For many students, high school is a significant milestone in one’s life of school and education. In high school, you deal with big problems and bigger people. You learn, make friends, maybe date your classmates, or get the teacher upset. You have to move to class on your own, or hell, even skip class altogether. But eventually, like many things, it comes to an end, and you graduate.
You finish high school in the 12th grade, and with that, your secondary education comes to an end. With this introduction in mind, you surely have only one question: can you graduate high school at 17?
What is the Youngest Age to Graduate High School?
The youngest age for a student to graduate high school depends heavily on the type of curriculum and what the resident Board of Education allows.
To get into depth about this subject would involve a dive into the many individual laws and regulations around each school board in the United States of America or even the world: a long and exhaustive process and not necessary.
High schools and other secondary education take place over four years and accept students right after middle school, which typically means they are 13 to 14 years old. If a student begins their freshman / first year at 13, they will finish their senior / final year at 16. Graduating high school at 17 is not only feasible but is very likely to happen on average.
We have discovered the youngest age to graduate high school, but what does the process entail? It can be possible to graduate high school later than expected, such as age 18, 19, or even 20. To graduate high school, all you need is to collect the prerequisite amount of credits, which is done at any age.
How many credits do you need to graduate high school, and how can you go about getting them?
How Many Credits Do You Need to Graduate High School Early?
Much like the age of high school students, the number of credits required to graduate high school and the options available for a student to get enough to graduate early depends heavily on the school and its Board of Education, so there will not be a definitive answer.
For the sake of comparison, we will use an example from New Jersey State’s minimum requirements. To graduate high school in New Jersey, you must accrue 120 credits. These credits are split amongst several types of classes and study (each class generally consisting of 5 credits):
- Twenty credits in English and language arts,
- Fifteen credits in Mathematics, including Algebra I, Geometry, and a third-year class that builds on the prior classes,
- Fifteen credits in Science, with at least five credits In biology or life science laboratory and ten credits in a laboratory that is based around inquiry, like chemistry, environmental science, and physics,
- Fifteen credits in Social Studies, including five credits in world history and ten credits integrating civics, economics, and geography,
- 2.5 credits in any class that is based around finance, economic business, and entrepreneurial business literacy,
- 15 credits in health, safety, and physical education (this noticeably requires that these credits are earned over four years specifically),
- Five credits in visual and performing arts (i.e., theater),
- Five credits in world languages (like Spanish or French),
- Five credits in the subject 21st Century Life and careers,
- And finally, technology courses are integrated throughout all classes, making up the difference to round up to 120 courses.
Whew! Those are quite the number of courses—and a student is expected to complete them all over four years.
Most high schools require that students pass their classes properly, i.e., you would need to pass Algebra I before moving on to Algebra II. In rare cases, however, a student can take multiple levels of the same class to get their curriculum over sooner.’
In any case, a school expects a student to complete these classes and collect these credits over four years. If you want to graduate early, you will have to make some concessions by passing multiple levels of classes within the same semester.
Before we get into the how of graduating high school at 17, we should address why–and why you shouldn’t.
What are the Pros and Cons of Graduating High School at 17?
Every student imagines, at some point, getting out of high school just a little earlier than people expected, perhaps to get a job, or go to college, or just be done with it all. Before we can talk about how to graduate high school, we need to discuss the benefits of doing such… and the problems.
The most apparent benefit of graduating high school at 17 is that you got out of it early. You got your high school diploma, a presumably above-average secondary education considering how much you would have to have crammed to get there. If you do it early, you can spend the last year of your adolescence relaxing, vying for a summertime job, or scouting for colleges that would love to take an early graduate. You are done with high school. You can move on to a brighter future as a qualified adult.
There are cons to this decision, however. The process will be incredibly difficult for starters, as you will likely have to dedicate yourself full time to school as you absorb the content of textbooks like lunch (if you even still have a regular lunch). If you pursue will have fewer opportunities to interact with classmates and even less time outside of school. External factors can render your hard work pointless, such as too many late classes or problems at home or with family. You would be on track at best, which isn’t a loss. But at worst, it can jeopardize your school experience entirely.
You should carefully consider if early graduation is what you want. Weigh the pros and the cons and make sure you can take on what comes ahead.
5 Steps to Graduating High School at 17
Listen closely to these steps. They may not all be available to every student, but if you can complete even one of these instructions, you are closer than most to graduating high school early at 17.
Step 1: Ask Your Teachers and Advisors
Your most important step to take is to ask your teachers, advisors, guidance counselor, and whomever else is in charge of handling graduation if it is possible in the first place for you to graduate early. Some schools and institutions will make exceptions for students interested or offer programs that offer a specific, pre-made plan to accomplish this task. At the very least, they will direct you to opportunities and options to allow you to move forward.
However, some schools do not allow fast lateral movement up the school ladder. Unfortunately, if this is the case, there is very little you can do to graduate any earlier.
Step 2: Buckle Down and Study Hard
There is no easy way to graduate early, so you need to study hard. At the possible cost of your school free time, you have to get immersed in the realm of school-issued textbooks and online material. You need to be present and aware in every classroom for every lecture.
Do not study too hard, however. Overstudying can seriously exhaust you and make it much more difficult to complete high school at all, let alone early. Overstudying for a class that will not make you graduate any sooner is also a complete waste of time and energy.
Step 3: Take as Many Classes as Possible
Schools that allow students to choose which classes to take for a semester or a year may let you take several classes a semester; a schedule or several obtainable credits usually limit your choices as a student at a time. Pursue as many classes as your study schedule and regular school schedule may allow if you want to graduate early.
If your class schedule can allow several core classes as well as electives, spread out your choices by difficulty: in other words, don’t drown yourself in challenging courses a semester, but rather, give yourself a few key classes and then some other, more manageable classes.
Step 4: Pursue Extracurricular Activities
Instead of hoisting students in class all day for credit, some schools allow some credit or allowance by taking extracurricular activities or classes, such as an extra class, a club, or activity outside of school. Of all options, this should be taken if available: not only does it help with schoolwork, but it can also help outside of school. Much like studying and taking regular classes, however, this will cut into your free time, but at least you may be doing something else than reading textbooks and listening to lectures.
Step 5: Enjoy Your Graduation
Here is your diploma, you go-getter! If you are willing to accept these steps and pass them with flying colors, you have successfully cut your path through early graduation. Congrats!
Wrapping Things Up: Can You Graduate High School at 17?
It is quite possible to graduate high school at 17. It will take a Herculean amount of work for a high school and a strong, clear focus on getting what you want. However, if you are persistent in getting your diploma at such a young age, and if your school is just as willing to let you try, you may graduate from your high school early!