Throwing the cap early: Accelerated graduation gains popularity


Ian Plansker '20 stands with his flutes. Plansker is graduating two years early to pursue his music career. Photo courtesy of Plansker.

Lauren Nemeh '20, Page Editor

With an increase in competitiveness of high school students, graduating early has become a recent trend. Graduating high school early may provide students with a way to get a headstart on their future education, work or life.

According to Elliot Gunnell ’20 graduating a semester early allows for him to fully prepare for his future studies abroad. 

“The reason I’m graduating early is because I want to study for my full term abroad, I need to get paperwork done so basically in order to study where I want to go to university, I need to have my fully completed transcript,” Gunnell said.

Gunnell plans to attend a Swedish university for his major in international studies.

“I am applying to Swedish universities, they are English programs, with English professors. But it is a Swedish university so there is still a Swedish aspect,” Gunnell said.

Unlike Gunnell, Ian Plankser ’20 is graduating two years early to gain an edge in his musical career.

“I want to major in historical flute and harpsichord performance and this is a very specialized niche, that really only exists at the collegiate level, so there are no resources or opportunities for me to pursue that as a high schooler,” Plankser said.

According to Plankser, his experience at Overlands Bird Performance Institute, one of the highest esteemed and largest historical performance festivals in the nation, sparked the idea of graduating high school early.

“One of the professors actually graduated at 16 and went to MIT and they thought that it might be something I could look into, if I would be interested because they thought that I would benefit a lot from getting started in that field earlier,” Plankser said.

Similar to Plansker, Gunnell’s interest in graduating early was discovered from his Aunt, as she too graduated early.

According to Gunnell there are multiple factors to consider when graduating early to study abroad.

“(I considered) location number one, I wanted to study in Europe just because proximity to the United States. On top of that, I looked at cost, if you shop around in Europe you can find programs for $10,000 a year,” Gunnell said.

Along with cost and location, Erica Fossee ’18, who graduated a year early from South to attend the University of Southern California (USC), believes academics and the opportunities available to her in high school had an influence on her decision to graduate high school a year early.

“My decision was influenced by the courses and opportunities left for me at South. I wanted to start taking more advanced courses in different topics,” Fosse said.

According to Fossee, her experience of graduating early has allowed for immense personal growth.

“Leaving home and going to college across the country where I didn’t know anyone made me branch out and become more outgoing and confident,” said Fossee. “This is probably what I am most thankful for about going to USC, because even though there were rough times, I overall became a lot more mature and comfortable with myself.”

According to Plansker, graduating early requires planning ahead, as well as going through regular college admissions procedures.

“A lot of it has been working with my counselor, to make sure I have all the credits and I’m not missing anything,” Plansker said. “We had to recategorize me in some of the school systems, so I can apply for senior letters and college applications.” 

Although the process of graduating early may require extra planning or courses, it can allow for students to get an idea of what they can study ahead of time according to Fossee.

“I think what’s more important is that whether you graduated early or not, you should not feel pressured to know exactly what you want to study and what you want your career to be as a freshman,” Fossee said. “Take different classes to find what you are passionate about and can have a future with and don’t let anyone tell you your interests aren’t good enough.”