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How to Distinguish Yourself in Your College Applications as an Early High School Graduate

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More students are learning about and taking advantage of early graduation opportunities across the United States. Some states offer exams to sophomores and juniors that give them clearance to graduate early if they pass. The California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE), for example, is available to High School students in California who would like to get a headstart on applying for college or joining the workforce. If students pass, they receive a Certificate of Proficiency, which is equivalent to a High School diploma. 


If you’re anything like we were at sixteen, you’re probably itching to graduate and start the next chapter of your life. If you envision your next chapter on a college campus, then you will have to start the college application process in your junior year (which likely means starting the search process in your sophomore year). You will have one less year of English class and writing experience under your belt as compared to most fellow applicants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still submit a strong and distinct college application.

We recommend addressing your early graduation in the Additional Information essay section available to you in most college applications, including the Common App.

While your personal statement should serve to reveal information about your background, character, and/or strengths, your additional information essay should address anything unusual in your academic record. 

Some questions you may want to think about as you begin drafting your essay:

  • Why did you choose to graduate early from high school? 
  • How did you come to this decision?
  • How do you hope this decision will serve you in the future?

Some common reasons why students choose to graduate early:

  • To seek a more rigorous and challenging curriculum at the collegiate level
  • To better balance schooling with a career path, such as competitive sports or performing arts.
  • To pursue a worldly education (a.k.a. travel the globe).
  • To start and/or dedicate more time to a business endeavor.
  • They have already completed the high school curriculum at an accelerated pace as a homeschooled student.

If part of your reasoning for graduating early was escaping a toxic environment, whether that be at home, in your community, or at your school, you can certainly address those factors in your essay, but focus on what you learned, what you’ve taken away from the experience(s), and your vision for the future. 

Remember, admissions officers will expect your writing skills to be on par with the high school seniors submitting applications alongside you, so it’s in your best interest to put time and consideration into your drafts (i.e. don’t leave them ‘til the last minute)!

We’re standing by to offer you an unbiased opinion on your draft!
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