7 ways to get into university without a high school diploma

(Not an Ontario homeschooler? You can still find out how to get into university without a high school diploma in Canada)

Without a high school diploma, homeschoolers can apply and gain admission to university in Ontario: (see all the official policies here)

1. as a mature student (generally requires waiting until age 21). See sample definition of mature student from York University.

2. with the presentation of standardized test scores (general achievement tests such as the SAT or ACT; subject-specific tests such as SAT Subject Tests, Advanced Placement exams) but not the GED. The GED is designed to provide evidence of an education generally equivalent to that of a high school education, and is commonly accepted in the work force in lieu of a high school diploma. But, it is not accepted by Ontario universities as a suitable academic assessment for the nature of university-level studies and unfortunately carries with it the stigma of being a “high school drop out.”

3. with a year of university courses received from an open university (with an open entrance policy) such as Athabasca UniversityThompson Rivers University Open Learning (formerly BC Open University) or the University of Guelph.  These universities do not require a high school diploma as a prerequisite for enrolling in courses. After the equivalent of a year’s worth of courses from one of these institutions, a student is considered to be a “university transfer” student (see sample definition of transfer student from York University), and may transfer to a conventional university on the basis of the university marks as opposed to high school marks.

4. as a transfer applicant from a junior college. (Note: Ontario does not have junior colleges, but some provinces do.) These colleges may be easier to get into as a home schooler, and then prior high school completion (or lack thereof) is often unimportant to the university. Another note: although there are some programs in Ontario that allow transfer from a community college into a university, initial admission to the community college may be just as difficult if not more difficult as direct admission to the university. Our community college system is further behind our university system in terms of home schooling policies, so some home schoolers have much more difficulty getting into community colleges than they do getting into universities! While this is a viable method in other provinces, or when switching to Ontario from another province, it is not a popular Ontario strategy.

5. with a portfolio including home made transcripts, samples of work etc. This portfolio should, if possible, include standardized tests, letters/evaluated work from tutors or other outside sources as universities don’t always take transcripts from mom and dad! But even if you don’t have any “official” work to show them, there is currently one university in Ontario who administers their own testing/interview for homeschoolers and does not require proof of an academic background.

6. with the “Top Six” (unique to Ontario). Some Ontario universities will allow students to present just their senior year (i.e. six grade 12 credits, chosen according to program-specific prerequisites, through an accredited school, including virtual and correspondence schools) without requiring the entire 30 credits of the full diploma. (Note: students do not receive a high school diploma, but do qualify for university admission.)

7. with a little smooth talking! Who knows what can happen if you just walk in with a good attitude and ask? Making connections in admissions departments or with professors can open doors.

Still worried about getting in to university without a high school diploma? These final thoughts should put the issue in perspective:

  • University admissions are generally governed by policy, not law. Everyone has a story of a friend of a friend of a friend who knew of a 10/11/12-year-old taking classes at a university. Do you think this wunderkind had a high school diploma? Rules can and will be broken if the university sees you as a desirable addition to their school. Instead of stressing to conform to traditional university admission requirements, students may very well be better off spending that time and energy making themselves stand out and showcasing what they have to offer the university.
  • It’s never too late to go to university. Anyone who sat through university classes with “mature students” (i.e. older students who had actually read the lecture material and were interested in discussing said material in class) knew, even if only in the back of their minds, that these adults were really getting something out of the university experience. What’s wrong with waiting to head off to university until you know what you really want to get out of it? Admission requirements are generally much more open for adults than students directly out of high school.
  • Learning is more important than schooling. You don’t need to “(waste) $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.” If you’re not concerned about traditional high school as a vehicle of socialization, then why would you suddenly care about the socialization at the university level? Intellectual peers can be easily found through online communities (both social and academic) and can enrich a self-directed program of study. (See The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business for an example of a self-directed MBA program.)

Note: Not all methods listed above are accepted by every institution, and policies do change. Please consult each individual university for the most recent, official word!

For info on how homeschoolers can get into college or university without a high school diploma in . . .

  • British Columbia (BC, Canada) – Chris Corrigan, an unschooling parent, was at one time compiling a similar list of options specific to BC. One option Chris mentions is writing the BC provincial examination without completing the whole diploma. This is not an option for Ontario since we don’t have provincial exams, but mirrors the sentiments of the “Top Six” option. (Note: page is no longer on Chris’ website.  I’ve linked to a page from “The Way Back Machine” to so you can see what used to be there.)
  • Alberta (AB, Canada) – Education Unlimited hosts this list of Alberta post-secondary institutions
  • . . . other provinces will be added as resources are found!
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