Could graduating early be an option for you?

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Courtesy of Aeddan Jones

Early Graduate Aeddan Jones, at the Ocean City Boardwalk Graduation 2021.

When thinking about high school, it is typically looked back on as the best or worst four years of someone’s life, but what if going for four years was optional?

At Stephen Decatur High School, if graduation requirements are met and credits are fulfilled, prior to when they need to be, the student can qualify to graduate with the class before them.

While some look at this as a way to begin adulthood early and get a head-start on life, others do not want to expedite the process of growing up, and wish to be an adolescent for as long as possible.

Junior Riley Cooper is a student who wishes to graduate early. “I’m okay with missing out on my senior year because of the way COVID-19 has been, and the limits it has placed on the typical high school experience,” she said.

Cooper decided during her sophomore year to pursue early graduation. She had to meet several criteria and is waiting for approval from Decatur administrators.

Typically, graduating early is something students wishing to go into law or medicine will pursue, because of the intense years of school needed to work in those fields.

But for Stephen Decatur graduate Aeddan Jones, it was all about soccer. Jones, 17, would have graduated this spring with his peers in the Class of 2021. But decided to graduate early and attend the University of Chester in England, where he would play soccer.

“My reason to graduate early had to do with sports and getting a better experience in another country, and to play at a higher level,” he said. “The conditions to graduate early weren’t that hard to meet due to the fact that I came in an advanced position academically, so the only real requirement I had to meet was to get through British Literature my junior year.”

“Overall, I do not regret my decision,” he added, “even though I did have my doubts initially, I recognized the opportunity and I took it.”

While graduating early is a great opportunity for some, others steer clear because they have to participate in all of the senior activities a year early. For some students, they have been going to school together since kindergarten; getting to graduation but not walking across the stage together at graduation can be a dealbreaker.

“The senior activities felt a bit odd to participate in, just because it wasn’t my class, and obviously people in the grade above me had built strong bonds through the years,” Jones added.

This was the primary reason for Kylie Cosman’s decision not to pursue graduating early. Cosman is a Decatur senior but she was interested in early graduation during her sophomore and junior year.

“When COVID-19 had everyone in quarantine, I really wanted to graduate early, because it wasn’t worth it between the lack of sports games, not seeing anyone and having to wear masks,” she said. “But since things have calmed down, I have been able to go to football games again and really have a senior year.”

She is still doing remote learning because of dual enrollment classes. “It was much easier to do it this way,” she added, “but going to prom and graduation with the class I’ve grown up with is very important to me.”

While it is a great opportunity to offer for students wishing to pursue a career path immediately out of high school, it isn’t for everyone. For some, Friday night lights, spirit week, field trips and report cards are symbols of being a kid. Whereas others see it as juvenile and they wish to begin adulthood as soon as possible.

For colleges, there is a slight advantage to early graduation. Colleges look for motivated, driven, and intelligent students, so getting credits done early is a sign of that. Although meeting  early graduation requirements can be difficult if the student is not good with time management and a goal setter.

Stephen Decatur has made a great option for students by enabling the right to an early graduation. By giving juniors this opportunity, students have become very successful. While it is simply an option, and not necessarily recommended for all students, it is good for those who are given opportunities to accelerate their possible careers.