Learn about the pros and cons of graduating early from high school.
Whether your child is academically gifted, or is simply eager to get a head start on college, many teens are choosing to graduate from high school early. Some parents are concerned that early graduates miss out on important social elements of high school; however, the potential academic, collegiate, and financial benefits are often quite redeeming.
The Benefits of Early Graduation
While early graduates may miss out on traditional hallmarks of prom or other formal ceremonies, students across the country are striving for early high school graduation rates in order to save money and get ahead. According to Natasha Robinson of The News and Observer, one young female worked to receive some serious financial benefits in graduating early: “Kylee Patterson graduated from high school with a full year of college already completed - a move that saved her $15,000 on tuition and books.” By taking community college and AP courses that qualified both for high school and college credit, Kylee was able to not only graduate from high school early, but get a jump on college as well.
As tuition costs soar for college courses, taking AP classes provides students with the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school—and without having to pay for the costs. Paired with this, many high schools are now allowing advanced and honors students to take community college courses to meet their high school degree requirements; in such cases, the high schools often pay for the college classes.
As each high school has different graduation requirements, how many college classes or credits a student can earn varies; however, with the rise of AP course offerings across the country, some students are able to easily enter their first year of college at a “sophomore” status. In such cases, the high school students usually do not graduate from high school a year early; instead, they finish their standard high school requirements a year early, and utilize their senior year as an opportunity to earn college credit with AP courses. Ultimately, between AP classes and the community college transfer opportunities, students are finding new ways to take college classes without having to pay out of their own pockets.
Other students may find that high school no longer presents an academic challenge; graduating early may be an excellent avenue to fulfill a student’s academic intelligence. Instead of being stifled in high school classes, the student can be encouraged to pursue academic excellence at a higher education institution.
Some students also opt to graduate early for the advantages they will have in their college application process. According to Next Step Magazine, “Although graduating early requires extra cooperation with your guidance counselor, and often a heavier course load during your remaining time at high school, it says something to college admissions officers about your dedication to your studies.”
Indeed, demonstrating your academic rigor can be beneficial to your college applications. However, if your goal is to get into a top university, keep in mind that you must demonstrate an extremely bright candidacy as an early graduate. The admissions director at the University of Georgia emphasizes, “We want to make sure they won’t be walking into a too-challenging situation. An early graduate should not just survive here, but thrive here.”
Questions to Consider
However, not every bright high school student should graduate early. Those who express both emotional and mental maturity are the ideal candidates for early graduation. If you or your child is considering graduating early from high school, there are several questions to ask yourself:
What is your reason for graduating early? You should have emotional and intellectual reasons for graduating early, as college requires maturity on both these levels to be successful.
Are there any gaps in your education? If you find that you have knowledge gaps in specific subject matters, then you may want to wait before you head to college. Using your high school time wisely is a great way to develop a solid foundation for your future academic accomplishments.
Can you accomplish your goals without graduating early? Often times, if a student feels intellectually uninspired at high school, there are other options to stimulate academic development, such as AP classes or courses at community college.
How early do you want to graduate? Keep in mind that the earlier you graduate from high school, the more difficult your transition to college, both emotionally and academically, will be.
How Can My Teen Graduate Early?
Unique Curriculum Opportunities
According to guidance counselor Jack Cramer, “‘Students need to sit down with the people who are helping them make the decision to graduate early and make sure that they have met all their high school requirements and that they have a plan […] Students who choose to accelerate need to have some kind of plan in place so they have an idea of where they’re going.”
To graduate early, many teens take an additional class load. Students take classes before or after school, if offered. The availability of these extra periods depends upon each school’s unique curriculum. If your teenager’s school does not offer these courses, then many teens choose to supplement their standard curriculum with night, weekend, or adult high school classes. Also, most high schools offer convenient summer school programs; here, students traditionally took summer courses to catch up, yet these standards are changing as an increasing number of students are striving to get ahead.
Some schools allow students to take community college courses for high school credit. In this case, the student is not only able to graduate from high school early, but he or she is also able to earn college credit simultaneously. Also, as many community colleges offer online courses that may count towards high school credit, students can take the college courses while still in the high school setting, without having to worry about transportation issues.
Online Learning Options
Many high schools and community colleges are offering online classes that incorporate new uses of technology, such as Skype software that allows for “Internet phone calls, live video chats, real-time assessments and live messaging for the coursework, and allow students the flexibility to work from home or school.” With these advances, students are able to attend community colleges or take other various offerings as part of their standard school day – helping them get ahead and graduate early.
For the socially and mentally mature teenager, graduating early from high school has several benefits. Whether you are striving for admissions into a competitive college or looking for a head start on intercollegiate academics, graduating early is becoming more of a common option across the country.
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