How to graduate high school early: 4 ways to finish high school at age 16

How to graduate high school early is one of the major questions that students and parents ask me. Many kids are tired of spending their life in a classroom and do not understand why they cannot finish high school early. Well, the news is that you can.

Not all children are meant to sit in school until the age of 18. Even students who are successful academically would love to have a choice.

During my time as a public high school teacher, I explained the European school system to my students and asked them if they would chose to graduate  high school early if they had a choice.

To my surprise, 99 percent of all students answered yes. They would rather finish high school early and move on to something else. Even my grade A honor students said that, given the choice, they would choose to finish high school at the age of 16.

My honors students explained to me that after 10 years of being in school, they were ready to join the real world and to do something meaningful. Many said that while they enjoyed the academics, they would love to be able to do something with their hands, “something real.”

When I asked my students if they would not miss the social aspect after finishing high school early, they said, “we would not miss all the drama.”

Even in China, especially in rural areas, students can attend a vocational school at the age of 16. So why do students in the United States have to be 18 before they can finish high school early?

The reality is that you do not have to be 18 in order to graduate from high school.

The 4 major ways how to graduate high school early

There are four major ways to finish high school early at the age of 16. The shortest and most efficient way is taking the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination). Another way is to complete your high school graduation courses early. The third way is to contact your local college or vocational school to find out what they require. Lastly, some of my former students continued on to a school that allowed them part-time school attendance so that they could have more time completing courses (at a faster pace) at home.

1. How to finish high school early at your school

Students are allowed to graduate from high school at the age of 16 once they have completed their high school graduation requirements. Depending on each school district, those graduation requirements might include numerous courses in English, Math, the Sciences, Foreign Languages, and more. However, once those graduation requirements are met, there is no reason for a school to force you to stay there.

In your quest to finish high school early, it is important to understand that public schools get paid per student attendance. The reality is students don’t even have to be in school or get decent grades in order for schools to get paid. A fake absence excuse or a report card filled with Fs still earns the school thousands of dollars.

Take action — and responsibility

When you approach your school counselor to inquire about how to finish your high school early, know that you might not get the answer that you are looking for.

I tell any student or parents that come to my school for a consultation that the best way to prove that a student is ready to graduate high school early is to take responsibility.

Get everything on paper! Document everything on how to graduate high school early. Do not rely on words of teachers or school counselors. Find out what your graduation requirements are from documents provided by your district or your school. Have your own school records and mark off which courses you still need in order to finish high school.

Once you know what courses are missing, research whether you can take those courses faster at another school. You can take summer courses or evening classes at an adult school or college. Instead of six months, some of these courses are completed in six weeks.

If you do want to graduate early from your high school, you will need to work with your counselor to have those courses approved. You can also ask if taking online courses is accepted.

Remember, most successful people know: Where there is a will, there is a way.  That certainly applies to the question on how you can graduate high school early.

2. Finish high school early at a private school or public independent school

All across the United States, there are private schools or public independent schools who are willing to work with your needs. If your high school is not giving you answers as to how to graduate high school early, look for another school that is willing to do so.

At this point, we do not recommend online schools as your major school to be enrolled in since it is questionable whether or not that high school diploma would be accepted by future schools or employers.

However, if you search for independent private schools or public schools in your area, you might find a school that is more interested in your personal success rather than making money.

Some of our students who were ready to join a bigger school community attended public charter schools that allowed them to attend school two or three days a week and do something else and work on their own interests during the other days.

These unique programs allowed my former students to continue their career as ice-skating champions or artists. One student became the youngest yoga master in the United States at the age of 16.

3. Attend a vocational school or college to finish your high school requirements

Most vocational schools and colleges differ in how much they are working with students at the age of 16. However, since Europe has paid apprenticeship programs for young adults at the age of 16, more and more institutions in the United States are trying new ways.

Research online, call vocational schools or colleges nearby, or talk to a counselor personally at the vocational school or college to find out what programs they offer for someone at the age of 16.

Many post high school institutions are willing to offer you something that will help you to graduate from high school early. Stay open minded. Instead of the all-or-nothing thinking (high school or nothing), remember that there is a middle way.

4. How to graduate high school early with the CHSPE

In California, you can take the CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) as early as 15 as long as you are in the second half of your 10th grade. Once you pass the CHSPE, you have the equivalency to a high school diploma and you are finished with high school.

“The U.S. Department of Education, including the Federal Student Aid Office, recognizes the CHSPE as the equivalent of a high school diploma in applications for federal financial aid. All persons and institutions subject to California law that require a high school diploma for any purpose must accept the certificate as satisfying the requirement.”

The CHSPE is recognized as a high school diploma by all higher education institutions in California. While you can choose to stay in school after passing the CHSPE, it opens new doors for you to attend college or get a job.

The CHSPE is not the GED. The CHSPE is actually easier. The test only consists of a English, Math, and an Essay Writing section. There are many preparation materials available in order to prepare for the CHSPE.

California public high schools are supposed to inform their students and the parents of the CHSPE option and information about how to graduate high school early. However, most schools keep that information hidden among hundreds of district school papers and most students are not aware of it.