Early Graduation: Things to Consider Before Making a Decision


"High school sucks." Some variation of this phrase has been uttered at one point by most high school students. The homework, the tests, the drama, and having to wake up before the sunrises all culminate to form a generally stressful environment for all those who enter. But if you had the chance to shorten this stressful time from 4 years to 3, would you?

There are a growing number of students who, for one reason or another, are deciding to skip their senior year and head straight for college. Juniors who have enough credits and have taken the courses required to graduate have the option to graduate early, usually with the condition that they provide a list of the colleges they are applying/have applied to or have already been accepted to a school. This idea may peak the interest of some, but is missing your senior year really worth it? Here are some things to consider:

The High School Experience

Whether it’s its ability to relate or just some odd cultural fascination with teenagers, cheesy movies set to the backdrop of high school have become a genre in their own right. These movies showcase all the events seniors participate in a light that could convince someone who life the rest of life is pretty lackluster in comparison to those wonderful memories of prom and football games. Despite the exaggeration of these clichéd stories, they do pose an interesting question to those looking to graduate early; do you want to miss out on a final year of high school memories? The freedoms senior year provides makes many former students look back on it as their favorite year of high school, as it was an opportunity to let go and have fun before going off to college. Even if for those who aren't as keen on the whole "high school experience" as others, it’s still worth considering the benefits (or lack thereof) of having an extra year before entering the chaos of work that is college.



For many, the hardest part about going to college, especially out-of-state, is leaving their friends. Sure, it's easy to stay connected through social media, but by graduating early, you are, some ways, leaving your friends in high school for college. Even if you are going to a community college, your experiences will be largely different from those of your high schooler friends, so it may be more difficult to connect with them than when you saw each other every day and could commiserate over the English homework. This is, however, all dependent on the individual; graduating early could also have a positive effect on your friendships. Spending too much time together can oftentimes strain a relationship, so time apart could be just you need; every person is different. Maybe all your friends are seniors or you just never really got along with anyone while in high school; college is the perfect place to find people you actually connect with.



Anyone who has searched for scholarships, online or otherwise, will tell you it is quite the process. The process becomes even more complicated for those graduating early. While you are graduating the same year as the seniors in your school, you technically aren't a senior, so the wording of scholarships becomes more important than ever. If the scholarship says "open to those graduating in ___ year" or "for student who are going into their freshmen year of college"  then you're in the clear, but when it says "open to all seniors in high school," the waters become murky.  Luckily, this technicality isn't fatal to one's chances of getting scholarships; it is more of a nuisance that can usually be resolved with an email to the provider of the scholarship. In addition, there are also some scholarships specifically for early graduates, though they tend to be specific to individual states.


High school is a time of great exploration, not only of the world but of the self. It's a time of refining tastes, changing value and new experiences that leave you, more often than not, much different from who you once were. Think about yourself in your freshmen year of high school; how much did you change in the time span of one or two years? If one or two years can you change you so dramatically, what can another year do? An extra year of high school could give you some well needed time to prepare. There are some students, however, who are much more mature than those the same age as them who have outgrown the high school curriculum, and those tend to be the students that should graduate early. In the end, however, the decision of whether or not to graduate early is all up the individual. Everyone is different and there is no one formula that can decide who should and who should not skip senior year. If you are considering early graduation, the best advice I can give you is to talk to your guidance counselor and your parents to find out what path is right for you.



Fresh Place, Fresh Start!: Tips for Studying Abroad Freshman Year


Why wait to study abroad? Here are 10 reasons not to! When you start applying to colleges, you are most likely not thinking about studying abroad right away. Perhaps you have thought about studying in another country at some point in your college career, maybe during your sophomore or junior year. However, you are probably expecting your first semester at a university to be traditional, starting with orientation, move-in day, and adjustment to the typical college life. I am here to tell you that the ordinary freshman year experience is not the only option and not even necessarily the best.


Whether or not you have heard of people studying abroad so early on in their college career, it has become increasingly popular. Northeastern University’s N.U.in program sends students to one of six international locations his/her first semester. The University of Delaware World Scholars Program includes studying abroad freshman year in Rome, Italy or Madrid, Spain. Countless other institutions offer spring admission to their universities as well, with the option of spending the fall semester abroad at one of their partner institutions. There is also always the option of seeking a degree at an abroad university.


When I was applying to colleges, studying abroad first semester had never even crossed my mind. Truthfully, I hardly even knew that it was a possibility. However, I was informed of this opportunity when I was admitted to my top university second semester. I have always loved travelling and knew that I wanted to study internationally at some point during my four years at college, but going abroad my freshman year definitely seemed daunting at first. When I finally enrolled for the spring semester at my university in the United States, I applied to three different colleges abroad where I would potentially spend my first semester and ultimately chose to go to Rome, Italy. I have been here for three weeks so far and have already discovered many of the benefits of studying abroad first semester. Here is a list of the ten things I have learned so far about studying abroad and why I believe you should do so if you can, even your freshman year!


  1. The growth in maturity you experience while studying abroad is impressive. I have already noticed a change in my level of maturity, and I have been in Rome for less than a month. You will find yourself adapting to your new environment every day, and you will grow confident that you can continue to do so while travelling on weekends. If I could learn how to do laundry, cook, and navigate so quickly in Rome, you can too.


  1. Another benefit of studying abroad in a country with a different main language is that you get the chance to practice this language with locals! I took Italian for three years in high school and am taking it again this semester in Rome. Being exposed to Italian speakers every day has helped me immensely in my study of the language. Even my friends who only knew two words in Italian upon their arrival here have improved so much over these past few weeks. If you are really concerned about the language barrier, you are bound to find people who at least speak a little English. Plus, the majority of the music played here is American music, including great throwbacks, which is a major plus.



  1. One of the best parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel on weekends. Living in Europe or on another continent in general for four months makes it much easier to see the places you have dreamed of visiting. Also, when you make friends who want to travel as well, they will often introduce you to new places that you might have never otherwise seen. For instance, two of my friends and I wanted to take a day trip during our second weekend, and one of them found a place called Tivoli in Italy, which was only an hour train ride away, costing a mere two Euros. We went the next day, had a great time, and left with amazing new memories. The chance to be spontaneous in travelling is one of the highlights of studying abroad, and it gives you not only a crazy story but also a sense of independence.


  1. You will find that your sense of direction has improved dramatically within days. Living in a place with different types of roads and fewer street signs, you have to learn to get around somehow early on. Within my first three days here, I learned to find my way around pretty well. Now, having already taken weekend trips, I have realized that this skill has transcended Rome. I am now able to navigate my way through a new town or city within hours.



  1. One of the most enjoyable parts of studying abroad is meeting locals on a daily basis.  They are often very friendly, welcoming, and willing to try to communicate with you. You are bound to have a bunch of local friends on Snapchat by the end of your semester! It is incredibly interesting to live temporarily in the place they have lived their whole lives and to see how this place has shaped them. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them and to practice your language skills! You just might gain an Instagram follow or a Facebook friend in the process.


Like-minded People

  1. When you study abroad, you are introduced to a group of people with whom you are bound to have a lot in common. You will meet people with such interesting stories and will have the opportunity to build strong relationships with them, especially since you will most likely travel with people you meet while abroad.

Crazy Opportunities

  1. You will have such unique opportunities while studying abroad! I can go to class on a Monday afternoon and hang out and enjoy gelato at the Trevi Fountain on Monday night. I was introduced to an app called Scooterino, which is essentially a type of Uber used in Rome. However, instead of picking you up in cars, drivers pick you up and take you to your destination on a vespa. When I had to go to a bookstore to buy my textbooks, I was dropped off on a vespa. It was insane.

*Spontaneity is key. On a Sunday night, I got out of bed to grab a water bottle from a vending machine downstairs when a few girls told two of my friends and I about a music festival taking place down the block. I sprinted to my room, grabbed my purse, and we ran to the festival in our pajamas. We ended up spending the night dancing and singing outside in a piazza next to the Tiber River and making one of our favorite memories so far.


Food :P

  1. You will be exposed to some of the best food in the world while abroad! You can find unique, delectable dishes no matter where you choose to go. Some of the most delicious pizza and pasta are down the street from my apartment. Trust me; I take advantage of this daily. Then, there’s the gelato. Enough said.

On-Site Classes

  1. Another really cool aspect of studying abroad is the chance to take on-site classes. My art history class is based on the art and architecture of Rome and Florence during the Renaissance period, and we get to go as a class to visit the monuments we learn about in class. We even have a mandatory weekend trip to Florence with the class! These classes are not only interesting, but also incredibly informative. The feeling of walking down the streets of your new home, recognizing different buildings, and knowing about their past is nothing short of incredible.

Learning Outside the Classroom

Classes are important, and you should still do your homework, even if you are in another country for the semester. However, I have found that I have learned even more outside the classroom here than I have in my classes. Literally, I have been able to visit and learn about museums and sights like the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps, but I have also learned so much about myself and my ability to adapt to new settings. My confidence has grown in my capability of balancing my time and keeping myself on track in my daily schedule while living on my own in a foreign country. The best part is that these skills I have been developing will surpass my time here and my time in college as a whole. Being thrown into a foreign country, especially when you are a freshman in college, might sound intimidating, but with the help of friends and mentors, you will be in for one of the greatest experiences of your life!



What the Heck is a Collegiate High School?



What is an Early College High School?


Most students have never heard of a collegiate high school but it is an education route that can eventually be considered a normal high school experience in America in less than 10 years. If you have ever known or heard about a high school student taking dual credit courses, then you already have an idea of what a Collegiate High School is! First and foremost, it is a public school that gives students the opportunity to graduate with their associate's degree almost a whole month before they even receive their high school diploma. Students have actual college professors from a local community college that their school district partners with. Depending on which school a student attends, you may be on that campus all four years of high school or just two years like my school.

Because of the growing number of these schools, I believe it is difficult to have an actual number of how many exist but according to an article on the Great!Kids website they stated “  There are currently 75,000 students in 28 states attending early college high schools. No two early college high schools are alike.” (Tynan-Wood, 2016)


My Story

Before Fall 2012: 8th Grade Decisions

Once 8th grade year started for me I thought I knew exactly where I was going to high school. At the time attended a private school so I didn’t have to go there for high school. I felt that I could see into the future at the time and I saw myself at a magnet school in my school district and after getting wait listed by both of the schools within the magnet school I thought that mother was going to have to struggle putting me through private school for the next four years. I mean I was kind of happy with the idea of staying at the same school with people I knew and the variety of classes and extracurricular activities I could experience. But by the time I go to spring semester of 8th grade it had been decided that I would apply to a school called Kathryn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and then a few months later Cedar Hill Collegiate High School. Well after applying and getting in to Kathryn Gilliam High School was a little excited because I had never gone to public school before but was also not so sure about this. I mean I knew taking college classes wouldn’t be a breeze but it’s not something that I can’t do either. Then after interviewing with Cedar Hill Collegiate I was little less worried mostly because at this point I would have to watch my mom struggle just to send me to school. A few weeks went by of me thinking “Wow! I am going to attend Kathryn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy and taking college courses” Like I stated before college courses weren’t the thing I was afraid of; I actually recall having a few thoughts of somehow getting ahead so that I could knock off a few college courses. But I was still worried see this school wasn’t in the best part of town and I had never been around kids from the area or my neighborhood so it would be so very new to me. I was also worried about wearing a boring repetitive uniform for the next four years again! Ugh!


After these few weeks passed by and all of these thoughts were had, I finally received and envelope from Cedar Hill Collegiate High School but there was one problem with this envelope. It wasn’t a large one. It was a normal sized one and there wasn’t a thick pack of papers folded up in it. But I just took the biggest gulp I could take and opened it. I opened it and I had been excepted, I could now wear a normal uniform and I would still be attending school with a few people who I know. So, for the rest of eighth-grade, I was happy that I was going to a different school with so many new benefits.

That summer I had to attend two weeks of school, which they called “Summer Bridge”. Even though I had school in the middle of the summer I wasn’t too upset (surprisingly). I knew that this was a fresh new start. Yay!

Fall 2012: My Freshman Year and Beyond!

At the end of the Summer Bridge Camp, we had to take a test in order for us to take our college classes and I honestly was not too worried about it. It was basic reading and I’m like I got into this school so this shouldn’t be too hard. Boy oh boy…was I wrong I failed the test by 2 points. In that moment all I could think was woe is me. I got over it and August came and I could officially say that I was a student of Cedar Hill Collegiate High School in Cedar Hill, TX ( a suburb city in the Dallas Area) But it was not uncommon for people to fail the test so I was able to take health as my college course that first semester and we retook the test in October and I passed. We then had to take a grammar and writing one to be able to take our classes for a sophomore year and this test was an actual breeze like I expected the first one to be. So basically with this program or at least at my school we take all of our basics, a few electives, and maybe some intro courses to receive our associate's degree. So now when I reach my University in a few weeks I will be taking courses that are geared towards my actual degree.

Anyways, let’s get back to walking down memory lane. So I took health and a course called CR Study Skills. CR Study Skills is a course that teaches you about yourself and how to handle college courses a with the different things that you learn in that class. This is a Dallas County Community Colleges Courses which means that it would be named something completely different at any other college you attend. In the summer we were allowed to take college classes that were actually on the Cedar Valley College campus and that summer I took government because the other classes were full and the teacher I had been a “legit” professor in a sense. By this I mean he meant business and he required you to truly do your part. This class was total hell compared to the two easy classes I had taken. I did not do that great in his class and thought that my life at collegiate was over because I had received a D! I had never received a grade like that in my life…I was so ashamed of myself I lied to mother and told her I had received a C. I’m not quite sure how long I waited but I know I waited a really long time before I told her the truth. See when you’re enrolled at these colleges only you have access to your grades and your parents can too IF YOU give them the password. They don’t give you and your parents two separate accounts.


Speaking of Parents! I think you all should know this if you consider attending a school like this that your parents CANNOT go and talk to your college professors. They will not talk to them and probably will be offended if your parents did attempt to get in contact with them. You have to remember that the whole point of this program is not only to receive your associate's degree but also to gain good study habits and really fight for your education.

This was something that was taught to us by our biology teacher she later became our dean of instruction sophomore year. When we got to our junior year she was the person that protected us and watched out for us when we got to the Cedar Valley campus. She truly taught us that we are in control of our education we have to fight for it even if we messed up things for ourselves. She wanted to make sure we understood this because there was only so much she could do for use and she most definitely wouldn’t be able to help us in college.