Can You Go to College with a Ged?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Interested in applying to college with a GED? You are not alone. Explore what a GED is, how it compares to other testing options, and the steps to apply to college with this qualification.

[Featured image] Two girls at a table outside in the city looking at their phones and talking about going to college after earning their GED.

A vast majority of colleges accept applicants with a GED. While many learners don’t follow the traditional path from high school graduation to college life, the GED is a recognized alternative to a high school diploma that opens many opportunities. If you want to obtain a GED or already have one, you may wonder, can you go to college with a GED? Read on to learn the benefits of earning this credential and how you can pursue higher education with a GED.

Read more: Can You Go to College Without a High School Diploma?

What is a GED?

A General Educational Development Test (GED) is a series of tests designed to measure your proficiency in standard academic subjects at a high school level in the United States. To pass this exam, you’ll need a score of at least 145 out of 200 on each of the four subject tests covering science, mathematics, social studies, and reasoning through language arts [1]. 

If you plan on applying to colleges after passing your GED, you will want to aim for a score of 165 or above, which indicates being “college ready” [1]. However, if you don’t achieve a score of 165, you should speak with college admissions advisors about options and whether other areas of your application may make up for a lower GED score.

If you score between 175 and 200, this shows that you have already mastered some skills taught in colleges, and you could be eligible for college credit [1].


While the GED is a well-known high school equivalency test, it’s not the only option available. Another route is the High School Equivalency Test (HiSET). This exam was introduced more recently than the GED and serves the same purpose—like the GED, it assesses knowledge and skills equivalent to those of a high school graduate. That being said, the format and availability vary depending on your location. 

The HiSET has five sections, including:

  • Language arts reading

  • Language arts writing

  • Mathematics

  • Science

  • Social studies

For both the GED and HiSET, you can take subject tests separately. For those taking the subject tests together, the HiSET is administered over a seven-hour period with time allotted for each of the five subjects, similar to the combined length of the GED subject tests. For the HiSET, a passing score is at least 8 out of 20 on each subject and 2 out of 6 on the language arts writing essay [2]. If you’d like to showcase your college readiness, you’ll need to aim for at least 15 out of 20 in each subject and a 4 out of 6 on the essay [3]. 

The HiSET and GED have different formats and scoring criteria in each section, so you will want to look at each test format and consider which best fits your strengths. If you can, taking practice tests in each may give you insight into which exam suits you better. Costs and delivery format differ by state, so it’s also a good idea to explore this. Choosing between the GED and HiSET often depends on personal preference, state requirements, and the availability of the test in the state where you reside.

Can you go to college with a GED?

Yes! You can go to college with a GED. A GED is widely recognized as a legitimate equivalent to a high school diploma by colleges and universities across the US. However, each educational institution will have its own admissions policies, so speaking with a college admissions counselor and exploring the resources online is important to ensure you’re on top of the requirements. Some may require additional tests (like the SAT or ACT), or they may place a higher emphasis on other aspects of the application, such as personal essays or letters of recommendation.

Benefits of a GED

Obtaining a GED will likely increase your job prospects. Many employers view the GED as equivalent to a high school diploma, so a GED can expand your job opportunities to professions that require at least a high school level of education. Beyond job prospects, a GED opens doors to further education, such as college. You can apply to colleges or enroll in trade school programs with a GED.

How to go to college with a GED

1. Check which colleges accept GEDs.

Your first step is to identify colleges and universities that accept GEDs. The good news is that most colleges in the US do. However, you should always confirm this on the institution’s admissions page or by contacting their admissions office directly. 

2. Look at additional entry requirements.

While a GED is a key component of your application, colleges often have additional entry requirements. These may include standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, personal essays, letters of recommendation, and course competency requirements. 

Read more: What Do Colleges Look for in First-Year Students?

3. Decide on the right school for you.

When deciding where to apply, consider factors such as the location, financial requirements, and campus life. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What is most important to you about your campus experience?

  • Do you want to go to a large or small university?

  • Is staying close to home important, or would you like to live in a new place?

Consider the academic programs offered and whether they match what you’re looking for.

4. Speak with an admissions counselor.

Once you’ve shortlisted the colleges you want to apply to, contact their admissions counselors. This shows your interest in the institution, and they can provide valuable insights about what the university is looking for, as well as how you can improve your application. You can also ask specific questions about applying with a GED.

5. Prepare your application.

Preparing your college application will typically include filling out the application form, writing a personal essay, and gathering additional required materials, such as test scores or letters of recommendation. Pay special attention to your essay, as this is your opportunity to share your story, including your journey to obtaining a GED and why you’re pursuing higher education.

6. Explore financial aid.

Financial aid can help manage the costs of college. It’s worthwhile to look into scholarships, grants, and loan options. Be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what federal aid you might qualify for.

Learn more with Coursera

You can prepare to take your GED or get a head start on college course material with exciting course offerings and Specializations on Coursera. You may choose to build your knowledge base in STEM subjects like biology, chemistry, algebra, or computer programming. You can also opt for liberal arts courses like those in world history or modern art

Article sources

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.