Pros and Cons of Graduating High School a Year Early

Graduating from high school is a large step in life, as many view it as the doorway to adulthood. It often signals the beginning of a student’s first prolonged stay away from home, whether the student goes to college, vocational school, or begins working right away. So graduating high school early—and therefore taking that first step into adulthood—is no easy decision. There are reasons to graduate in four years. There are also reasons to graduate a semester or even a year early. Here are some pros and cons of graduating early:

A student wearing a graduation cap.

Plus iconPRO: You can skip the senioritis.

When it comes to high school, many students experience a mental block colloquially known as senioritis during senior year. It usually involves a lack of drive to complete schoolwork and drifting attention spans. However, if you get out of high school early, there is a good chance you won’t suffer this until you are ready to graduate college.

Minus iconCON: You miss out on a year of activities.

Whether it’s sports, the spring musical, solo and ensemble, prom, or graduating with your classmates, by leaving high school early, you are going to miss something. Just because you are not going to continue an activity in college doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your time with it in high school. It can be really difficult to find time in college for activities like intramurals, clubs, and other student organizations. If there is no pressing reason to graduate early, it might be good to consider relaxing and being involved in every extracurricular activity you can be in.

Plus iconPRO: You can get a head start on college or work.

By starting college early, you can get a little jump ahead. I’ve known people who graduated a semester early and then took courses at a community college in order to get gen eds out of the way before transferring to a different school. This method allows you to possibly stay at home (no room-and-board fees or rent) while earning college credits. It also opens up the opportunity to work and start saving money for when you move out or go to school.

Minus iconCON: Many high schools offer dual-credit courses.

Many high schools are working with local community colleges so that students can take dual-enrollment classes from the college and have it count toward their graduation requirements. Students save money this way, as they graduate high school with college credits. Some students even earn enough to start college as “sophomores”. Another way to earn college credit in high school is to take AP courses and the corresponding tests. By earning a certain amount of points on the tests, you can apply that as credit in college (usually toward gen eds). Therefore, it is not necessary to graduate high school early to get a jumpstart on college. AP/dual-credit classes are also usually less expensive than paying for college.

Plus iconPRO: You can get the academic challenge you need.

If the coursework in high school is simply not stimulating, then perhaps it is time to go to a place that will challenge your intellect. This is especially useful if your school does not offer Advanced Placement courses. A lack of stimulation in high school can lead to a lack of motivation and poor study habits. By graduating early and beginning college, you can provide yourself with the mental challenge you desire.

Minus iconCON: College requires a mental and emotional maturity you might not have.

There is a lot of brain development going on during the teenage years. It is when our frontal lobes, where our impulse control and the ability to plan come from, are finishing development. This is not to say that some people are not mentally mature at, say, age seventeen; however, some people might not be able to handle the mental and emotional stress of college (there are some people that can’t handle it at twenty). Consider your maturity level honestly. Maybe ask your parents and teachers if they think you can thrive in a college environment.

Some parting thoughts when finding colleges

The decision to graduate high school early is yours. There are some questions to ask yourself before you commit to it: Do you want to go straight into college? Do you want to take a gap year? Is there something you can do your senior year that you might not be able to do once you graduate? You should also take into account your level of happiness. If you are not happy at your high school, perhaps getting out early is a solution. Just keep in mind that college coursework is going to be more difficult and demanding than high school. Surviving higher education is one thing – thriving and enjoying the experience, even with the stress, is very different.

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