What if I never took the SAT or ACT, and had a low GPA in high school or early college attempts?

Typically, adults aren’t required to take admissions tests (i.e., the SAT or ACT), although they do need to take graduate admission tests such as the GRE or GMAT if attending graduate school. Many colleges offer a placement test (COMPASS, ACCUPLACER) instead of admission test scores for adult students, and don’t consider high school performance or outdated test scores, especially with transfer students from community colleges.

If your past academic history is below par, don’t despair. Colleges know that adult students often improve their performance when returning because they take their education seriously and are very motivated. Such students are often given the opportunity for a new beginning. Also, even though you may not have done well in the past, old courses can be a source of college credit to your new degree. Remember that the poor grades themselves won’t transfer to the new school—only the credit.

Some students ask if they can begin again with a “clean slate.” Most colleges will require a record of previous coursework. If it is not provided by the student, it usually becomes known later (often through the financial aid system) and a student may be dismissed for academic dishonesty.