A solid foundation helps you achieve more when you get to college. As a nontraditional student, you likely bring some real-world experience you wouldn’t have had as a recent high school graduate. This can be beneficial and help you focus. It may also have been some time since you studied and took exams which can be unnerving for some. That’s a natural reaction and shouldn’t prevent you from achieving your higher education goals.
No high school diploma or GED?
Some people believe that if they don’t complete their high school education during their teen years, attending college will forever be a distant dream. Fortunately, nontraditional students have plenty of options to start earning college credit while they finish their high school education. College preparation programs are also available to help students integrate themselves into the college lifestyle before they transfer to a more challenging degree program.
- Apply as a non-degree student. You don’t have to be formally admitted to a college or university to take individual college courses. If you’re looking to gain knowledge in a specific job area or sharpen on-the-job skills, this is a great way to further your education without worrying about your high school credentials. There are a few drawbacks to this option, however – schools usually place a limit on the number of credits you can take outside of a degree program and you won’t be eligible for federal financial aid. But if you want to get a taste of college life without the commitment of a degree, becoming a non-degree student may be right for you.
- Take college classes while in high school. If you do decide to get your high school diploma, you can still get a jump start on your college career while you finish your secondary education. Many high schools offer dual enrollment courses, enabling you to earn college credits that count toward high school graduation.
- Test out of a class or two. Consider taking a CLEP or DSST exam to earn college credits before you even enroll. These tests assess what you already know and will sometimes enable you to “test out” of an introductory level college course.
- Participate in a college preparation program. Many North Dakota two-year colleges provide programming that prepares students for the rigor of academic work at a research institution. For example, students who are not admitted to North Dakota State University (NDSU) may be eligible to participate in the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) Pathway Program. Pathway students take academic readiness courses, NDSCS general education courses and a limited number of NDSU general education courses. Academic readiness courses in critical reading, college writing and algebra prep are designed to set students up for success as they adjust to the demands of college-level classwork. Lake Region State College offers a similar college preparation program through University of North Dakota. For more information about North Dakota’s college preparation programs, click on the links below.
Earn your high school diploma
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction provides free programming to individuals over the age of 16 who did not complete high school and want to earn their General Equivalency Diploma (GED). By enrolling at an Adult Learning Center, students can take courses in reading and writing, science, social studies, math, digital literacy and English language acquisition. The centers also provide students with career counseling and GED® preparation and testing.
Educational opportunity centers
If you need help applying to college, contact your local Educational Opportunity Center (EOC). EOCs work with adults seeking to enter college or continue their education. They provide assistance with college exploration, admissions, financial aid and transfer programs. EOCs target individuals who are low-income, first-generation college students, ages 19 and up. However, 1/3 of their participants do not have to be low-income or first-generation college students, so all nontraditional students are encouraged to apply for EOC programming.