This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
It is possible to go to college with a GED, but taking this route requires special attention toward acquiring the “soft skills” that the test doesn’t measure, including study skills and time management.
That advice comes from Veda Henderson, who teaches the GED to college transition class at YESPhilly, a GED and career-prep center.
Working toward earning the GED helps students acquire the “hard skills” they’ll need in college, such as reading and math. But Henderson urges students to read regularly to keep in practice and become comfortable with the longer passages that they’ll likely face in college.
It is also important to be disciplined about developing good study and work habits before enrolling, she said.
The transition from GED to a two-year college might be smoother than jumping from the GED to a four-year college, said Henderson, especially because of the rigorous SAT tests needed to apply to most four-year institutions. At the same time, she urges GED recipients to thoroughly check out any for-profit technical institute so they don’t get saddled with debt.
A community college entrance exam is more challenging and covers more material than the GED, but GED students will likely be more ready for those tests, called COMPASS tests, than they will be for the SATs, Henderson said.
Also important in the college application process are the essays. “Write a strong essay,” said Henderson. This is a perfect opportunity to describe for the admissions officer the perseverance and other qualities that helped the applicant earn the GED.
Many students get GEDs “because there is something dramatic in their life to stop them from going to traditional high school,” she said. “The fact that you survived that and are excelling is a wonderful thing.”
She also recommends doing community service and highlighting that as part of the application.
Resources available for college applicants who are not in high school include the Free Library of Philadelphia, the College Access Centers, the Philly Goes2College office in City Hall, as well as college websites.
Once students get to college, they should be sure to check out available support services. “You need to find out where [the office] is and who is in charge of it,” said Henderson. ”Then introduce yourselves.”
In addition to taking advantage of college services, it is “important to have a support team” that includes family, friends, and people at the city resource centers. “There are people to help the transition to college,” Henderson said.