The Pros and Cons of Graduating High School Early

10/29/22

This is it. You're amongst your peers, waiting for your name to be called to walk the stage. You’re mentally preparing to shake the hands of your school's faculty and accept your long-awaited high school diploma. Here, you’ve dedicated years of your life making friends, preparing for college, playing your favorite sports, joining clubs, and giving it your all. For most high schoolers, it’s taken four long years to get to this moment.

But for some students, throwing your cap in the air comes sooner than later. Early high school graduates are ready to kick off their career, get a head start in college, or they’re anxiously waiting to take a gap year. No matter what a student decides, finishing high school is a great accomplishment—no matter how long or short it takes.

If you’re trying to scope if early graduation is right for you, here are some pros and cons of graduating early.

Pros of graduating early

The results of graduating early will vary depending on your goals. Here are a few reasons why students consider early graduation.

Getting a head start in college

If you’re pursuing a career path that requires a long college career ahead, graduating early can help you get a head start. You can enroll in a community college to earn college credits or admit to your first-choice school that offers early decisions to be a college freshman earlier than anticipated.

However, if your school offers robust AP, Honors, and dual enrollment opportunities, it may be best to forgo early graduation and make the best of the four years you have offered to you because you’re able to earn college credits early on.

Advance your post-graduate plans or take time off

Are you a passionate high school student interested in traveling, volunteering more often, starting your own business, or just pursuing your dreams? Traditional high school can occupy a lot of your time, and graduating early can give you the freedom you need to pursue your dreams and pave your career path ASAP.

Additionally, early graduation can give you time to explore and discover what you’re passionate about. If you’re still learning your interests and talents, enrolling in a postgraduate program will introduce you to career pathways and prepare you for potential next steps.

If you want to enjoy the complete high school experience and your hobbies, a flexible online high school can allow you to pursue your passions and balance your academics at the same time.

You’ll show off your hard work

Receiving your high school diploma early doesn’t typically get you extra recognition or perks, but it is a great accomplishment. Early graduation takes a lot of dedication and resilience. Most students pursuing early graduation take summer classes, take additional courses at an online school, and plan to take their SAT, ACT, or AP exams.

Cons of graduating early

The following cons aren't end-all-be-alls.  Early graduation is not for everyone, but if you are considering it, here are some things high school students can expect from their experience.

You’ll have to make the decision early on

To start the process of early graduation, you have to speak with your counselor. If you’re a freshman considering early graduation, you may be tempted to make the decision right away. However, a lot can change in those four years of school.

Discuss your academic plan with your parents and counselor to help you decide if it's possible or if it's the best decision for you and your plans. There’s still a lot to figure out, so don’t feel like you need to rush if there are other options available to you.

You may feel FOMO

The fear of missing out is extremely real for early graduates. Your senior year and overall high school experience are full of social and academic opportunities. Getting through school year milestones such as school dances, sports games, prom, trips, and more can make you feel left out. If you’re not ready to part from your school community, take your time.

Taking time off before college? Prepare to explain why

Taking time off doesn’t put you at a disadvantage, however, most college applications request you explain the gap between your high school graduation date and college application date.

If you’re graduating early but still planning to attend college, make sure you’re productive in your time away from academics. This may look like volunteering, being involved in your hobbies, and taking advantage of unique opportunities offered to you like travel, work, or internships. As long as you continue to better yourself, then you’ve got it covered.

Make the most of your high school experience

Whether your high school experience takes four years or maybe two or three, be proud of the steps you’re taking to succeed in life. High school is only once in a lifetime, after all.