Georgia Mathews earned her GED after dropping out of high school as a teenage mother. Mathews is now the Director of Admissions for East Georgia State College in Swainsboro, Georgia. In a recent interview, Mathews explains how she has used her personal GED success story to encourage other GED graduates entering college.

What was your high school experience like and what led you to take the GED test?

For me it was something I had to do, I was a 16-year-old drop-out and teenage mother, I was working in sewing factories and they were about to close. When two of the sewing plants closed, I had the opportunity to attend the local technical college and that’s where I signed up and took the test.  My past principal had encouraged me to take the GED test, prior to that I had been out of school for 15 years.

How did you transition from GED graduate to college graduate? What challenges did you face, if any?

Initially I was afraid when I first enrolled in courses at the technical college, I had not done any of those classes. When I took a tour of the technical college and I asked about the different suggestions someone actually advised me to not take the microcomputer specialist classes because it was hard.

I had to learn how to use a computer and I took classes in desktop publishing, Microsoft Office suite and learned how to troubleshoot a computer—including being able to take apart a computer and remove a hard drive.

What were your next steps from there that got you to your current position at East Georgia State College?

My first professional job was at the tech college after I completed CISCO networking specialist certification. I was working as a receptionist and wanted to do more. I came here (East Georgia State College) to pursue an Associate of Arts in Applied Science and Business that would build on my microcomputer specialist diploma. I then earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and later a Master’s of Organizational Management.

I was doing all of this as a single parent but I like a challenge and can’t be complacent.

Do you feel like the GED prepared you for college level work?

It better prepared me for college and it boosts your confidence. You may question if you’re smart enough to accomplish your goals but the GED is a stepping stone to all that you can do.

What is your current role with East Georgia State College?

I am the Director of Admissions and I came in as Assistant Director of Admissions.

I wanted to be for young people what I really didn’t have, I had to use intrinsic motivation because I didn’t have anyone pushing me. No one knows how to help them somebody has to be there to tell them you can accomplish your goals.

What has been your experience while working with GED graduates and their families?

From time to time I have students come in and they have a GED, it really makes me glad that I can start the conversation about how I am also a GED graduate and I can relate to them. They need a little bit more coaching, they don’t know what the possibilities are for them. Just because their path is different doesn’t mean they won’t meet their goals.

Those students often have parents that say their child should have finished traditional high school, I tell them I’m a GED grad and show them all of my degrees on the wall. It’s then that they see what the possibilities are for their child.

How is East Georgia State College and the admissions department working with GED graduates to help them be successful?

I have one-on-one conversations with them to see what do they enjoy doing, most careers align themselves with what they already enjoy. I help them identify what they want to do, I don’t solely base it on how they performed on the GED.

We are an access institution, they don’t have to go to a tech college before they come to us. They know where they want to go and what degree they want to pursue and don’t need to do a certificate program.

As an access institution GED students can come in and not take an entrance exam when they enroll.  

Have you had any interactions with GED graduates with the College Ready score levels?

Yes, when they come in they seem a bit more confident. Most of them when you see the grades they made before they left traditional high school it’s often that they were a good student but life happened.

What is your advice to other GED graduates?

The biggest problem we have is we compare our path with someone else—the only competition we have is competing with ourselves.

The GED credential shows you that you’re just as good as the person you were in high school with, you may not have gotten a high school diploma but you had to work hard and have the same knowledge.

The GED can get you to any destination, it’s not about where you start but where you end up.