Graduating High School Early (Ultimate Guide by an Early Graduate)

Graduating high school early - the ultimate guide

Want to know how to graduate high school early? Here’s the ultimate guide on graduating high school early by someone who actually did it!

Keep in mind, a lot of states in the U.S. have different regulations and qualifications to graduating early. Some advice may not apply to you.

For a bit of context, I graduated high school at 16 and it was the best decision I’ve ever made thus far!

I graduated high school early in California, but a lot of the processes are very similar no matter where you live.

If you want to be part of the 3% of high school students that graduate early, then this is definitely for you!

Let’s dive in!

Can You Graduate High School Early?

Yes! You can graduate high school early as long as you complete these requirements:

  • Have parents’ or guardians’ permission
  • Must be at least 16 years old (in most states)
  • Must have completed 2 years of high school
  • Pass the High School Proficiency Exam in your state

If you have all of these requirements covered, you can go ahead and complete the necessary steps to graduate early.

Again, some states might let you graduate high school at 15 or 17. Some states don’t have a proficiency test at all.

Check the regulations in your state before considering graduating high school early.

What is the High School Proficiency Exam?

The High School Proficiency Exam is a test that you are required to take if you want to graduate high school early with a high school diploma equivalent.

It usually costs between $150-$200 to take and only happens twice a year (usually in May and October)

By passing this test, you are essentially proving that you are proficient enough to graduate high school and receive a diploma.

Related Post: 4 Things I Learned Graduating High School at 16

Is the High School Proficiency Exam Hard?

As someone who has personally taken this exam… no. The High School Proficiency Exam is not hard.

It is on par with common 9th grade knowledge. The math section didn’t seem to go past basic geometry and algebra.

The English language and reading sections are easily passable with proficient knowledge in 8th grade English.

Yes, middle school. That’s how easy the test can be if you did well in your subjects during the end of middle school and early high school.

How Early Can You Graduate High School?

You can graduate high school as early as 16 years old if you complete a High School Proficiency Exam.

You can also graduate early (potentially at 14 years old) if you finish high school credits quickly during summer sessions.

Benefits of Graduating High School Early

Graduating early comes with a ton of advantages that you might find incredibly useful for your future and career!

Here are a few 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
  • Don’t have to take the SAT/ACT
  • You might meet a new group of awesome friends
  • You can get a job sooner

These are big factors to consider! Realistically, you are becoming a full grown adult around 2 years earlier.

When most people graduate from college, you’ll already be a few years into your career.

Disadvantages of Graduating High School Early

Of course, there will always be some downsides to leaving high school at such an early age.

Here are a few disadvantages to 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
  • You might miss out on high school events and time with friends

These are all important negatives to keep in mind. However, if you already don’t care for things like prom and enjoy being independent, the benefits are extremely rewarding!

Related Post: How to Be a Successful Teenager

How to Graduate High School Early

As someone who has done this before, just know that it’s not complicated. It just takes abit of time and patience.

Here are the steps you need to take in order to graduate high school early…

1) Check Your State Regulations

While many states follow the same processes, a lot of them have different requirements and regulations for graduating early.

Make sure you check your specific state and see what the requirements are for age, years of high school completed, testing, and more.

Who knows? You might be able to graduate high school at 15 or you might not be able to graduate early at all.

It’s important to note that this test is not the GED. All GED regulations require you to be at least 18 years old to take the exam.

This is not what you should be looking for when checking. Instead look up your state followed by “high school proficiency exam” or “early exit testing”.

2) Choose a Date for the Test

The High School Proficiency Exam is usually only available on a specific date, twice a year.

You have to find the right date to line up with when you plan to leave your high school. Testing months are usually in May and October (sometimes in June).

Be sure to bring everything you need with you. If you don’t, you’ll have to wait an entire 6 months until you get to take it again.

This would also be a good time to go over what kind of subjects are covered during the test. You should also make sure you have the money to pay for the exam (around $150).

Note: You must have your parents’ permission to take the test. Make sure they’re on board with you taking it.

3) Take Your High School Proficiency Exam

When you’ve signed up for the set date to take the exam, you’ll be given an address to show up to (usually a high school) on a weekend.

Show up early, have the money, don’t forget your ID, and bring any other required materials

You have about 3-4 hours to take the test. Depending on your knowledge in the tested subjects, you might finish very early.

Again, the subjects feel like 8th and 9th grade material. Most people pass with flying colors. However, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t pass.

You’ll be able to take the test again in another 6 months with a ton of knowledge on what’s required.

Related Post: 18 Things to Do When You Turn 18

4) Check Out of High School

After about 2 weeks to a month, you’ll receive your test results online. If you pass every subject, you’ve passed the test.

Now you can check out of high school! Woohoo!

You technically can leave in the middle of your semester if you’d like. If the people in your high school office give you a hard time, just ignore it and tell them to sign your release.

If your parents want you to finish the rest of the semester, just do it. Try your best and don’t give teachers hell just because you’re graduating early.

Your high school grades won’t mean anything if you go straight to community college, so keep that in mind as a great option!

5) Apply to College Courses Early

While you’re waiting to finish your semester, consider looking into colleges and college courses early on.

If you want to go straight to a 4-year university, they may require a certain completion of courses. Check with the universities you’re interested in BEFORE deciding to take the proficiency exam!

If you just want to go to community college (which is usually a better choice), make sure you sign up early and start looking at classes to take.

Community college is a great entrance into college without the big hassle of moving, paying crazy tuition, and harder courses that 4-year universities have.

Plus, you might still be able to transfer to a university earlier than most students if you work hard in community college.

What Kind of Person Should Graduate High School Early?

Early graduation is not designed for everyone. You might be wondering whether or not you’re a good fit for all this.

Here’s the type of person that should graduate high school early:

  • Has a mature mindset
  • Likes to be independent
  • Needs to get a job early (to help pay bills)
  • Wants to go to community college
  • Doesn’t care about high school events (prom, homecoming, etc.)
  • Can still stay in touch with friends out of school
  • Wants to start their career early
  • Naturally works hard (regardless of school)
  • Sophomore or Junior in high school

As you can see, a lot of the things on the list really boil down to maturity and independence.

If you really value your high school experience and just want to have fun before going to university (or community college), then maybe graduating early is not for you… and that’s okay!

Related Post: 15 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting College

Final Thoughts – Is Graduating High School Worth It?

In short… yes! Graduating high school early is definitely worth it and extremely rewarding if you value independence and want to get a head start in life.

Ask yourself these questions before deciding whether or not you should do it…

Will my parents be on board? What type of college do I plan on going to? Do I care about prom and seeing friends everyday? Am I ready for independence at such an early age?

Be honest with yourself. There’s no shame with either route.

From personal experience, taking the High School Proficiency Exam was the best decision i’ve ever made at 16 years old (I’m now 21).

If you’re confident that it will be a great decision for your future, then you should absolutely consider it!

Hopefully this ultimate guide has helped you learn how to graduate high school early along with the necessary steps to take.

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

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