How to Graduate Early

To start off, I do NOT recommend anyone doing this in high school unless you’re in a global pandemic (which I hope is over by the time you read this), have a million dollar empire ahead of you (lucky), or just have a shitty home situation. Think first about why you’re doing this in the first place.

For college, however, this is a great way to save money, support your family, or move to another venture - I’m thinking of trying to shave a year or two off college myself.

High School

You’ll need to look at your high school’s graduation requirements. Typically, this means you’ll have to be very efficient in terms of accumulating credits and fulfilling all the requirements, and sometimes might have to do weird things like taking two English classes in a year. A sample schedule at Alhambra (my home high school) may look like this:

9: English, Modern World, Alg 2/Trig, Biology, Spanish I, PE
10: English 10 H, AP Stat, AP CS P, Chemistry, AP Physics, Spanish II, PE
11: AP Eng Lang, AP Eng Lit, APush, AP Gov/Econ, AP CS A, Precalc


  • Faster time to jump ahead into the workforce.
  • For those who loathe their parents…freedom?
  • Prestige that you’re younger?? (wtf does that even mean?)


  • Less time to develop profile for college app season (that is, if you’re going)
  • You have to adult faster… (bills, taxes, emotions)
  • Out of place socially (especially with a huge age gap)
  • Miss out on childhood (trust me, schedules get BOOKED).
  • Less time to save money for college.
  • If you’re not at least 18, you’re restricted on a lot of things.
  • I don’t even think I’ve mentioned them all.

If you’re in California, you’re in luck! If you really want a foulproof method, start looking at CSUs that are not impacted and that you’re practically guaranteed admission to (remember this is still a stats game)


The steps really depend on when you decide you want to accelerate. If you’re in high school, this is as simple as taking as many college-level classes as possible, whether that be through AP, IB, CLEP, or dual enrollment. The best way is to see if certain community college classes transfer over to the school of your choice, and try to clear the general education / lower division classes. Worse comes to worse, it becomes elective credit / looks good on college apps.

If you’re already in college, this is simply just a matter of strategically planning out your schedule way in advance and taking advantage of summer terms. You may have to take more units per semester and have a harder course load, but it comes at a tradeoff.


  • You save a lot of money (via tuition and housing).
  • Easier time-wise if someone requires your aid.
  • Better opportunity cost to jump into the job market or pursue a passion.
  • Can save up for grad school.


  • More units per semester (usually)
  • “Losing” college time for clubs, internship cycles
  • You have your whole life to work.

Final Thoughts

Seriously, even if you were a genius (although I doubt you’d be reading this if you were) I really wouldn’t want to rush my way into adulthood.

Special thanks to Anya Macomber for sending her three year high school schedule over.

This article is part of a whole guide to getting into college. View it here!