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Can High School Dropouts Still Go To College?

Dropping out... Getting expelled... Getting pregnant... Learn how some high school circumstances affect your college admissions. (It's not as bad as you think).

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Each year, thousands of high school students are faced with difficult circumstances that they fear may affect their college admissions.

“What if I was expelled from my high school?” a student might ask. 

Or “What if I got pregnant while I was in high school? What can I do for college?”

A majority (up to 95%) of colleges and universities will accept students who have only a GED.

These students are often misinformed when it comes to their options for higher education. No matter which of these “what if” scenarios you might fit into, in most cases, there is almost always an avenue you can take to get into college.

And make no mistake, you’re not alone. Hundreds of students across the country share your circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, in 2008, the total dropout rate was at 8%,


Let’s explore some of the most common difficult scenarios faced by high school students and see how they may affect college admissions.

I Had To Drop Out Of High School

High school dropouts can feel lost and hopeless when it comes to pursuing a college education. But this hopelessness is largely unfounded, since the majority (up to 95%) of colleges and universities will accept students who have only a GED.

It’s important to note that those who have high school diplomas will often have an advantage over GED-holders, but good test scores and references can wipe out this advantage. Look up the admission requirements of schools that interest you. If the school doesn’t accept GED students, find a community college in your area and after a couple years of good grades, apply to the university of your choosing.

I Had To Transfer High Schools

Your parents moved and you were forced to transfer schools before senior year. Does transferring high schools effect your college options? When examining applications, college admissions boards look at grades, test scores, and course selection. The high school you graduated from and the clubs and activities you participate in during your senior year may affect applications to some super-elite schools, but in general, test scores and grades are more important than your high school’s reputation.

I Was Expelled From High School

If you were expelled from high school, it’s important to remember that you are obliged to tell the truth if the admissions department at your prospective college asks about the circumstances of your expulsion. The reasons for your expulsion may weigh heavily upon their decision to proceed with the admissions process. However, if the admissions board decides that you aren’t ready for their university, the community college route may be your best option. Spend two years getting good grades before reapplying.

I Got Pregnant In High School

According to a 2002 survey conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Control, 12% of all pregnancies (757,000) occurred among teens aged 15-19. Children of your own are, of course, a huge responsibility and this responsibility should not be downplayed. However, a teenage pregnancy does not exclude anyone from the possibility of a college education. Oftentimes, night or weekend courses at local community colleges can give new mothers the perfect balance between their family responsibilities and their pursuit of higher learning.

I Was Arrested In High School

Police arrests and charges come in varying degrees, and these degrees will determine which avenue you need to take in order to get accepted into college. Once explained, misdemeanor charges rarely have any effect upon college admissions. Felony charges, however, are more serious, but even felonies do not prohibit a student from pursuing a college education.

Before applying, make sure you have a clear plan in mind, an explanation for the felony charges, and how you have changed since those charges. Good references from former teachers, counselors or even probation officers can also help with an application in these circumstances.

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