4 Things I Learned from Graduating High School at 16

Graduating High School at 16

Are you thinking about graduating high school early? Here are 4 things I learned from graduating high school at 16 years old!

According to a recent study, close to 3% of high school students actually end up graduating early. That percent has slightly increased over the years as it grows in popularity!

Before we dive into the 4 lessons, let’s start off with a little backstory so you can get an idea of what it’s actually like…


High school… the best and worst four years of your life.

I, for one, was definitely on the negative side of that spectrum when I started. I transferred to a public high school from a private middle school, experiencing what can only be described as a culture shock two miles away from home.

Middle school passed by in a sort of haze, a homogenous bubble of students frazzled about the 

SATs and reach colleges and extracurriculars. In one summer, I stepped out of that black-and-white world and into one bursting with color.

Going into high school, I had heard tales of parties, hookups, and hangovers that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around.

I was never a so-called “popular girl” in middle school. I knew I didn’t look like them: long and lithe midriffs exposed by cropped T-shirts, shiny ponytails that flicked back and forth when they walked.

High school seemed… interesting to say the least.

I dreamed instead of college, with its lush courtyards teeming with students and late nights spent studying in multi-story libraries. Without question, I wanted out. 

I had heard from another girl at my school that the district made it easy to graduate early. It’s not that hard, she’d explained over algebra problems. Just ask your guidance counselor and they’ll probably let you. She was right.

After verifying that I had completed all my required courses (thanks, stuck-up private middle school!), all it took was a parent signature. I was on the path to graduate. Two years, in and out. Easy-peasy.

Even so, posing for pictures in my cap and gown on my front lawn filled me with an indescribable swell of pride. Looking back now, however, there are a few things I wish I could have said to my younger self. 

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You Don’t Have to Grow Up so Quickly

I understand the pressures of growing up all too well. Not so long ago, I was a high schooler wondering where I fit in on the sliding scale of “experience”.

Who made out with the most boys, drank the most beers, and got the better grades. All of these things are arbitrary in hindsight, but are essential in the heat of the moment.

I can’t say it doesn’t make sense; being a teen, quite frankly, can kind of suck. Who wouldn’t want to fast-forward until age 20? Which brings me to my second point…

Enjoy the Moment You’re In

Sure. High school is tough. But that doesn’t mean it has to be doom and gloom all the time.

Good or bad, it’s a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s okay to just take a deep breath and be a kid.

Complain about the crappy cafeteria pizza with your friends. Notice the beauty of your neighborhood on your walk to school. Ask your lab partner to hang out after class.

It’s all going to be okay. 

Nothing is Ever Going to be Perfect

Seriously, it’s not. So stop chasing it. As much as I love college, it definitely ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I created an idealistic version of college in my mind –  I’m going to go to parties! I’m going to get perfect grades! I’m going to have so many friends!

While, yes, some of those things happen at certain points, not everything is sunshine and rainbows.

Sometimes you fail a quiz that you stayed up all night studying for. Sometimes you get dumped. Meanwhile, the other girls make fun of you in a private Snapchat group. Sometimes all you want to do is hop on a bus and go back home.

That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of amazing moments that come with the college experience. It’s just to say that it’s a true yin yang of highs and lows.

As a 16 year old, you may have a tunnel vision towards your end goal. You may expect perfection, and life may not give it to you. 

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You’re Not as Hopeless as You Think

Yeah right, I can hear you saying. She clearly hasn’t met me.

Okay, I’ll give you that one, but I don’t need to meet you to tell you that you have some great qualities about you. Why? Because everyone does.

You might be saying, “That’s great, but I certainly don’t see them.” Well, how could you? You’re a kid, drowning in hormones and self-loathing, thrown into a cesspool full of other kids drowning in hormones and self-loathing.

But I promise you they’re there. You will change so much in your teenage years. You’ll grow, you’ll figure it out, and eventually you’ll find your place. One day you’ll look back on this time and marvel at how far you’ve come. 

Benefits and Disadvantages of Graduating High School at 16

Here’s a quick list of benefits and disadvantages of graduating high school early:

Benefits of Graduating High School Early

  • You get to start life faster
  • You’ll have more freedom from an early age
  • You’ll have a leg up on everyone else
  • You might meet a new group of awesome friends

Disadvantages of Graduating High School Early

  • Independence will hit you hard
  • You’ll have to deal with life expenses early on
  • Some colleges don’t accept early graduates (usually unlikely though)
  • You might miss out on high school events and time with friends

While there are definitely cons to graduating at 16, the pros can easily outweigh them if you don’t care about missing out on prom and you’re already an independent person!

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While I can’t say I’ve never questioned my decision, at the end of the day, I don’t regret it.

At fifteen, I was in the home stretch of puberty, but I wasn’t immune to the acne that bloomed across my cheeks and the baby fat that puddled around my waist.

Filled with hope at the prospect of a new beginning, I began my high school career with pride. Maybe high school will be different for me. 

It definitely was, but not in the way I had expected. I was not a complete outcast, nor was I particularly sociable. I strode the line between acceptable and abysmal known as mediocrity. 

Each afternoon, I frantically scanned the sea of faces in the cafeteria until I could find my only friend who had second-period lunch. On occasion I would go out to a friend’s house on a weekend evening, but most Friday nights were spent watching TV with my family.

I didn’t hate my new life in high school, but by the end of the first year, I had grown bored of the monotony of my daily routine.

Graduating high school at 16 taught me the value of hard work, ambition, and perseverance. I’m excited to take those values with me as I begin college this fall. 

If you’re thinking of doing the same, just know that it’s not easy to start college that young. However, the lessons you learn at the end of the journey can be totally worth it!

There you have it! 4 things I learned from graduating high school at 16.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions leave them down below.Thanks for reading!

  1. Wow, to say I love this post would be an understatement. I would love to graduate early, I was able to relate to something you said, wanting out of highschool. It seems like a jungle filled with judgment and a contest of who’s the best looking or who has the most friends. Like many things, there is good and bad to highschool. Reading your post was amazing! 🙂

  2. This is one of the best posts I have ever read about graduating early! I am currently only a middle schooler and enjoy being a kid, but I have to say I am impressed by your hard work! Just wanted to ask: Was it tough for you to earn all the credits and did you resort to summer school to earn them? Thanks, Saeeha

  3. Hi Sameeha,

    I’m so glad you found it useful! In many states in the U.S., you can take a test that allows you to graduate early as long as you’re at least 16 years old. I took this test, so I didn’t have to complete all my credits before graduating.

    Plus, going straight to community college wipes your records clean anyways, so the credits are no longer needed. Hope this answered your question!

  4. hi my name is salma and i dint go to school for almost 3 years because well my mom was deported to guatemala but i was born here in the united states and i went to high school to ask if i could go to 10th grade but they said no because the grade your really soposed to be in is 8th so i kind a got disapointed because for me that was not fare so my friend told me she had already graduated from high school and she was barley 16 so im asking and searching for help to graduate too because i wanna become a very good and honorble doctor .

  5. Hi Salma,

    I’m sorry to hear about your situation and I hope things get better soon. You might find this post useful: How to Graduate High School Early.

    Depending on your state, you can take a test that allows you to graduate early. Most of the information you need is covered in the post that I linked to. If you have any specific questions that I can help with, don’t hesitate to reach out!

    Take care 🙂

  6. I loved your post Im 13 years old and i want to graduate at 16 so bad Im mean Im home schooled & i already take on a lot of responsibility so thanks for the tips i can’t wait!!!

    Have a good day :]

  7. I just want to say this post was put together so well, I am currently 15 at my sophmore year i am struggling with a suspension that keeps me out of school for the rest of the year. However, I have realized I have been able to get the credits I will need to graduate early and get a great start on my life. The suspension has really changed my view on my life and gave me hope to be an inspiration to many others. So again i just want to say thank you for this post it has given me a lot of hope in this situatuion.

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