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May 19, 2020

Can High School Junior Graduate This Spring?

Question: I am a junior in high school. I will be turning 18 soon and my parents and I feel that I should graduate early. They think my senior year would be a waste because what I want to pursue as my career is not as difficult. I was wondering what the process would be to getting a diploma online? How would skipping my senior year affect me?

Let's say I do get my diploma online by May (2 months from now). When will I be able to enter a college?


Most students who want to graduate at the end of 11th grade start planning well in advance. I don't even know exactly what you mean by an "online" diploma. There are definitely cyber high schools that award their own degrees, but you would actually have to take classes online through these programs to qualify. Many of the online "diploma mills" that will offer you a diploma for a fee are not legitimate, so be careful.

Here are some other avenues you can pursue:

1) Ask your school counselor about "Dual Enrollment." If your school participates in this program, you can take all or most of your senior classes at a local college (probably a community college, but options will vary). You will earn your high school diploma at the end of your senior year, but you will have also earned college credits, too. (Note, however, that some colleges will accept these credits and others won't. It depends on where you go next.) If a local community college offers courses in your intended career field, this would be a good way to get a jump on it.

2) Earn your GED. This is an alternative to a high school diploma that is awarded to students who have passed a lengthy exam. Although the GED is widely known and accepted, not all colleges will admit students who hold a GED instead of an official diploma (most, however, will). In general, a GED is not as well respected as a high school diploma, but it is still a good alternative for those who don't finish high school in the traditional way. See http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=GED_TS

3) Talk to you school counselor about early graduation. It is probably too late for you to graduate this spring, since most high schools require four years of English, and you may have had no more than three. Usually students who plan to graduate a year ahead of time will prepare for this by doubling up on English classes in 11th grade. However, perhaps your current school will allow you to take an English class over the summer and then qualify to receive a diploma once you've successfully completed it, assuming you have fulfilled all the other graduation requirements already.

It would be helpful to know what, exactly, you have chosen for your career. But note also that, at age 17, you are very young to have made a permanent decision and, by skipping your senior year of high school, you may be making it difficult for yourself to pursue new career options down the road. Moreover, by starting the college admissions process now (in April) you will be limiting your college choices and financial aid options because many deadlines have passed. Even if you do manage to wangle a diploma or GED this spring, you will be rushing into a plan that really deserves better consideration.

Surely there are some classes that you can take as a senior that will be both interesting to you and also worthwhile in the long run, even if they don't pertain directly to your current career choice. (Conversational Spanish? Auto Mechanics? Culinary Arts? Writing? Business Math?) So I urge you not to be too hasty to leave high school, but do also look into Dual Enrollment as possibly the best of both worlds.

(posted 4/6/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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