"Can I get a student loan without a high school diploma or GED?" Well, here’s the cold, hard truth. You can’t get a student loan without your GED or high school diploma. OK, technically, you are able to open one with a private source, but you shouldn’t. Why not? Because you will be hard-pressed to find a college or trade school willing to accept you.
There are so many encouraging articles out there telling you that you can, only for the sucker punch of the last paragraph informing you that you’ll first have to get either your high school diploma or GED to get federal financial aid. Well, there’s no punchline here. You simply cannot get into college, let alone be awarded federal financial aid, unless you finished high school or have a GED.
But, that doesn’t have to be the case forever. Here’s the thing, getting your GED isn’t that difficult. We get it: There are so many reasons students don’t graduate from high school. And, whatever your reason is or was, it doesn’t have to stop you from fulfilling any of your career dreams. All you need to do is get your GED. Then, you can apply to community college or trade school and go from there.
We’re going to guide you through the steps you’ll need to take from getting your GED to applying for a student loan.
Getting Your GED
The fact is, once you get your certificate or degree, and have proven you are highly capable of completing whatever job it is you’ve trained for, then no one cares whether you have a GED instead of a high school diploma. They’re both considered equal. And, your career qualifications will carry a heavier weight than either.
Lacking a high school diploma will only preclude you from getting higher education if you do not have your GED. Once you take those exams, your world opens up as wide as it did for your classmates who marched across the stage at commencement. The playing field levels once again.
How To Get Your GED
I, the writer of this article, went through this with my eldest child. He dropped out of high school because he claimed it wasn’t working for him. If you had seen his grades, you would have agreed. And, it wasn’t for a lacking in the brains department. Side note, sometimes it’s the really smart kids that fall through those proverbial cracks, and he was one of the fallen. But, he got his GED and is in college. So, things worked out fine in the end, but not without the precursory parental screaming and more screaming. This article is coming from a place of been there, done that. Take a mom’s word for it, in order for you to get there, you’ll have to start here.
- You’ve dropped out of high school. It may have been last week or ten years ago, but it doesn’t matter. You can still get your GED.
- Every state has a different set of requirements, but a quick Google search will lead you to the information.
- Most often, you must be 16 years old, but some states will require you to be 18.
- Prepare for the GED exam. You can find online resources. You can hire a tutor. You can buy books with practice exams. You can find practice exams all over the internet. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you’ll need to do a bit of studying prior to taking it if you want to pass.
- Register for your state’s GED exam. Choose which exams you want to take, and sign up. There are fees associated with each of the four sections of the GED.
- If you’re taking all four parts, it should take around seven hours to complete it. You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. My son broke it up into two days, with two exams each day.
- Expect to spend the most time on the math and language arts sections, they are both well over 90 minutes. Social studies and science will take less than that to finish up.
- To pass, you must get a 150 on each portion. If you don’t pass the first time, you can retake it at a discounted rate. In some states, there is a waiting period of 60 days before you can retake the GED.
There is also something called the Ability to Benefit test. This is for students who didn’t finish high school. It’s a test that will prove to an educational institution that you have the basic skills needed for postsecondary success. Not all schools offer this, so check with the college or postsecondary program you’re interested in attending to see if this is something you can do. It’s generally used for students coming to the United States from another country, but it’s still worthwhile to check into if you’re from the United States, especially if you left high school under extenuating circumstances.
What To Do After Passing The GED
Now comes the fun part. You can apply to your local vocational school or community college. Yes, you’ll get accepted. No, none of the other students or instructors will know whether you have your high school diploma or GED; you’re simply a student wanting a certification or degree.
After you pass your GED, here’s what you can d:
- Continue your education. You can go to school. Once you’ve been at a community college for a couple semesters, you’ll be able to apply to a college or university if that’s the road you’re wanting to travel. I knew a doctor specializing in maternal fetal medicine who had dropped out of high school at age 16. He wanted more for himself, so at 21 he took the GED. It’s never too late to go after what you want.
- Get a job. Having a GED opens up many more doors. All those job postings that mention high school or GED as a prerequisite are now within your reach.
- Get a promotion at the job you’re already with. Maybe it was the fact that you didn’t have a GED or high school diploma that was holding you back from those promotions.
Getting A Student Loan With A GED
The government website states clearly that you must be enrolled in postsecondary education either part or full time to be eligible for any type of financial assistance. Which sort of skirts over the obvious, a high school diploma or GED are necessary first steps to the process. You also have to be an American citizen or an eligible non-citizen—meaning, you need a social security number.
Once you have your ducks lined up, you can apply for financial aid. Here’s how:
- Apply for the FAFSA.
- Look over your Student Aid Report, which will be mailed to you within three weeks after applying. Sign it and send it back.
- You’ll have to wait a bit to hear back from your chosen school. But, expect a student aid award letter to show up in your mailbox.
- If the award letter is something that sounds good to you, sign it and send it back to the school.
- Once you’ve accepted the student aid award amount, it will take a few weeks for the school to process.
- Apply for your classes.
- Get your certification or degree.
- Work in your chosen field.
To sum it up, without a high school diploma or GED, your options are much more limited when it comes to postsecondary education, and financial aid. But all that can change if you want it to. All you need to do is take and pass the GED, and the world suddenly becomes a lot larger.