12 Benefits of Graduating High School Early

Posted on April 21 2020

Man in cap and gown holding diploma.

One of the biggest myths about high school is that it takes four years to earn your diploma. In fact, a growing number of students are completing the requirements for a high school diploma a semester, or even a full year, early. While there are many good reasons for experiencing four years of high school, there are just as many benefits of graduating high school early. Here’s a look at 12 ways students can gain an advantage by wrapping up their high school responsibilities in less time than the standard four years.

1. Get an Early Start on Your Career     

Not every rewarding career requires a college degree. Many trades, such as electrician, plumber, and construction worker, begin with on-the-job apprenticeships and other forms of training. However, as U.S. News & World Report explains, every graduate needs to have a plan in place for life after high school, whether they finish in four years or sooner.

School counselors understand that each student’s situation is unique, and in many cases, the decision to pursue early graduation relates to their family’s financial situation. One characteristic that counselors consider essential for students who plan to graduate early is a high level of maturity. Taking on real-world responsibilities requires both a post-graduation plan and the will and dedication to stick with the plan through challenging times.

2. Start Your College Career Early           

Many high school students who choose to graduate early do so to pursue their postsecondary education at an institution that allows them to enroll midyear or even a year early. Getting a jump-start on earning a college degree allows students to enter the workforce a year or more ahead of their classmates. Early enrollment in college is especially beneficial to athletes who want to begin training in their sport at the college level as soon as possible. However, for many students who enter college before their high school classmates, the greatest benefit is the ability to reduce the cost of higher education by applying the same approach to college, earning an undergraduate degree in fewer than four years.

3. Challenge Yourself Academically              

The one-size-fits-all curriculum of many high school programs fails to engage advanced students and make the best use of the time they spend in the classroom. A major benefit of graduating high school early for these students is the opportunity to study topics and material that will allow them to progress faster in their chosen fields. Colleges offer much broader curricula that students can use to craft a custom program of study, allowing them to hone their academic skills and kindle the excitement they feel about getting started in their careers.

4. Gain Independence          

The maturity required for pursuing early graduation is also a common reason for wanting to make a quick exit. By necessity, high schools tend to be rigidly structured learning environments because most high school students are not yet capable of taking full responsibility for their own education, let alone the duties that come with life after high school. For many students, gaining the freedom to make decisions for themselves is the main benefit of graduating high school early.

5. Stand Out to Colleges            

Students who test out of high school courses and finish ahead of schedule can make an impression on college recruiters and potential employers. Along with a high grade-point average and high scores on the SAT and/or ACT exams, the effort required to complete their high school requirements in fewer than four years gains the attention of college recruiters. In addition, the New England Board of Higher Education states that students who entered college early tended to be high achievers who outperformed the general student population: the GPA of early entrants averaged 3.6 in their freshman year, compared with 2.9 for all students, according to 2017 data.

6. Take a Gap Year              

Not all education takes place in classrooms, labs, libraries, and study halls. Earning a high school diploma early opens opportunities for graduates to pursue interests outside of school. Many students spend a gap year between high school and college or work traveling around the world, while others spend this time working or volunteering in their community before entering college at the same time as their peers on the standard four-year high school schedule.

7. Tailor Your Interests            

Few high schools can match the range of subjects that colleges and universities offer their students. Once a person has discovered the field they want to pursue as a career, they can tailor their elective courses to match their interests. Whether the goal is to study a technical subject, an area of the arts, or a particular medical specialty, students are more likely to thrive when they are engaged in subjects they’re passionate about and making progress toward their career goals.

8. Avoid “Senioritis”           

The last year of high school leaves some students suffering from a malady known as “senioritis,” which saps their enthusiasm for just about everything related to high school. Graduating early can help reinvigorate students by allowing them to focus their efforts on college or work opportunities. 

Fresh U, a site dedicated to preparing students for their first year of college, highlights the benefits of graduating high school early for one student whose case of senioritis threatened to derail her hopes for college. She had finished her most difficult high school courses, had her final ACT score, and knew which colleges she intended to apply to, but the prospect of another full year of high school filled her with dread. After a single meeting with her school counselor, she was able to reduce her senior year to a single semester.

9. Earn College Credit Sooner               

The same student whose cure for senioritis Fresh U described also discovered another benefit to early graduation: the first half of her school day was spent at a local technical institute that allowed her to earn 6 credit hours toward her college degree. While many high schools offer advanced placement courses that qualify for college credit, they aren’t the best option for all students. Similarly, schools may offer dual enrollment in both high school and college; the New England Board of Higher Education reports that 28 states now allow colleges and universities to “host” high school seniors for a full freshman year of college.

10. Reduce the Cost of Earning a College Degree               

A primary benefit of earning college credit before enrolling is being able to spend less on tuition and other college expenses. By applying the same effort that got them out of high school early, students can earn a college degree without having to pay the cost of a full four-year enrollment.

11. Earn an Early-Graduation Scholarship               

A growing number of states are attempting to stretch their education budgets by offering high school students incentives for early graduation. Secrets to School Success reports that the state of Indiana now offers high school students $4,000 if they graduate at least one year early, and several other states, including Utah, Idaho, Minnesota, and South Dakota, provide scholarships for students who graduate early and subsequently enroll in a “state-approved college.”

12. Take Responsibility for Your Life-Long Learning              

No matter the path students embark on after completing high school, education will be a big part of their lives. Professions of all types require continuous education to keep pace with changes in their industries. Students will need to take advantage of opportunities to advance their skills and training throughout their careers.

How The American Academy Helps High School Students Graduate Early

It isn’t unusual for students to be “done” with the high school experience long before their senior year. There’s much to be said for experiencing the rituals of high school — receiving your diploma, going to prom, hanging out with friends — but there are many good reasons for students to finish high school early. Students can make the most of the benefits of graduating high school early by taking advantage of the online high school courses offered by The American Academy.

The American Academy caters both to students hoping to supplement their coursework at a faster pace through individual course offerings and students hoping to enroll in a different school altogether to complete their degree. Learn more about the benefits of online high school with The American Academy.

Recommended Readings

How to Do Well on a Test: Preparation Tips & Resources

7 Tips for Establishing a Successful Home School Schedule

Managing High School Stress: 5 Key Tips


Family Times, “Ditching High School: How I Graduated Early and Saved My Sanity”

Fresh U, “ How Graduating High School Early Changed My Life” 

Frugal Rules, “How to Save Money on College by Graduating a Semester Early”

New England Board of Higher Education, “Early to College, Likely to Rise? Benefits and Challenges of Early College Programs”

Odyssey, “13 Reasons Why Graduating High School Early Was My Best Decision”

Secrets to School Success, “14 Pros and Cons of Graduating Early from High School”

U.S. News & World Report, “How to Graduate from High School Early”