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Can You Graduate High School Early?

Can You Graduate High School Early?

Get a head start on the real world by finishing school early 

High school can be an incredibly enriching time for many students, but sometimes people want to wrap things up early. They may do this for personal or social reasons due to the interpersonal stressors of high school life, or they may want to get a jump start on higher education or a career. Early graduation is also important for some student athletes who are playing their sport in college. Check out this story about how one student reclassified in order to graduate early and be on campus for classes and spring training. 

Regardless of the reason, graduating early can be a challenge. Anyone interested in doing so should plan far in advance by mapping out what courses to take to meet graduation requirements. Additionally, students interested in graduating early should be aware that a lot of work will need to be completed to make it a reality. Because graduating early depends a lot on local policies and rules, parents and students need to ensure that they are aware of the specific requirements and procedures, too. 

Benefits & Challenges of Graduating Early 

Before starting the process, students and parents should take a close look at the benefits of graduating early to see if they are worth the work necessary for early graduation. Even with these benefits, though, early graduation isn’t right for everyone. A student’s goals and maturity level need to be carefully considered before committing to early graduation. 



Criteria for Graduating High School Early 

The exact criteria for graduating early can vary from state to state, but there are a few basic standards most areas will hold early grads to. Anyone interested in early graduation should speak with local personnel to figure out the exact details, though. 

Credit Requirements and Advanced Placement Courses 

First, students graduating early will still need to acquire the mandated number of credit hours that anyone graduating normally would need. Usually, the number of credits that a student can earn over four years is more than what they would need to graduate. This means that students can fail one or two classes and still graduate on time. 

However, if someone wants to graduate early, they do not have that wiggle room since they are missing out on an entire semester's worth of possible credit hours. This means that potential early grads will need to pass all of their classes and make sure they have taken specifically required classes prior to their early graduation date. 

Recovery programs like the ones offered by Apex Learning Virtual School can help students retake failed courses in a matter of weeks. These opportunities in addition to summer classes can help students make up for any failures and get ahead on necessary credit requirements. 

Independent Study 

With options like summer classes or independent study, students looking to earn as many credits as quickly as they can have some robust options. These opportunities are usually self-driven with an instructor acting as a facilitator and evaluator rather than a direct teacher. If a student is motivated and skilled at managing their time, this kind of independent study could be a great option to earn the necessary credits for early graduation. If interested in these kinds of options, students should speak with their school’s guidance department to learn about the exact details.  

Application Process for Early Graduation 

Students cannot simply decide to graduate early. This is an involved process to consider on top of the normal graduation requirements they need to meet. 

Get approval from school counselor and parents — Students must speak with both their counselor and parental figures before committing to early graduation. In addition to the necessary signatures on paperwork, these conversations are vital for students to determine what the best option is for their personal and career goals.  

Write an early graduation proposal — The exact requirements may vary, but some school districts will require a written declaration of intent regarding early graduation. This task should not be taken lightly as it may play a huge role in determining if a student is eligible for early graduation. 

Preparing for Early Graduation 

Graduating early is a daunting task, and students should plan carefully for how to both meet the requirements and maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. Students should start early with the process and take stock of how much credit they have earned already and what classes they still need to take to graduate. After determining how many credit hours they would need to earn each semester and after discussing with a guidance counselor when certain classes and programs are offered, students should plan out the rest of their high school career. They should make sure to include time and consideration for extracurriculars like sports and academic clubs since these are both enriching experiences and also great for college applications. 

Students should also note that this process can come with a lot of stress. Fitting four years of learning into three and a half may not sound like much of a challenge, but the little bit of extra work each day can add up quickly. Early grads should keep their mental well-being in mind and take breaks as necessary. If the workload begins to become too overwhelming, a student may need to reevaluate whether or not early graduation is the best choice after all. 

Overall, graduating early is an excellent option for many different kinds of students, but there is real work involved. Exact policies and expectations vary from school to school, so early grads should also communicate early and often with the appropriate staff as they embark upon this process. In the end, though, early graduation can kickstart careers, open up valuable time, and even better prepare students for college. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

When is the earliest you can graduate high school? 

Most students who graduate early do so in three and a half years. However, in certain areas, students can graduate up to an entire year early. Check with your district's specific requirements to see exactly what you need. 

Will graduating early affect my college applications or eligibility for scholarships? 

Generally, graduating early will not directly affect college applications or scholarships. An early graduation degree looks virtually the same as a regular degree, so most places will likely not even note the early graduation. However, graduating early may mean that you miss out on certain opportunities you would only get in school.  

What are the general requirements to graduate high school early? 

While requirements vary, most degrees require a certain number of classes in each of the main disciplines like English, Math, etc. A high school diploma also requires a base number of credit hours which usually amount to three years' worth of classes. 

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