How to Graduate Early from High School

Skipping a grade in high school is different than skipping a grade in elementary or intermediate school. Skipping a grade in high school means graduating early, as long as you have all of the required credits for your graduation program. Even if you cannot skip an entire grade, you could probably graduate a semester early. You can do this depending on your credits.


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    Speak to your high school's principal or guidance counselor. Ask whether graduating early is even possible and if there have been others in the past who have graduated early. This will help you develop a plan and understand exactly what you need to do to graduate early.
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    Ask about concurrent enrollment and similar programs that which allow you to take classes at your community college while enrolled at a high school. These classes can count both towards a college degree and your high school diploma.
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    Consider taking the GED or California High School Proficiency Exam. The latter especially is used by (California) high school students to earn a legal equivalent of a high school diploma early, which enables them to head off to community college or trade school a few years earlier than usual.
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    Consider homeschooling or online high school. You may be able to skip a year or more if you are self-driven.
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    Understand what your high school requires to graduate.
    • How many credits do you need?
    • What credits do you need, such as math, English, science, P.E., history, etc.?
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    Evaluate how many credits you can earn during the summer.
    • Each school district has its own arrangement. Some have two sessions per summer, with one class available per session. Some have two sessions available, with two classes per session.
    • Find out what courses are offered during summer school. Chances are it will be the more common algebra, geometry, history and English classes. You can probably get these out of the way in the summer months and save the school year for courses not offered in the summer. Summer school may also be a way to earn elective credits by taking driver's education or other popular elective courses.
    • Some school districts offer only remedial courses during the summer. Ask if there is another (nearby) school district where you can take extra courses.
    • If your counselor does not know about other districts, ask him or her to contact a colleague in those districts for information. You can also contact the other districts yourself.
    • You can probably begin taking high school summer school classes during the summer before your first year of high school. Set an appointment for a meeting with the high school counselor at the very beginning of summer to develop a plan.
    • Remember that some summer school costs money to attend. You should discuss the financial obligation with your parents and plan ahead.
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    Find out if you can take any courses online. Many school districts offer high school courses online. You would probably have to pay a fee.
    • Verify (in writing from your school) that the course(s) you wish to take will be recognized by your school district.
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    Consider what type of course you are taking before deciding to take it in summer school or online. Depending on your strengths, certain courses may be better taken in person so a teacher can offer personal guidance and answers to any questions.
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    Consider prerequisites. Prerequisites can prevent you from taking upper level classes, so determine if you are capable of bypassing those requirements. For instance, AP Calculus BC requires knowledge of pre-calculus. Yet, you may be able to skip a pre-calculus class if you can demonstrate to the school that you have already learned it, whether it was on your own or through a summer class.
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    Have your counselor review and evaluate your progress on a regular basis.
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    Investigate course requirements for any college you wish to attend. For instance, many universities require 4 years in one foreign language. Foreign languages are not usually taught during summer school or online, so it may be necessary for you to learn a language on your own and demonstrate proficiency in that language to colleges.
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    Maintain your grades! Most high schools have a few extra course credits built into their program. Graduating early requires more credits than usual.
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    Find out if your school district offers any accelerated programs for HS students. Programs such as Independent Study offer courses that allow the student to complete them at own pace. The study material is typically a workbook instead of a textbook, and homework assignments are due the following week. The student can complete courses in a two day period, if motivated. The student meets with an Independent Study teacher once a week or as scheduled and is assigned courses based on completed credits and student's goals. If the student applies themselves to completing courses, a full semester of credits can be completed in half the time, allowing students to graduate early from high school.


  • Try not to have study hall periods. They do not provide any credit and you could be taking a credit class instead.
  • Look for classes that will meet your needs without risking falling behind or failing because it's too difficult. Don't worry about your friends laughing at you because you're taking less difficult classes. They won't be laughing when they're seniors and you're "gone."
  • Ask about testing-out of high school. Some states have pilot programs which enable you to test out of high school class by class. California has the C.H.S.P.E, which may grant a legal equivalent of a high school diploma to those with sufficient scores.
  • Ask about taking college level courses in the evenings at a local junior college. Not only can you graduate high school early, but you may be able to earn college credits and get out of college early. Many high schools have arrangements with local colleges for high school students to attend. Various states, including California, Minnesota and Washington, enable students to take community college classes under 11 units per semester tuition-free.
  • If you attend private school or a smaller high school you may not have as many summer options. Look at the larger high schools in your town. More students usually means more options for summer classes.
  • Don't overextend yourself academically. Remember you'll be taking a large volume of intensive classes. You may have to sacrifice by not taking extremely difficult classes. You don't want to spend another year in school because you need to retake a super difficult class. Honors classes may be more intensive than a College Prep or regular class. Go with the easier option if necessary.
  • Don't mess around. Don't talk a lot.


  • Check with your school district's policy.
  • Check with your parent/guardian, as they are required to participate in this process.

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Categories: Youth Graduation