Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we receive compensation from our partner lenders, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS # 1681276, is referred to here as "Credible."
If you didn’t graduate high school, you’ll likely need to take the General Educational Development (GED) test before applying to colleges — 541,000 people passed the GED in 2013, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Here’s what you need to know about college for GEDs:
- Higher education can lead to higher income
- Average cost of college
- How to pay for college
- Getting a student loan without a GED or high school diploma
Higher education can lead to higher income
Here’s how education level affects earnings and unemployment rates:
|Education level||Weekly earnings||Unemployment rate|
|No high school diploma||$592||5.4%|
|Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics|
The numbers show that higher education levels correlate to higher incomes. So if you’re thinking about going back to school to raise your income, you’re likely making a great decision.
While it might be tough to get into an elite school, there are plenty of good options available to you if you have a GED.
Steps to apply for college
- Complete and submit application: Start by filling out your desired school’s full application. Be sure to pay attention to the specific instructions. Once you’re done, be sure to double-check everything for correct spelling, grammar, and completion.
- Send in any required supporting documents: Gather any transcripts, certificates, or other documentation requested by your school. This might also include letters of recommendation or college essays that illustrate why you’d be a good fit for the school.
- Begin the financial aid process: Be sure to apply for federal financial aid as well as any scholarships or grants you might qualify for. Your school’s financial aid office might know about more resources available, too. Private college loans could also help to fill any gaps.
Learn More: How to Get a Student Loan With No Credit Check
Average cost of college
College is often an expensive investment. The average cost of college at a public university for an in-state student is $25,890 per year. If you attend a private school, that cost goes up to $52,500 per year.
Here are the average annual costs for various college and trade school programs:
Type of school
|Average total cost
(tuition and fees)
Public two-year college
Public four-year college
Public four-year college
(out of state)
Private four-year college
How to pay for college
Don’t let those prices scare you — there are several ways to cover your education costs. Here are three steps to follow when figuring out how to pay for college:
Step 1: Complete the FAFSA
Every college-bound student should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By filling out the FAFSA, you can apply for federal student aid — including federal student loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Be sure to submit the FAFSA, even if you don’t think you’ll be eligible for any aid. You could be surprised by what you might qualify for.
Scholarships and grants for students with GEDs
Here are a few places to find them:
- From your school: Start by talking to your school’s financial aid office about what scholarships and grants you might qualify for. You might need to complete the FAFSA to apply for scholarships and grants available from your school.
- From your state: Some states offer scholarships or grants for college-bound students. Be sure to check if your state has any programs that you might qualify for.
- From local businesses and nonprofits: Local businesses and nonprofit organizations sometimes offer scholarships to support students in their community. You can often find these opportunities listed on the websites of individual businesses and nonprofits.
- From nationwide companies and nonprofits: Major corporations and nonprofits often give back to communities through scholarships. You can typically find information about these scholarships on the websites of the corporations or nonprofits.
Step 2: Take out federal student loans
If you need to borrow money to pay for college, it’s usually a good idea to start with federal student loans. These loans come with federal benefits and protections, including access to income-driven repayment plans, deferment and forbearance options, and student loan forgiveness programs.
Keep in mind that there are student loan limits depending on what year you are in school as well as your dependency status.
Here are the main types of federal student loans:
- Direct Subsidized Loans are available to undergraduate students with financial need. The government covers all interest charges on subsidized loans while you’re in school.
- Unsubsidized Loans are available to both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of financial need. Unlike with subsidized loans, you’re responsible for all of the interest on unsubsidized loans.
- Direct PLUS Loans are available to parents and graduate students. Unlike subsidized and unsubsidized loans, PLUS Loans require a credit check.
Check Out: Guide to Every Type of Student Loan Offered
Step 3: Consider private student loans
Once you’ve exhausted any federal financial aid, private student loans could help fill any funding gaps. In some cases, private student loans might offer lower interest rates than federal PLUS Loans.
If you have poor or no credit history or have no income, a creditworthy cosigner could help you get approved for a private student loan. Even if you don’t need a cosigner to qualify, having one might help you secure a lower interest rate.
If you decide to take out a private student loan, it’s a good idea to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed rates from (APR)||Variable rates from (APR)|
|4.25% - 12.35%9||1.25% - 11.10%9|
your credit score. 100% free!
Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Bank Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
Getting a student loan without a GED or high school diploma
Some schools are willing to admit students without a high school diploma or GED. If you get into one of these schools, the student loan process should be more or less the same as it would be for any other student.
- Federal student loans: Qualifying for federal student loans depends on your school and financial background. So long as you’re eligible for financial aid by your school’s standards, you should be able to access federal student loans. Keep in mind that the exact amount and type of loan you could get also depends on your financial background and year in school.
- Private student loans: Most private student loans require you to be enrolled in an eligible program. If you’ve been accepted to a school and meet the lender’s other student loan requirements, you could qualify for a private student loan. Be sure to work only with reputable lenders when looking for a loan. You shouldn’t have to pay high fees to take out a student loan — though there might be application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties, depending on the lender.
If you want to take out a private student loan, be sure to shop around and compare your rates from as many lenders as possible.
This is easy with Credible — you can see your rates from multiple lenders after filling out a single form. Plus, none of Credible’s partner lenders charge application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.