Do Community Colleges Accept High School Dropouts?

Yes, absolutely! Just because you dropped out of high school doesn’t mean your educational career is over. Colleges that don’t require high school diploma are called community colleges and they give you a second chance by accepting a GED. Even if you haven’t done your GED, community colleges can help you prepare for one and help you get your diploma. If you are wondering about how to apply to a community college and restart your education then this guide is what you are looking for.

Key Takeaways

Yes, absolutely! Just because you dropped out of high school doesn’t mean your educational career is over. Colleges that don’t require high school diploma are called community colleges and they give you a second chance by accepting a GED. Even if you haven’t done your GED, community colleges can help you prepare for one and help you get your diploma. If you are wondering about how to apply to a community college and restart your education then this guide is what you are looking for.

Community colleges can be a good place to begin your search for programs that don’t require high school diploma. These colleges have open admission policies which make admission easier even if you don’t have a high school diploma.

Community colleges have their own placement exams which help them determine your academic level. After the test, academic counselors can then place you in remedial classes to help you catch up to the course work. In some cases, community college can also help you prepare for the GED.

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Do community colleges accept high school dropouts?

Yes, they do accept high school dropouts. The reason for this is simple. Community colleges are public institutions that are tasked with helping people improve their education and economic situation. 

Because of this, they have a very different approach to admission policies as compared to private or even other 4-year university programs.

In the US, more than 8.2 million which incidentally makes up 35% of all undergraduate students, attend community colleges. 

In this in-depth guide, we will not only take you through all the steps required to apply to a community college as a high school dropout but we will also take you through the benefits of choosing a community college in the first place.

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What are community colleges and how are they different?

If you go back a decade or two, community colleges were never the first option for students. They were seen as a fallback plan if their applications to four-year universities didn’t work out. But over the years the quality of education has improved a lot thanks to government efforts.

Nowadays, many students opt intentionally to go to community colleges choosing them over other public and private 4-year institutions for the many benefits that they have to offer. Let’s look at community colleges in a bit more detail starting with the kind of courses they offer.

Community colleges are different than other institutions because they are primarily focused and tasked with supporting their surrounding communities through quality education, even to high school dropouts. They do this by ensuring their community gets access to quality education that either leads to quick employment or moving higher up the career ladder.

The education at community colleges is subsidized by the government to make it more affordable for students who struggle to pay tuition. 

An additional advantage is that, after completing the two-year associate’s degree, you can transfer credits to a university and get a bachelor’s degree.

Community colleges offer a wide variety of education starting with short certificate courses to an associate’s degree. Here are the popular offerings:

Short Certifications

These short certificate courses are designed to get someone quick employment. They teach you skills that do not require a massive amount of studying and can pay well. 

Besides regular students, many adults without high school diploma typically take courses like plumbing, electrical work, gardening, woodwork, etc.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is usually the highest level of certification a community college confers. It is a two-year program that is either focused on general education or specific fields and majors:

  1. General education is more focused on teaching mathematics, science, English language, etc. these are always high in demand and are required for a variety of other fields.
  2. More focused education based on specific majors helps you concentrate on a field of study that leads to a specific profession. Examples of these degrees include aviation, nursing, IT, etc.

Bachelor’s Degree

In very rare cases some community colleges may offer a four-year program that leads to a bachelor’s degree. 

The more popular option, however, is to obtain an associate’s degree at a community college and then transfer credits to a four-year university program. Many students do this to end up with a bachelor’s degree and save a lot of money.

Note: If you are interested in getting a bachelor’s degree while saving a lot of money using a community college read our in-depth guide on how to go about it.

Why are so many Americans are opting for community college?

Below we have put together a list of key benefits that have driven more and more students to community college every year.

It is easier to get admission to community colleges

If you are looking for a college for high school dropouts you are in luck. 

The open admission policy at community colleges comes from their mandate to help the communities around them. So even if you are a high school dropout you can still get in quite easily.

Smaller class sizes more conducive to learning

Did you know that the average community college class has 25 to 35 students only. Now compare that to universities where each class may have up to 150 to 300 students. Imagine trying to get the instructor’s attention in that crowd! 

The greater access to instructors is usually a deal-breaker for many students who were struggling with education at high school. This is usually the case with high school dropouts who left school because they were struggling with education.

Many students at community colleges specifically point out a better relationship and a better opinion of their teachers because of this greater engagement.

Quick route to a job

Going to community college is the fastest way to land a job that will pay well. Community colleges can train you for becoming a technician, nurse, car mechanic, dental hygienist, and for many similar skilled professions.

These professions require only a two-year associate’s degree, pay a good salary, and are always in demand. An additional service that community colleges do is that they can help you choose a profession that is currently in demand in the area you reside in.

Hot Tip: For a list of certifications that will help you land a job quickly visit the Unmudl database for courses offered at community colleges nationwide.

Another reason why community colleges are popular is that they offer courses that can get you a promotion and help you move up the career ladder. You can even switch careers by learning new skills. All this while you continue to work at your job full-time.

Here is a great guide to help you switch careers using subsidized community college education.

 Students going to community college
Photo by Stanley Morales from Pexels

If you are a non-traditional student

Community colleges are heaven-sent for all non-traditional students. Students who already have a full-time job, students who are also young parents, etc. Since these colleges were started to help communities they approach such students with a very different mindset. 

That mindset is primarily focused on helping them, rather than using it as an excuse to decline admission to them as most private universities do with struggling students. This help can come in the form of flexible hours of education or extra attention from your teachers.

These small details are usually what high school dropouts need to get back into the education system.

A second chance to improve your GPA

If you are a high school dropout, chances are that you had a bad GPA. Looking for programs that don’t require a high school diploma, might have become a hurdle for your future education. But community colleges offer a solution.

If your ultimate goal is to get a bachelor’s degree at a university, a community college can help by letting you earn credits towards the first two years as an associate’s degree. You can prove you are committed to education by working hard and bringing up your GPA.

Most admissions officers will appreciate when they see this commitment and you may be surprised how many students take this route after dropping out of high school initially.

A more affordable option

We have shown below a chart to demonstrate how much money you can actually save by studying at a community college:

Related: Which states offer free community colleges?

How to apply to community college

If after reading all this you think that applying to community college is your best bet then just follow the steps below to help you get started.

Pick a community college

Looking for a community college without high school diploma? Most people simply pick a community college with an open admissions policy that is near where they live. This helps them save on the commute. 

There are, however, cases when you are looking to study a very specific subject that is not offered by your community college, in which case you might have to venture further.

But because you are a high school dropout, do mention to the admissions office about your specific situation early. There are certain extra classes or procedures that may apply to you which may take extra time or paperwork.

If you are interested in admissions at a community college the easier way is to search Unmudl for a community college or specific courses nationwide.

Submit your FAFSA and other need-based scholarship applications

Like most students going to community college, if you are planning to apply for financial aid you will be filling out the Federal financial aid form called FAFSA. The thing about FAFSA is that you have to apply as early in the year as possible to increase your chances of assistance.

 Students going to community college
Photo by George from Pexels

Submit your online application

Depending on what state you are in, you will have to fill out the online application form. 

One of the most frequently asked questions is how to apply to a community college in California.

Many US states like the state of California have a combined system to apply to all the community colleges in that state. In California, this system is called CCCApply and is very easy to use. Similarly, the State University of New York also has its central application system called SUNY.

If you don’t find a combined application system in your state, it simply means that you have to apply to colleges individually.

All these application forms are more or less the same and ask for your basic information such as your full name, address, nationality, residency, the high school you went to, and what you want to major in.

You may need to indicate you did not finish high school and if that’s the case you may be prompted to supply additional documentation. 

Take any academic skills assessments 

If you don’t have a high school diploma or GED yet then you may be asked to take an academic assessment test that will determine your level of proficiency in math and English.

Math and English are the two subjects that are typically tested is because they essentially lay the groundwork and prerequisites for higher education. Any weaknesses in these subjects should be addressed and dealt with before pursuing higher-level classes.

The good news is that if you score poorly on these placement exams, you are unlikely to be rejected. You will simply be asked to take remedial classes to help you catch up with the rest of the class.

The bottom line is that your status as a high school dropout will not prevent you from having a shot at getting into a community college and excelling. 

Meet your advisor

Once you have followed through with the previous steps, it’s time to meet with your community college student advisor. 

The advisor will not just guide you with your current college term by helping you with things such as picking a course, choosing an elective to strengthen your resume, etc., but will also help you plan your post-graduation journey. 

Many advisors at community colleges have ample experience with helping students who dropped out of high school, so don’t be intimidated by approaching an advisor and feel free to express any of your concerns. 

Related: How Long Is Community College?

What kind of jobs are available to community college graduates?

Community colleges offer a variety of programs, these vary depending on the needs of the local community. They offer courses ranging from liberal arts, STEM (pre-med), IT, to technical courses such as lineman training, as well. 

There is so much you can do with a community college degree. Some students study at community college to eventually transfer to a four-year university, some do it to advance their knowledge and careers, while others do it to gain employment as soon as possible. 

Some examples of programs offered at community college and how much they make annually are:

Recommended community colleges

If after looking at all the benefits listed above you think that smaller class sizes at community colleges are better for you, then you can search Unmudl for courses that may interest you and even get you hired quickly.

Here are some community colleges we recommend. For a lot more community college options and details, click here


Community colleges are your best bet to restart your education if you dropped out of high school. These colleges that don’t require high school diploma are designed to help you get back into the education system. In this guide, we looked at what community colleges are and how they are set up to help you every step of the way.

Just remember that you are not the only student to have ever dropped out of high school but you can be one among the many who return to education and build a successful career. We wish you the best of luck and hope this guide helped you on your path forward!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go to community college without a high school diploma?

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