Preparing for College

Advice for Last-Minute Early Grad

Question: I am currently a high school junior and was just informed (in late January) that I have enough credits to go to college next year. I am already scheduled to take my SAT's on March 27th. What else do I need to do?

If you've just recently learned that you're eligible to graduate this spring, it seems awfully late to be starting the college process. A fruitful college search requires more time than you have now. The application deadlines for most competitive colleges have past. You won't even have your SAT results until mid-April at the earliest.

However, you can begin college in the fall, if you are willing to attend a community college or less selective school. But--if you're a strong enough student to have fulfilled graduation requirements a year early--then it sounds like you also might want to think about making a good college match and perhaps attending an institution that will challenge you, rather than just going anywhere that you can get in at the last minute.

On the other hand, if you really feel as if you've outgrown your high school curriculum and you don't want to spend another year where you are now, then you can enroll in a less-selective college or university in September, with the aim of "trading up" to another college the following fall.

Before you make any decisions, read this previous Ask the Dean column about EarlyGraduation:

Are you sure you're ready to give up all the benefits of spending your senior year with your classmates? Does your high school offer a "Dual Enrollment" option that would let you be a full-fledged senior but take all (or most) of your classes at an area college? (If that option doesn't formally exist, you may even be able to create a special program that meets your needs.) Typically, "Dual Enrollment" students take their courses on a nearby college campus but can participate in extracurricular activities at their high school, if they so choose. The college schedule often also allows them extra time to get a part-time or to pursue other interests in an in-depth way that the more rigid high school day usually doesn't.

In any case, it's impossible to give you responsible guidance without knowing a lot more about you, your academic record, your interests, and goals. However, we urge you not to rush off to college just because you have fulfilled your high school graduation requirements. Choosing a college is a decision that should take planning and a lot of thought, and there's not time left this year for either.