Posted by ICON School on Mar 5, 2024 8:52:00 AM

high school students trying to graduate early

Many students only dream of finishing high school early, not realizing that it’s very possible to do so, especially in Idaho. Understanding 'how to graduate early from high school' can be an exciting and challenging process, but if you have the drive to do so and are in a program that supports you, you can achieve it! The key to success is understanding why you want to graduate early and creating a solid plan to make it happen.


High school students decide to graduate early for many reasons, and most of them boil down to getting a jumpstart on life after high school. Here are some reasons you might be considering early graduation:

“High School Isn’t Enough of a Challenge.”

We hear this a lot from students enrolled in ICON’s programs. Many high school students don’t feel challenged by their high school’s curriculum. These are usually students who are eager to get hands-on practical experience from a trade school or who thrive in an elevated academic environment like college.

“I’m Ready to Start My Career.”

Sometimes, high school students already have a plan for their career and are anxious to get started. Some people know their career path could take many years of study and training (medicine, law, etc.). Others might already have an internship or job opportunity lined up.

Through Idaho’s Fast Forward program, Idaho students can work at the pace that makes the most sense for their life and career goals. Advanced Opportunities are also perfect for these types of students.

“I Want Extra Time to Explore Career Options.”

Determining what’s next after high school is indeed a significant decision. With the vast array of career paths available, it's understandable that many high schoolers need more time to make an informed choice. This is one of the key reasons why the concept of a "gap year" is gaining traction among students. A gap year offers a valuable period for young individuals to explore and understand their interests and goals before committing to a specific career or educational path.

During a gap year, students have the opportunity to engage in various activities that can provide both personal growth and career insight. Here are some expanded options:

  1. Internships: These offer practical experience in a particular field or industry. An internship can be an eye-opener, helping students understand the day-to-day realities of a profession. It can either solidify their interest in that field or lead them to realize it's not the right fit.
  2. Volunteering: This can be a deeply rewarding experience, offering insights into different societal issues and sectors. Whether it’s working with a charity, participating in community service, or contributing to environmental conservation efforts, volunteering helps in developing new skills and broadening one’s perspective.
  3. Job Shadowing: This involves following a professional in their daily work. It's a chance to observe the practical aspects of a job and ask questions about the career path, work environment, and industry dynamics.
  4. Class Auditing: Auditing classes at a local college or university can be an excellent way to explore academic interests without the pressure of grades. It allows students to delve into subjects they’re curious about and gain a better understanding of what a college curriculum might look like.
  5. Traveling: Exploring new places and cultures can be immensely educational. Traveling fosters independence, adaptability, and a broader worldview. It can also expose one to different career paths and educational opportunities not previously considered.
  6. Creative Pursuits and Personal Projects: A gap year can be a time to explore artistic talents or entrepreneurial ideas. Engaging in creative activities or starting a small project can reveal innate passions and potential career paths.
  7. Skill Development Programs: Enrolling in courses to learn new skills, whether it's a foreign language, coding, culinary arts, or any other skill, can open up new interests and career options.
  8. Networking and Informational Interviews: Utilizing this time to connect with professionals and conduct informational interviews can provide valuable insights into various careers and the paths to get there.

An image of students who knew how to graduate from high school early enjoy a gap year traveling.

In essence, a gap year is not just about taking a break from academics; it’s a strategic pause to gain experiences and insights that shape one’s future. For students learning 'how to graduate early from high school,' it’s crucial to have a plan for their gap year that aligns with their long-term goals. Whether it's gaining practical experience, exploring new interests, or simply taking time to understand their aspirations better, a well-planned gap year can be immensely beneficial.


There are specific steps to graduating early, and it’s important to understand what those are so you can make a plan. It’s best to work backward, starting with when you want to graduate. 

1. Set a Graduation Date

How much time do you need for your plans after high school? A semester? A year? Two years? Discuss this with your parents and a guidance counselor to determine the best approach for 'how to graduate early from high school.' If you are in middle school, you can start taking advanced classes to cut down your time in high school. Once you settle on a timeline that aligns with your early graduation goal, you can pick your official graduation date.

2. Identify Courses, Number of Credits, and Other Requirements 

Meet with a school guidance counselor about the number of credits you need and courses you’ll need to take. Beyond the courses and number of credits, some schools may have additional requirements such as exams or projects. 

If there is a specific school you want to earn your diploma from, there may be specific requirements in order to graduate from that school. ICON and other online public education providers, colleges, and universities offer technical competency credits, dual credit, or advanced placement courses that can get you on track and help you get ahead.  

3. Determine Any Specific College Requirements

If you’re looking at certain college programs, be sure to research any specific admissions requirements they might have. Many colleges have required courses and credits above and beyond basic high school graduation requirements. This is especially true for more competitive colleges. For example, your dream university might require three years of English instead of two. 

4. Pull Together Current Transcripts and Recommendation Letters

For an accelerated program, you’ll likely need to provide current academic transcripts and recommendations. Ask your current school to provide you with three to five official transcripts so you have them on hand when submitting applications. Also, be thinking about who to ask for recommendations. You can ask teachers, mentors, and coaches who know you well and will vouch for your character and aptitude.

5. Scope Out Your Options and Apply for Programs

There are many great programs out there to help you achieve your goal of graduating early from high school. ICON is one of those, as we offer options for all Idaho students looking to graduate early. Free online schools like ICON also offer advanced opportunities, including dual credits, technical competency credits, IB programs, and more.

This allows ambitious students to get ahead on college credits before they even start college. Whether you want to finish college quickly or know that you have a long program ahead of you, starting your higher education with credits already under your belt makes a world of difference. 

6. Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Once you’ve decided on a program and overall plan for early graduation, it’s time to make a schedule and stick to it. Ideally, the program you’ve chosen involves a flexible schedule. Because of this, it’s important to stay motivated and hold yourself accountable to your timeline. Take advantage of all the time you have, even if that means summer school. It will all be worth it once you get that diploma!

Taking College Courses While Still in Highschool: The Stats

The performance of early high school graduates in college shows some interesting trends, particularly for those who participate in early college programs. Research indicates that students who are part of early-college high school programs are more likely to enroll in and complete college compared to their peers in traditional high schools.

A study by the American Institutes for Research found that students in early-college programs were likelier to enroll in college and complete a degree within six years of high school graduation. This advantage was especially pronounced in two-year colleges. For instance, 20.7% of early-college students had earned bachelor’s degrees four years after their expected high school graduation, compared to just 10.9% in the control group. The study also suggested that earning college credit in high school was a significant factor in these outcomes.

Another report, also examining early-college high school graduates, revealed that nearly 25% of these students earned a college degree (typically an associate degree) two years after graduation, in contrast to just 5% of their peers from regular high schools. It was noted that 81% of early-college high school students enrolled in college, compared to 72% of students in a control group.

Moreover, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center provides broader context by showing that national four-year and six-year college completion rates have been improving, although disparities remain based on enrollment intensity (full-time vs. part-time). For example, 48.8% of full-time starters completed a postsecondary credential by year four and 67.7% by year six. In contrast, only about 20% of part-time starters completed a credential by year four.

These statistics suggest that early college programs can positively impact college enrollment and completion rates, especially in comparison to traditional high school paths. The ability to earn college credits while still in high school appears to be a significant factor in this success.

How To Graduate Highschool Early From High School With ICON

There are many different reasons why a student decides to finish high school early, but all those reasons meet on a similar path. What matters most is knowing what your motivation is and having a plan in place for 'how to graduate early from high school.' Familiarize yourself with graduation requirements, accelerated programs, advanced opportunities, and application processes. Make sure to manage your time well and ask for help when you need it.

Looking for a flexible program that will help you graduate early? ICON offers excellent flexibility for your unique needs and can provide you with the resources you need to graduate early (including a computer!). 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you on your journey to early graduation.

New Call-to-action

ICON School

Written by ICON School

Please Leave a Comment: