16 Pros and Cons of Graduating Early from High School

There are many students who have graduated from high school a year or two early, but none had the same levels of success as Michael Kearney. He attended high school in Novato, California for just one year, and then graduated at the age of 6 in 1990. He then studied at Santa Rosa Junior College, earning an associates’ degree in geology at the age of 8. He then earned a Bachelors’ degree at the age of 10 in anthropology, a master’s in chemistry at 14, and then a second graduate degree in computer science at age 18.

Despite setting these records, Kearney’s accomplishments are more game-show related than academically relevant. He won over $1 million on a trivia game called Gold Rush, and then made appearances on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Million-Dollar Password.

Some students have a gift for learning that allows them to pursue their future at an earlier age than others. There are some definite pros and cons to consider when graduating early from high school, whether you do so at a young age like Kearney or take a year or two off of the usual schedule.

List of the Pros of Graduating Early from High School

1. You can get an early start on your career.
The most significant advantage you receive when graduating from high school early is the opportunity to get started on your career. Even if you only get an extra year available from this process, that gives you an opportunity to pursue an internship doing something you love. You also have the option to apply to colleges to get a head start on the undergraduate degree that you want. That means you can start earning a livable wage sooner than your peers, which gives you the opportunity to become independent.

2. There may be more opportunities to earn scholarships.
Graduating early from high school will definitely turn the heads of some admissions personnel when you start looking for a college. You may find that there are some academic scholarships that are available to you because of your ability to learn and apply information in educational settings. Although this advantage is not a guarantee since many scholarships like these are competitive, it is possible that you can earn a full ride to study something that you love – especially if your grades are exceptionally high.

3. Some states will pay students who graduate from high school early.
If you live in the state of Indiana and you graduate from high school early, then you will receive a $4,000 reward. Idaho, Minnesota, Utah, and South Dakota all provide incentive scholarships to students as a way to encourage them to get through their high school studies faster. Once you have covered your tuition and living expenses with these awards, then you get to keep the rest of the cash as a way to jumpstart the next stage of your student career.

4. It allows you to take classes that are actually interesting.
Most students complain about school because the information they receive from teachers is either not useful to their career goals or something they learned before. By graduating early from high school, you can take a curriculum which you are passionate about as you strive toward your eventual career. Even kids who take AP classes at school say that they want to get out early because the information presented to them was irrelevant. When you can start taking college classes sooner, then you can become more competitive as a potential employee.

5. You get the chance to avoid the classic “senior slump” year.
When you already have a plan for your life that includes college, students will often receive their acceptance letter during their junior year. That means the senior year of high school often feels like a complete waste of time. If you are involved in athletics, then it can still feel rewarding, but many teens find that graduating early allows them to be more productive than they would be otherwise. It can be a definite shot of energy to one’s creativity.

6. It gives you an opportunity to set your own schedule.
Going to school is challenging for many teens because of the hours that are set by the public school system. Most young adults have a biorhythm which has them feeling more away at night, and then sleeping longer in the morning. Whether you decide to pursue a job or go after an undergraduate degree, you have more options available to you that make it possible to set a better schedule for yourself. You’ll get the sleep you need without compromising on your vocational or educational opportunities.

7. Graduating early gives you the opportunity to leave behind peer pressure issues.
There will always be some form of peer pressure that you face throughout life. When you look back at your high school years, the issues that happened in those hallways are far different than what you experience later in life. This option gives you a chance to pursue the expectations you have for yourself instead of having criticism placed in your ear by fellow students. Even if you head to college afterward, the social environment there is much different.

In high school, your classmates often care about the music you listen to each day, the clothes you wear, and sometimes even the way you comb your hair. These trivial issues don’t always disappear as you grow into your career, but they do certainly become less relevant.

8. It can provide a significant boost to your self-confidence.
It is not unusually for gifted and talented students to unconsciously suffer from a reserved or quiet personality. Many of them feel like a social outcast in high school because they learn differently, pick up on things faster, or receive “special” treatment from teachers and administrators. These kids stop participating in classroom discussions because their intelligence can lead to bullying opportunities. Moving to an advanced grade and graduating early can help to alleviate these social concerns. One of the best and fastest ways to alleviate school-based anxiety is to encourage harder academic challenges.

9. You can take college courses through your high school without the tuition costs.
Some high schools provide you with the option to take college courses at the same time you are pursuing an early graduation. If you can put together a full year of undergraduate credits before it is time to move into a formal university setting, then you could save upwards of $15,000 on the cost of books and tuition while being 25% of the way toward your next degree. Taking AP classes all year for college credits is a tremendous advantage to consider. You might also opt for an International Baccalaureate® program if one is available in your community.

List of the Cons of Graduating Early from High School

1. You cannot enter the workforce sooner, even with your degree.
Although you can start earning money sooner through a skilled vocation when you graduate from high school early, the child labor laws in your community still apply even with your education already complete. The Fair Labor and Standards Act restricts the hours that youth under the age of 16 can work. There is also a list published by the government which details hazardous occupations where your age makes it impossible to find employment.

If you are not 14 years old yet and you graduated from high school early, then agricultural work may be your only option. Kids at any age can delivery newspapers, perform as an actor/actress, or work in most businesses owned by their parents. Baby sitting and minor chores around private homes are also permitted. Some states have minimum age requirements which exceed the FLSA as well.

2. You must face the expenses of life faster than you would otherwise.
When you start earning an income, then Uncle Sam (or your local government) is going to want their share through taxation. You may need to purchase a public transportation pass to commute to work. If you decide to go on to college, then your parents have less time to begin save up for your tuition costs. There are insurance, medical, and other personal care expenses to consider with this process as well. Even the cost of a wardrobe that is appropriate for an internship or career must come into this consideration. It might be cheaper for some students to skip the early graduation.

3. You might be told to attend a specific school to receive a scholarship.
Many states have discovered that encouraging students to graduate early from high school helps them to keep their educational costs down. Even if a $4,000 scholarship or award is offered, that is 50% of the cost of supporting them for another year in the K-12 system. Many of these awards also have the catch that you must attend a specific college or university that is in their home state. That means you may not have any choice in where you go, and then potentially responsible for future costs once this award runs out.

4. Some students may not be ready for college coursework.
There is a legitimate difference between the expectations for homework in high school and what a college or university expects of you. Most students who decide to drop out of college do so during their first semester because the classes they attend were much more difficult than they anticipated. Although society places a lot of pressure on teens to pursue an undergraduate degree, it does not always work hard enough to prepare kids for the transition that they must endure. If you graduate early from high school, try to take a college-level course as part of your studies before receiving your diploma so that you can know what to expect.

5. Many students say that their senior year was one of the best times of their life.
There are a lot of noteworthy events that happen during the senior year of high school that you cannot replace if you decide to graduate early. There are numerous school activities that take on added meaning during this time, from homecoming to prom. If social situations are just as important to you as your overall educational experience, then an early graduation may not be worth it in the long run. You don’t want to be regretting this decision 20 years from now, wondering what might have happened if you had stayed home.

6. Graduating early from high school requires lots of self-discipline.
Many teens admit that if they didn’t need to get up early to go to school in the morning, then they would likely stay up all night and sleep in every day. Graduating early doesn’t change the fact that you must be productive at some point during the day. You must be a fully functional individual when you arrive at class or for work. If you’re struggling to maintain the usual schedule for high school classes, then it might not be the right time to start thinking about an early exit from the K-12 system.

7. There are still unfair teachers who can impact your education after high school.
If you think that graduating from high school will take you away from teachers that do not grade exams or homework objectively, then you’ll want to consider this disadvantage. College professors are arguably even more personally involved with the curriculum, which means any debate or questions you have that run counter to the materials present could result in a lower grade. When this happens after you move away from high school, then there are fewer moments when your parents can step in to provide you with the support that you need as well.

The pros and cons of graduating early from high school offer students an opportunity to get a faster start on their future. Although you would need to be self-motivated to make this happen, it gives teens a chance to gain real-world experience without the peer pressure that exists in hometown school districts. If you think this option might be right for you, then speak with your parents or guardians, a school counselor, and others that you trust to see if trying to earn that diploma faster is your best choice.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.