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3 Questions to Ask Before Graduating High School Early

Abigail Endsley
Abigail Endsley

September 27, 2019

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Graduate high school early

By sophomore year, I was done. High school was putting me to sleep. I was tired of studying subjects I didn’t care about and slaving over courses I knew I’d just retake in college.

I had always been something of an early bloomer, so even at 16, I was excited to leave high school behind and start college. And fortunately for me, the flexibility of homeschooling made graduating high school early a real possibility.

So I did it.

I condensed subjects into semesters instead of years, and I got pretty good grades (even if I don’t remember a thing from Latin 2). Part of my “early graduation” plan involved exchanging as many high school courses as I could for transferrable dual credit—jumping that much further ahead.

I graduated high school at 17 years old with 12 college credits to my name.

If this is something you’ve been longing to do, dear high schooler, take heart. Graduating early is hard. But it’s a completely realistic goal, especially if you’re homeschooled. But before you kick yourself into high gear, take a beat. This isn’t the end of the story.

The day after my “graduation” (an informal family celebration featuring the best egg rolls in town), I realized I had a problem. I finished high school… but now what?

I didn’t have the money for college yet. And while I had my sights on an English degree, was I sure that was the right major for me? What exactly did I want to do after college? I had been so laser-focused on graduating early that only upon succeeding did I realize my path forward wasn’t so clear….

To avoid ending up where I did when your early graduation rolls around, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I know what I want?

Graduating high school means more than just receiving a diploma. It means leaving your childhood behind. You know what comes after childhood? Adulthood. You know what comes with adulthood? Responsibility. And consequences.

I’m not saying this to scare you. Trust me, I think being an adult is awesome. But if you’re not careful, jumping in before you’re ready could leave you with some serious baggage to work through later in life.

Let’s take the example of college.

If you’re planning to jump into college right after high school, you’ll need to know at least 2 things first:

  1. What school you want to attend
  2. What you want to study

Jumping into college without knowing your major is a serious no-no for a simple reason: changing majors is a recipe for massive post-college debt. The national average of student loan debt in the U.S. is $29,800. Average. Meaning you’re not special. This could be your debt.

Do you realize the roadblocks that kind of debt could cause not just after graduation, but for the rest of your life? If not, click here to get a quick reality check.

Even if you’re not destined for college, you should still have a post-graduation plan. Maybe you’ve been working somewhere part-time and want to move to full-time hours. Maybe you’ve got a trade school in mind, or an apprenticeship you want to pursue, or a mission you’d like to embark on. You should at least have more of a plan than staying home and playing League of Legends. Unless you’re a professional League player. In which case, #respect.

If you don’t have any idea what you want to do after high school (which is totally normal and okay, by the way), consider graduating in the usual 4 years so you can use your free time for self-discovery.

Get an after-school job, join teams, take a college class that excites you, shadow someone with a job you’re interested in, pursue that creative project you’ve been putting off—do whatever it is you feel drawn to do.

That way, even if you don’t graduate early, you’ll be graduating with a purpose, which is always better than the alternative.

2. Will graduating early affect my scholarship eligibility?

Many on-campus programs offer generous scholarships for freshmen that aren’t available to transfer students. If you plan to enroll in a university immediately after graduation, then you probably have nothing to worry about here.

However, if you were planning to make a pit stop at your local community college after high school, you run the risk of losing your freshman status. In this case, it might be better to stay enrolled in high school and pursue dual credit instead. This will still allow you to get ahead in school, but without losing that all-important freshman status. (Bonus: some states even offer free dual credit to high school students. Win-win!)

Keep in mind, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Eligibility requirements vary from scholarship to scholarship. And any time transfer credit enters the picture—dual credit or otherwise—it’s wise to make a credit-transfer plan. That way you can be aware of your college’s transfer policies and your future degree’s requirements before getting started, which will give that hard-earned credit the best shot at transferring well.

3. Have I talked to a counselor?

Everyone needs a little help when making big life decisions. And graduating high school early definitely qualifies as a big life decision.

Talk to your parents, teachers, a youth pastor—any adult who you respect and who knows you well. Talk to them about your ideas, your plans, and the motivation behind those ideas and plans. Ask if they have any advice for you.

And of course, consider reaching out to the team at Unbound. We’ve been helping students like you achieve success for over a decade. With our experience working with hundreds of colleges around the country, we can answer any college question you have to throw at us. Let one of our awesome advisors help you create a fully-customized college plan that will set you up for success, whether that means graduating early or not.

Abigail Endsley
Abigail Endsley

A former student counselor and Unbound student, Abigail is passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals. When she’s not dreaming with her friends, you can find her reading or singing Broadway songs. Loudly.

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