Due to a bad home life and an un-diagnosed attention disorder, I dropped out of high school in 10th grade. After teaching myself some things about computers, I got a job as a mid-level (L4) engineer at Google when I was 20. I'm 22 now and my high school classmates just completed their undergrad degrees. I sometimes feel that I should try to avoid missing out on the chance to get a high quality education.

Would it be possible for me to get into a master's program at the same time as my friends? Would I be able to use my job experience to demonstrate that I have the competency of someone with a bachelor's degree? Or would I be able to demonstrate this competency by taking exams? I don't want to get a bachelor's degree due to my age (I'd be years older than my classmates), and the fact that it probably wouldn't help my career (I already have my dream job).

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    Anything is possible, though such an acceptance would be exceedingly rare. All you can do is ask; the worst you will suffer is rejection. May 4, 2022 at 18:49
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    It might not seem like it now, but 22 is not that much older ... May 4, 2022 at 18:49
  • Well, being admitted to graduate school is one thing and having job experience is another thing which might have some correlation together but necessarily being successful in one of them would guarantee successful experience in the other one. May 4, 2022 at 19:37
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    At the undergraduate level, there are some concepts that are directly taught to students and most of them are pretty more advanced in comparison to what you had in high school. So, in graduate school, one usual assumption is that you pretty much familiar with those concepts that were given to you during your undergrad studies. I don't think they are necessarily given to you during your job experience. So, my conclusion is that you lack some important pieces that usually are needed to be successful in the grad school. So, even being admitted, being successful might be more challenging. May 4, 2022 at 19:37
  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    May 4, 2022 at 19:38

3 Answers 3


This seems unlikely. Especially at a top school. There is too much competition from top students already and you would be a risky choice. Impossible to say until you try, but ...

I'll guess that there are a lot of things you don't know that a typical (top) undergraduate does. They've taken a lot of courses in a lot of things. Just because you can build stuff for Google doesn't imply that you have that breadth of knowledge needed to begin graduate study.

As an example, you might be a Wiz with Oracle and able to do searches and create databases, but still have little or no knowledge of the underlying theory, say B+ Trees and such.

More likely would be a joint BS-MS program where you can earn both degrees in five years. I don't know which schools offer them, but several do. But doing even that while employed at someplace like Google seems like a reach. Both are full time activities.

You might be able to test out of several courses at the right place, however, shortening your time spent.

Perhaps you should talk to an admissions counsellor at some really good school (Stanford if it is close, say) and explore with them what options you have.

  • My former institution offers a joint BS-MS program, as does what might be the top engineering school in the state. However, "dropped out of high school" is going to be a barrier. Take and pass that GED exam right away.
    – Bob Brown
    May 7, 2022 at 15:19

I doubt any university, let alone an Ivy, would do this. The admissions committee would likely discard the application outright for lack of transcripts.

There are likely only two exceptions. The first is if you were already famous, well engaged in research with publications in top venues, and had incredibly strong letters of recommendation from the luminaries in your field. You'd also likely need someone with a lot of pull to talk directly to the department chair of the program and dean of the college. The second involves making a massive financial donation. You would simultaneously have to foster relationships with several staff at the Office of Development.

Also, your apprehension about getting a Bachelors degree, despite being in your early twenties, is largely unwarranted. When going through my Bachelors program, I had peers who were in their late thirties taking the same classes. Some even were married, had kids, and were taking classes at night. My father finished his Bachelors degree well into his sixties. When going for my Ph.D., I had lab mates who were in their early twenties all the way up to early fifties. In short, age really doesn't matter for education.


You don't say where you are. This answer assumes the United States.

"Dropped out of high school" is going to be a bigger problem for you than the absence of an undergraduate degree. The very first thing you should do is take (and pass) the General Educational Development (GED) exam. That gives you a recognized credential equivalent to high school graduation.

Unless Google has changed in the last dozen years, the lack of a degree will limit your opportunities for advancement there. You are correct that you need to do something more than keep rockin' along.

Buffy has written about joint BS-MS programs, and those exist. Often they are highly selective. The two that I've looked at today require that a student be admitted as a degree-seeking undergraduate, complete a certain number of credit hours, and maintain a certain GPA, in both cases I checked, a 3.5/4 GPA. In short, you'd likely have to meet the requirements for admission as an undergraduate before you could apply for the joint program.

Once you have that GED, it should be possible for you to attend a community college taking evening classes while you continue to work at Google. Do that and make consistent grades of A.

In your second year at the community college, begin applying to joint BS-MS programs. By that point, you will have a solid academic record that will incline admissions committees to take a chance on you.

Another alternative is two years of community college followed by a remote program such as those at Excelsior College. That will earn a BS degree and position you to apply directly to graduate program. You'll have to keep the grades up all along.

This will seem like a long row to hoe, but if you keep your final goal in mind, you might find it easy even though time-consuming.

PS: As someone who earned a Ph.D. late in life, let me tell you that it doesn't get easier as you grow older, so get on with it! You can do it.

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