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College: What Do I Do First? How do I get in?

Going Back? What do I do first? First you will begin to assemble your college application portfolio. This portfolio will include:

  • High school diploma or original GED, or notarized copy, if you have never taken any college classes.

  • Any transcripts from college or any continuing education classes

  • A resume of your skills and experiences:

    Hobbies, volunteer efforts

  • Carpentry (Think Geometry.)

  • Homemaking skills: budgeting, cleaning, management

  • Work experience, and skills acquired

  • Writing samples

  • Anything else that pertains to life skills you have acquired

After you assemble your information, contact the Department of Higher Education in your state. They can help you select colleges that will work with you to exchange work and life experiences for college credits.



Next, you start on this exciting journey by taking a look at our college planning pages..

Some of the information you put in your portfolio may help you earn extra college credits for work and life experiences.

Another way you may earn extra college credits is through various testing programs. Some of these exams test general knowledge, and some are subject specific.


Get help from the college adult education center

These days, many colleges have Adult Education Centers, also referred to as Continuing Education Centers. This "center" may consist of one person, or may be an entire department.

Ask at the admissions office if they offer special services and resources to adult learners. In some cases you may find adult education specialists in the financial aid office who can help you with financial aid for adults returning to school.


Entrance Exams

Earn Extra College Credits and Graduate Early


I have a GED. Can I get into college?

Yes, you can. Be sure you have the original, or a notarized copy of your diploma. You will need to include it in your portfolio. Not all colleges will allow someone to enroll without a high school diploma, not to be confused here with the GED. If you run into this obstacle, there are ways around it. There are schools that will work with non-traditional students, such as those who have been out of high school a long time, or those who never finished.

One great solution to this dilemma is to enroll at a community college. They generally do not ask to see a high school diploma, and when you complete their requirements, and if you have the grades, you can enroll in a four-year school based on your junior college record.

People who have not taken the GED and did not finish high school can study on-line and finish their high school requirements.

Compare online GED programs, High School Diploma programs, with Google Search


What is a "non-traditional" student?

A "non-traditional" student is one who has been out of high school for a long time and who may qualify for a special student status. This means that the student is older than the average student. Most colleges have an organization dedicated to helping these students find success. You may be able to bypass traditional requirements (such as the high school diploma) by proving you have relevant life experience and demonstrated maturity.


Earn extra credits toward graduation from college.

Look over this article from the College Board about the advantages of taking the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). This method of earning college credit is popular with adult learners, as are the other tests that may allow you to graduate early.

One way to earn college credit before you step into the classroom

The CLEP Exam


  • Also, check out the ACT adult learners "going back to school" pages.

  • If you're going back to college, taking the ACT may be an important step in the process. The information this entrance exam provides will help your college decide how to give you the best chance to succeed.

  • If you took the ACT or SATs in the past, your scores may still be available. Check with the admission office at your college to see whether those scores will still be accepted.

  • Consider also whether it would be to your benefit to take the exam again. Many colleges use the ACT as a measure of what you already know and, therefore, what courses you are ready to take. A test score from when you were 17 years old may or may not give them an accurate picture of what you know now.

  • This site offers other resources such as career assessment tools, and ESL proficiency exams.
  • ACT resources for the adult learner


    Career Information

    Are you interested in the performing arts? You'll find all you need here.

    Performing Arts

    One of the best resources for learning about career options, or possible college majors, is the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. Career information from the U.S. Department of Labor

    Exploring Career Information

    America's Career Info Net

    Links to lots of career information sites


    Search Colleges

    Take a look at Community Colleges

    Search Engines for Colleges in the U.S.

    APPLY HERE: ADMISSIONS Sites for all Public Universities in the U.S

    Online Degrees and Distance Learning

    Be sure to visit The College Board - Packed with college info.

    Although the College Board is known as the group that administers the SATs, the site has many other features. Among these is a fabulous college search capability. You can enter any of dozens of criteria to help you narrow your college search.

    The (huge) U.S. Department of Education College Database: search by criteria

    Colleges in Canada


    Many colleges form partnerships with other colleges called Consortia.

    These Consortia offer advantages to students such access to other programs, and cross registration. Some partnerships are in the same geographic area, and others may be partnerships with colleges in different sections of the country.

    For instance UC Santa Cruz has a partnership with Hampshire College in New England, and participates in the partnership that exists between all UC schools.

    College Consortiums

    What do I do next? The Adult Admissions Process

    Get acquainted with Adult Education Financial Aid


    Return to the top of What do I do first? (to get into college?)

    Adult Education Main Page

    Anything you did not find? Search for it here:

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