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How to Drop Out of High School and Get a College Degree

Updated on November 28, 2016
Midnight Muse profile image

The Midnight Muse received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of South Florida and writes about world cultures.



I am writing this article to share with others how I was able to quit high school, get a bachelor's degree, and lead a very successful life. Clearly, the choices that I personally made will not be appropriate for everyone. But, for those who are frustrated with school and are seeking other alternatives, it is my hope that I can offer helpful information and advice regarding other ways to meet standard educational requirements and receive a college degree. In fact, I was even able to graduate from a university with a bachelor's degree before I turned 18 years old. In other words, I was able to graduate with a college degree before any of my peers graduated from high school.

It should be emphasized that the process that is described in this article is specifically targeted towards students who are currently attending American high schools. Other countries have different educational systems and the guidelines for navigating through international studies exceeds the scope of this article.

Make the Decision to Leave

Should you really leave the high school system? There are a few important things that you need to consider before proceeding further with your plans for higher education. Each person is an individual and there are many different factors that must be considered before making the decision to quit school and pursue a higher education. College life is not glamorous and is filled with long hours of hard work and study. Many people are not prepared for the required commitments or demands of a college student lifestyle.

Regardless of what your parents or teachers might say, the decision to leave high school is ultimately yours to make; but, you have to always consider that there are lifelong consequences that occur with any decision. As such, you must be able and willing to live with those consequences. I was able to successfully quit school and lead a very successful and productive life; however, this was based on my abilities and dedication to achieving these results and each person's experiences will vary according to their own situation. Ultimately, the decision to drop out of high school demands maturity and as such there is also the expectation that you will need to also be equipped to find alternatives if you meet with failure or things do not go as anticipated.

High School Prom Night
High School Prom Night

The Top Ten Questions

The following is a list of questions that you should consider before proceeding further. These questions should be answered honestly. It is not beneficial to lie about the answers to these questions because the only one that you are hurting is yourself. Do not twist reality to meet your whims or desires. Instead, you need to think logically and contemplate your situation carefully so that you do not mistakenly cause yourself irreparable damage due to being overly zealous in your pursuit of educational alternatives.

  1. There is a real chance that you will be unable to keep your high school friendships. Do you have friends in high school? Would you miss these friends or suffer emotional distress if you were unable to see or communicate with them at school?
  2. You will need to sacrifice the social events associated with your senior year. Do you want to attend your high school prom or other special events?
  3. College requires the ability to study hard and take notes. Are you able to meet the classroom and study needs of taking college level classes?
  4. Alternative educational pursuits require the ability to think outside of the box. Are you able to find innovative solutions to resolving highly stressful situations that impact your life while staying focused on learning?
  5. It is important to remember that failure is an option. Do you have an established plan that can be enacted if something goes wrong?
  6. Money is a mandatory commodity in an adult world. Do you have parental support or a way to earn money to pay for the things that you need?
  7. Colleges are filled with a diverse student population. Are you able to handle the diversity of a college environment? People from all perspectives and backgrounds attend college and you must be prepared to deal with someone, or even a group, who functions as your antithesis.
  8. You cannot do it alone and need the support of your family and friends. Do you have the required support mechanisms and ability to satisfy your basic needs such as accommodations, food, and transportation?
  9. Staying focused is integral to completing class requirements. Are you able to focus and complete assignments that you do not find interesting and would normally avoid?
  10. Life is not a party and you have to avoid temptations. Are you able to remain focused on your classwork and refuse social invitations to parties? What happens if someone wants to take you out on a date and you need to study for an exam?

Develop an Education Strategy

Most people will try to discourage students from quitting school and for most people this is the correct advice; however, there are certain students that can benefit from "dropping out" of high school. It is very important to research viable alternatives to a traditional high school education and to formulate a plan for success. It should be strongly emphasized that the decision to remove yourself from the school system should be carefully contemplated and those who decide to move forward with this decision should develop a multi-tiered strategy that will enable them accomplish their life goals.

Steps for the Transition from High School to College

  1. Develop a plan for your higher education goals and select the best strategies for achieving those goals.
  2. Get your driver's license permit. Before you quit school, remember to take a driver education class while you are still enrolled in high school.
  3. Take the SAT or ACT exam. These are required college admission exams. You only need to take one of these tests, but must receive a qualifying score to apply to a college.
  4. Earn college credits by taking CLEP exams to fulfill the general requirements needed for a college diploma. Alternatively, some individuals are also able to use their life experiences to pass DSST exams for the same purpose.
  5. Quit school and officially become a high school dropout.
  6. Take the GED exam and receive your general education diploma.
  7. Apply to state universities, community colleges, and technical schools that offer programs that meet the needs of your educational plan.
  8. Apply for financial aid such as grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study opportunities through the FAFSA. This step can be completed at time during this entire process.
  9. Received your college acceptance letter and confirm your intention to attend college with the education institute.
  10. Register for your first semester of classes at the college.
Driving and Commuting to School
Driving and Commuting to School

Get Your Driver's License

Some students are able to avail themselves of the student driving classes so that they are able to get a driver's license and receive an insurance discount because of the class. If you decide to stay in school to complete a specialized class, such as a driver's education course, then you can still continue to prepare for the transition and will instead only focus on the require class. Obtaining a driver's license can be very important to your long term success even if you do not plan on purchasing a car or driving in the immediate future. In my case, I took the driver's education class through my enrolled high school and obtained my driver's license but did not actually begin driving until I was 21. Even though I did not actively drive, I did find that there were many benefits of having my license and I did not have to struggle through the standard driving tests and the cost of my insurance was significantly less.

College Admittance Exams

Before you proceed further, you need to make sure that you meet the criteria that is necessary to enter an institute of higher learning such as a college or university. Therefore, it is crucial that you take the SAT or ACT test and ensure that you are able to achieve a score that meets the minimum, or higher, requirements for college.The tests are inexpensive and can be taken multiple times. If you were a candidate for the Duke TIPS program during your 7th grade year of middle school, then you might have already taken the SAT test when you were younger. Those test scores, if they were high enough, can still be used for college admissions.

Test Fees

Each time you test there is a fee of $54.50 for the SAT (currently as of November 7, 2015) and a fee of $56.50 for the ACT (currently as of November 7, 2015).

Retake Limits

There is no limit regarding how many times you can take the SAT or ACT test. If you do not receive the type of score that is necessary then you should continue to study and try again.

Earn Credits for College Classes

The CLEP, or College Level Examination Program, is a series of available tests that are one of the best kept secrets when it comes to getting a college degree. These tests allow anyone, regardless of their age or college enrollment status, to take a test and receive credit for a college level course. Ideally, these credits can then be used to fulfill the general requirement classes that are needed to receive a college degree; however, there are some potential issues with these credits that must be considered. If you pass a CLEP test you will receive credit for that course by the college or university that you are, or will be, enrolled in. The problem is that this can have a negative impact on your college GPA as these credits increase the number of "earned" credit hours but do not offer any incentive to your GPA. This can cause any lower grades that are earned in a college class to have a greater weight on your GPA than a normal student who did not have credited hours from CLEP tests.

The cost to take a CLEP test is $80 each (current as of November 7, 2015) and you can sit the test at a variety of educational institutes that usually coincide with the same sites used for the SAT tests. There are over 2,900 colleges and universities that accept CLEP tests and therefore this can be a way to save time and money. The costs of each of these tests is much less than the cost of taking the same class in college and therefore it can be an economic option for earning college credit and providing you with a head start so that you will be able to focus on the core classes for your major once you have enrolled at a university. So, how do CLEP tests help you? Well, by the time I started my first day of classes at the university I had already earned enough credit hours as someone who was in their junior, or third, year of college.

Graduate School With a GED

It should be emphasized that at this point the prospective high school dropout is still enrolled in school and has not quit. But, it is time to move forward with your plans and officially sever your ties with the high school educational system.

Now that you have gotten your driver's license, passed your SAT or ACT test, and have earned some preliminary college credits it is finally time to quit school so that you can pursue your educational plan. The obvious problem with dropping out of school is that you will not receive a high school diploma and therefore you need to fix this small problem in a most expeditious manner. This issue can be resolved by taking the GED exam and receiving your high school equivalency degree. The GED is the "General Education" Diploma" and contrary to popular belief it has the same amount of prestige and acceptance as a standard high school diploma. Even with that stated, admittedly, I initially found the prospect of earning a GED instead of a high school diploma to be a little disconcerting because it was the one piece of paper that signified that I did not complete a traditional high school education with my peers. Later in life, I proudly embraced this fact and the document became a representation of how decided to make my own path in life.

The GED can be taken as the exam itself or as a prolonged series of classes followed by the exam. If you have completed these steps then you will need to just take the GED test. The cost to take the GED test is approximately $30 depending on where you live. Unfortunately, there is often a mandatory preparation class that you must attend to qualify to take the test. Personally, in my case, this class was available as two consecutive Saturday and was only a formality that had to be completed. The GED test itself predominately involved reading a paragraph and then answering multiple choice questions. There was also a section on basic arithmetic and a simple written essay.

The GED can be completed easily by most people who have college aspirations. The benefit is that the test results from the GED will be used instead of your high school GPA when applying to a college or university. Therefore, even if you had a low GPA in school, you will be provided with the opportunity for a clean start and will have the similar opportunities available to you as a prior classmate who struggled to have a high GPA in high school.

There is no need to worry if you are concerned about the idea of having a GED instead of a standard high diploma. Most employment applications are only concerned with whether or not you received a high school diploma and do not care about the kind of diploma that you received. Once you receive your college diploma then your high school diploma becomes somewhat irrelevant and will probably only be mentioned when completing forms for employment background security checks. In fact, for some purposes, a GED might even be an asset as it identifies you as a specialized population and therefore can potentially qualify you for scholarships, grants, and the benefits associated with being within a targeted demographic.

Summary of Testing Costs

College Admission Exam
Earn College Credits
General Education Diploma
College Admission Exam
The fees summarized in this chart are current as of November 2015.
Georgetown University
Georgetown University

Applying to College

Now, you should have everything that is required to apply to the college, university, or trade school of your choice. For some individuals, a technical school might offer a program that will provide the certifications that are required to practice within a particular industry. You will need to wait for a response after you submit an application to an educational institue. The application will be processed and the school will send you a response indicating whether or not you were accepted. If you were accepted, then you will need to respond to the letter and confirm your space at the college and then register for the classes that you plan to attend during your first semester.

Submitting an application to a college costs money and therefore you need to determine the fee that is associated with applying to a university and plan accordingly. For convenience, it is suggested that applications are submitted to your local state universities as you will technically be an under aged minor and will probably want to live with your parents until you graduate from the university system.

Your parents are the best source of support during your college years. In some cases, you will need to investigate the possibility of living on campus in a dormitory. If your initial applications to your state universities fail, then you will need to apply to your local community college or investigate the possibility of an online university. In some states, if you attend and then graduate with an associate's degree from your community college, then you will automatically be accepted into a state level university.

Even if you are not enrolled at a college, the staff are there to answer questions and help you. You can schedule to meet with an admissions officer, financial adviser, or student adviser to get information and determine the most appropriate educational strategies.

Paying for College Tuition

College is expensive and therefore you need to determine how you will pay for your classes. Many people will qualify for a Pell Grant and therefore this can help offset the majority of the costs. Each educational institution is able to award a specific number of these grants to qualifying individuals. Qualifying for these funds is dependent on the income of your parents. There are also a variety of scholarships that might be available to you and therefore you will need to work with a financial aid adviser or perform your own research to apply for the appropriate grants and scholarships. If you do not qualify for any of the myriad of grants and scholarships then, alternatively, you can apply for a student loan to pay for your classes. In some cases, you may only be able to take the minimum hours required for full time student enrollment because the available financial aid will only pay for twelve credit hours per semester; or, you might need to get a small student loan to pay for your text books. There are always options for prospective college students to obtain financial aid so that they can attend their college classes. It's not always easy to ascertain, but there is always a way.

The application for financial aid is usually the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which is known by the abbreviation FAFSA. This is the standard application that is provided by the U.S. Department of Education and identifies and provides prospective students with access to financial aid through grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. There are a variety of annual deadlines that can effect the application process depending on the individual time frames and corresponding due dates that are established by educational institutes as well as state and federal programs. In other words, if you have plans to attend any form of continuing education, regardless of whether it is a technical school or college, then you should complete an FAFSA application.

The Path to Success

You are empowered to take control of your life and make your own decisions. Your future success and the consequences of your decisions are now your responsibility.

Achieving Educational Goals

At this point, you should be enrolled at a college or university and are able to begin taking classes. It is important to stay focused and to achieve your educational goals. At this point, you have sacrificed a lot to get to college. College level classes are flexible and therefore it can be easy to become unfocused and distracted; but, that same flexibility can provide you with the ability to change your schedule or make other alterations in your educational plan.

Unlike high school classes, if the class you are taking becomes too difficult then you have the ability to "drop" that class by the middle of the semester and will not suffer the consequences of a bad grade but are still financially liable for the cost of taking that class. If you receive a bad grade in a class then you can take that class again and the two grades will be averaged together. At some universities, there is even a certain number of classes that can be retaken and the grades will be "forgiven." There is even the opportunity for students to audit a class which means that the college students attends and can fully participate in the class without receiving a grade. Auditing a class can be useful as it allows students the ability to learn about a subject without effecting their GPA and can also be used, in theory, to learn the information that is required by a class and then later take the class for an actual grade. Again, all of these options will provide you with the ability to find your own path to success.

Personally, I received my bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a double major in Psychology. Unfortunately, the state that I live in does not acknowledge double majors and therefore I chose the major with the highest GPA to be listed on my degree. At the time, I graduated as the youngest person to ever receive a degree at the university that I attended. I went on to work within the banking and finance industry and eventually become an anti-money laundering investigations analyst employed by a Fortune 500 company. I then decided to focus on my family and became a dedicated homemaker and work from home writing articles for a small Internet marketing company. I share this information with you because it is my hope that by telling you about my life I can inspire others to pursue educational alternatives that will benefit their own lives and help them find happiness.

You have the ability to choose your future and how you want to live your life. For good or ill, some of the choices that we make will forever change our lives and therefore we must carefully consider the consequences of our decisions. I wish you the best in whatever decisions that you make for your life and hope that you find success in all of your endeavors.

Resources for Teen College Students

The following are a list of books that can provide addition help and resources during your college journey. Each resource has been reviewed to provide prospective college students with the ability to navigate through the various local, state, and federal systems and satisfactorily pass all of the required exams. There is also additional information about applying to colleges and obtaining financial aid.

College Admissions

Career and College Planning

Exam Preparation

ACT Test



GED Tests

SAT Tests

Financial Aid

© 2015 Midnight Muse


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