An Early Farewell

The positives and negatives of graduating a year early

Amber Davis

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Amber Davis poses for a picture at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park during a vacation taken partly in celebration of her high school achievements. She is holding a banner for her school of choice, Illinois State University, where she will major in Interdisciplinary Creative Technologies. (Disney Photopass)

Call me a junior with senior-level privileges. From my seventh-grade year, I knew that I wanted to get out of school as fast as I went in. I’d constantly visualize myself in the shoes of the seniors, waving to my friends on the last day of school, walking across the stage on graduation day to receive my diploma (or at least what I assumed was my diploma, but as it turns out is actually just a diploma cover), and diving into my post-high school plans not too long after. No matter how hard I tried to shake those visions from my constantly racing mind, I always seemed to revisit those scenarios over and over again.

Now, I find myself in that position. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to resist the urge to pinch myself, because it feels almost like a dream to me.

In some ways, it feels a bit scary. I have pretty much pushed my entire academic timeline a year forward, only to have my life back in its “normal” place after I finish college. Change is typically easy for me to handle, but this is not your typical circumstance of change.

People constantly ask me why I decided to graduate early. Usually, my answer is I want to finish school (including college) as soon as possible, but that is not my only reason. I wanted more of a sense of freedom; the only way I felt that I could really achieve that is by graduating early, therefore going to college and getting that freedom early. I thought about it from a standpoint of being able to hang out with friends often (when I’m not in class, of course); being able to go out and do more fun things whenever I get bored; and being able to eat what I want, when I want; among other things. Do I think, overall, it was worth all the stress and planning? Absolutely.

In order to graduate early, a semester waiver form from the guidance office is necessary; you have the option to graduate a semester or a year early. Most people who do this choose the semester option. Your signature, post-high school plans, and a few other signatures (including a parent’s) are required. I was worried about the possibility of my parents not wanting to sign it. For anyone interested in the possibility of doing what I did, I highly suggest making a mental list of reasons for wanting to do it and having a set plan in mind for what you will do after graduating. Of course, those plans can change but it’s still important to have all of your ducks in a row, so to speak; the more confident you are, the better the chance that things will work out in your favor. This was by far the lowest of my hurdles in this process.

The 7th/8th semester waiver form is the key to graduating early. The form required signatures and approval from the district to be valid. (Gavin Bearup)

Every summer since 8th grade, I took at least one class to get ahead on credits. I tend to joke about how I “had no life” back then, and to a certain extent, I wasn’t lying. I didn’t yet have an actual job, I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends or even use social media (up until this past summer)… I was just about forced to sit on YouTube watching videos about how to make the cat I don’t even have love me, or sit around stuffing my face with the first thing I saw in the pantry. I figured, why not take these classes when I have nothing better to do anyways? Unfortunately, I am one to procrastinate. That was one of many experiences to teach me the real importance of self-pacing and following deadlines. If I had spent the entire summer doing nothing except staring at the ceiling and procrastinating, I certainly wouldn’t be where I’m at right now. 

One of the hardest things about this decision was the fact that everything has been pushed a year forward, as I am going to college after I graduate. College applications, scholarship applications, placement tests, and more have been my biggest priorities this year — almost more than my current classes are. During my breaks at work, I’d find myself brainstorming ideas for various essays or filling out application forms. The hardest thing, however, is knowing that my brother will be spending his first year of high school without me being there. I had spent my freshman year online (and he spent his sixth-grade year online as well), so we were both close to each other and essentially protected from potential bullies in our first years at these new schools. This will be different for both of us. If I hadn’t decided to graduate this year, I would have rejoined the band program and taken Symphonic Band on purpose just to have a class with him.

I must say, graduating this early is a very interesting experience to live through; not everyone can say that they took this route. The dedication really needs to be present in order for a plan like this to be successful — that includes sacrificing a lot of time when you could be doing other “fun” things. Although I have a few regrets going about this, I look forward to all of the new experiences, friendships, and opportunities that I have ahead of me.