a safe environment or you were failing all of your classes, but all are valid reasons. Not wanting to finish high school will not keep you from getting your college degree!

Here are some important steps to take when you want to go to college

1. Get Your GED 

Getting your GED is the first step to going to college and starting an educational career. It is not required by all colleges to have a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma, but you have a higher chance of getting accepted with one and there are more options for education programs. For students who choose to opt out of getting a GED, you can enroll in individual classes or vocational programs! To enroll in a degree program, students will need a GED or high school diploma.

For students who know they want to apply to a degree program, it’s important they take the General Educational Development test which is four subjects. You’ll test on mathematics, science, social studies, and reasoning through language arts. Once you pass all four of these tests, you’ll have your GED diploma – CONGRATULATIONS!

Studying and Taking the GED Test

Usually, if you’re over the age of 18, you can take the GED test without any classes. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Your state and school district may have a GED program for adult learners and even teens. An adult basic education program like this is meant to help students prepare for the test and eventually turn them into college students!

The GED is a rigorous test that takes around 7 hours to complete, so it’s not a walk in the park. If you’ve been out of school for a few years, it may be more difficult to acclimate yourself back to studying, but we’re here to help! Every year, hundreds and even thousands of students get their GED. With the right preparation and schooling, you can too. 

First, you need to sign up for classes or tutoring if you have the available time in your schedule. This isn’t required, but it is very helpful. If you don’t have access to these resources, you can study with GED prep books, practice tests online, and even other resources like YouTube! Technology is a great resource to use to study since there are so many free services available. Once you feel prepared enough to take the test, it’s time to schedule your test! Unfortunately, the GED tests do cost money but the price varies for each state. On average, the test can cost around $120 for all 4 subjects or around $30 per subject. If you fail one subject, you can retake it and just pay the subject’s individual price. 

2. Take the SAT or ACT

Students still need to complete their SAT or ACT to get accepted into college. Both are tests used in the college admissions process. Though they are not required by all schools to apply and get accepted, taking these standardized tests will show the admissions officers you’re serious about getting an education and can help gauge where you are from an educational standpoint. It’s especially helpful for students who are high school dropouts. If you’ve never taken the ACT or SAT, we’ve got you covered with study guides, test day tips, and more.

3. Find Colleges that Accept GEDs 

Now that you’ve taken the GED and passed all the tests, it’s time to find a college that accepts a GED as an equivalent to a high school diploma. Fortunately, 98% of colleges accept a GED diploma! Using College Raptor’s college search tool allows you to narrow down your choices and find colleges that are personalized to you. You’ll see which college is best for your major, admission requirements, financial needs, and more. 

4. Apply for Financial Aid

You can apply for FAFSA once you receive your GED diploma. Follow these steps to apply and make sure you fill it out before the deadline. To receive more financial aid, College Raptor suggests applying for as many scholarships as you can. Scholarships are free money and don’t need to be paid back, unlike student loans. You can use them for supplies, tuition, and more!

5. Get Your Degree

After you’ve applied to colleges, gotten accepted, and been rewarded with your financial aid package, you can get your higher education degree! It’s an exciting feeling, especially if it’s something you’ve been waiting to do because of your GED status. Study hard and get ahead in your classes to ensure you finish strong. Online colleges, local community colleges, and four-year schools are available for you to attend and learn from!


Getting your GED certificate and attending college is a great accomplishment. College Raptor wants to help you find the right school for your needs, a career, and scholarships to pay for your school. 

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