Ask a College Advisor: How Do I Apply for College With a GED Diploma?

Hear from one of our education professionals on applying to college after earning your GED credential.

portrait of Norma Feriz-Gordon
by Norma Feriz-Gordon

Updated August 19, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
Share this Article
Ask a College Advisor: How Do I Apply for College With a GED Diploma?
Image Credit: golero / E+ / Getty Images

Question: How do I apply for college with a GED diploma?

Answer: The General Educational Development (GED) test is a high school equivalency exam that covers four main subject areas: mathematical reasoning, reasoning through language arts, social studies, and science. Students who earn a passing score on each test section receive a GED diploma, which they can use to apply to colleges.

How to Apply With a GED Diploma

The process of applying to college with an equivalency diploma mirrors the process of applying with a high school diploma. You'll still need to submit high school transcripts for the school or schools you attended. If your grade point average (GPA) was considerably low before taking the GED exam or if you have been out of school for some time, you might consider starting at a local community college before transferring to a four-year college.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

When applying to college, it's important to do your research and apply to schools that are a good fit for you. You'll want to consider "match" and "safety" schools and limit the number of "reach" schools.

Target/Match

Target or match schools are colleges and universities that are well matched to an applicant's qualifications.

For instance, if the school requires a 3.0 GPA and 1100 SAT score and an applicant has a 3.1 GPA and an 1150 on their SAT, this would be a match school for this student.


Safety

Safety schools are schools where a candidate has exceeded the school's requirements.

For example, if the school requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 and has no test score requirements and an applicant has a 3.0 GPA, this would be a safety school for this student. The school is very likely to accept their application.


Reach

Reach schools are schools where an applicant is unlikely to be accepted. Oftentimes, these schools tend to be highly competitive and/or the student does not yet meet the institution's academic requirements.

Enhance Your Application

If you have been out of school for a while, you should consider enhancing your application by engaging in other experiences, such as:

Some of the goals of participating in these activities are to obtain references and highlight your skills and abilities. These opportunities also provide a chance to explore different career pathways before you begin a formal college program.

Many GED applicants who have been out of school for a while are worried that they may not recall many of the basic math and English content needed to find success in college. But try not to let this concern get in the way of your success! Public libraries, online resources, and community colleges provide courses that can help you get ready. Some students also enroll in transition pathway programs, which can help them brush up on essential skills.

Standardized Testing

Another way to enhance your application is to prepare for and take college entrance exams, such as the SAT or ACT. Studying for these exams can help boost your score. If you do well, test scores are another way to demonstrate your knowledge and make you a more competitive applicant. Your scores are used as a part of the holistic application review process at many schools.

Personal Statement

Don't forget the power of the written word! You can share with a college why you earned a GED diploma. Perhaps your secondary education was interrupted due to illness, starting a family, needing to work, etc.

If you do want to share your story with the admissions team, your application essay is a great way to do so. It is also a great space to elaborate on your future career goals and how those are motivating your return to school.

Summary

Yes, you can apply to many colleges with a GED diploma! But make sure you research target programs and their application requirements. Apply early or before the deadline. Submit all required application materials, and make yourself a more competitive applicant by highlighting relevant experiences and extracurricular activities that make you a desirable prospective student.

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.

DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.