Grab your “Get Out of School Free” card now

Students reveal why (and how) they graduated early

As second semester is now in full swing, many students have been feeling the brunt of learning new material, studying for more tests, and pulling more all nighters just to keep up. For some, it seems as if there is no end in sight.

What if there was a way to make all of it- the stress, the homework, the all nighters- come to a screeching halt? What if there was a way to expedite one’s time at Jones? To snag a “Get Out Of School Free” card?

For these three students, there was: graduating early.

Rachel Williams ‘17 technically began high school as a 7th grader at Kenwood Academy’s academic center, allowing her to obtain multiple high school credits before she started at Jones in 9th grade. Williams collected enough credits to graduate one semester before her peers.

I was actually able to graduate at the end of junior year because I had all of my required credits, but I wanted to stick around for my last season of high school volleyball,” explained Williams.

Taking into consideration her recruitment to Babson College’s volleyball program next fall, her passion for the sport was large factor in her decision to graduate early.

“I wanted to graduate early so that I could really focus on training for volleyball and rehabilitation,” said Williams. “I recently had surgery on my ankle, and considering the fact I’m playing volleyball in college, I really wanted to be physically ready.”

With her schedule now open, Williams plans to balance her time between physical therapy, applying for scholarships, looking for a job, and helping care for her grandmother, who is in the early stages of dementia. While she has taken on a large amount of responsibility, the experience has already been enlightening and eye opening for her, allowing her to dabble in new hobbies.

While Williams recommends graduating early, she advises that any student considering it should make sure they have a solid plan as far as college and what they want to do with their downtime and academics.

Jessica Enhelder ‘17 has similar advice for those thinking about shortening their high school career.

“If you’re ready for [graduating early], it’s a great idea,” said Enhelder. “I am mentally ready for it and ready to be independent but if that’s not [for] you, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Because she came into high school with 6 credits from Taft Academic Center, Enhelder was able to make a last minute decision to leave her class of 2018 behind and graduate a year early with the class of 2017.

“Setting up my graduation was definitely not an easy process for me, because my decision to graduate early was so last minute,” said Enhelder. “I only started the process to graduate in October [of junior year] so the entire thing has been very rushed.”

Though the end of her time at Jones is coming to a close, Enhelder feels like she’s had a full high school experience.

“I’ve basically been in high school since 7th grade so I feel like I’ve had that experience,” said Enhelder. “I’m also involved with all the senior activities this year so I’m not missing much.”

As for her time after Jones, Enhelder doesn’t plan to take time off.

“I’ve applied to 10 or 11 colleges and I’m waiting to hear back from 8 of them,” Enhelder says of her college plan. “My first choice is Miami of Ohio.”

For the students who weren’t able to walk in on their first day of high school with a few credits under their belt, fear not. Hannah Starbuck ‘17 was also in that position, and was still able to graduate a semester before her peers.

“It’s all about being smart with the classes you really need to take,” said Starbuck. “I evaluated my credits my junior year and realized I only really needed my English IV credit and a few electives. I was able to take my remaining credits through an online honors course that works with CPS and double up on credits my last semester at Jones.”

Starbuck only had to receive help from her counselor and approval from administration in order to graduate early. However, she did find the online coursework more time consuming than an in school class, and occasionally struggled with it throughout her junior and senior year.

“The difficult part was juggling [these classes with] my existing Jones classes, as well as my part time job out of school,” said Starbuck.

For Starbuck, graduating early was all about being able to have more time to work, travel, and learn about herself before pursuing a higher education. With her newfound extra time, Starbuck has been working in numerous jobs and taking language classes to prepare for her travels this year. In March, she will head to Madrid, visiting a family friend who plans to mentor her in “his world of language, art, music and fashion.”

“I’ve always been one for getting ahead and advocating for myself in any way possible, and making the effort to personalize my path in education gave me more control of my life overall,” said Starbuck.

While she has applied to a few colleges, Starbuck explained that at the moment she is more focused on figuring out what she really wants to do before investing in a higher education. While she has only been out of school for a little over a month, Starbuck has already been able to take those first steps.

“High school is not for everyone and certainly wasn’t for me,” explained Starbuck. “I would recommend early graduation for anyone who wants to take control of their life and who are ready to start their adult paths.”

While Toni Smith ‘17 will still be graduating with her class, she has only had to come to school for one class this year to meet her graduation requirements.

“I set my classes up right freshman through junior year so I only had to take an English class this year,” Smith said. “I wish I had known sooner [that this was an option] because I would have taken an extra class my junior year. It’s really easy [to meet the graduation requirements] because I didn’t really know I was doing it until halfway through last year.”

In her new free time, Smith has been working a part time job and has recently started working full time.

“That’s why I wanted to only take one class this year, because I needed to work,” explained Smith. “I’m working at an auto shop and as a restaurant hostess.”

Despite her hectic work schedule, Smith’s college plans have been positively impacted by this choice.

“I was recently accepted at my first choice school,” Smith said, “And I feel like working this year has made me stand out [in the admissions process].”

Asa McNaughton, a former member of the class of 2018, was able to leave high school in the dust without ever receiving a diploma. While almost all colleges require graduation from high school, McNaughton found a program that let him bypass the last year and a half of Jones and head straight to Simon’s Rock, an “Early College” within Bard College in New York.

“I was able to transfer out midway through [junior] year,” said McNaughton. “I’m taking college classes, but most of the people here are 17 or 18.”

This unique option gave McNaughton exactly what he was looking for when he decided he needed a way out his sophomore year.

“I was really unhappy,”  said McNaughton. “I considered transferring to other high schools or dropping out. I got a mass email from [Simon’s Rock] and the more I looked into it, the better it sounded.”

While his time in high school was short, McNaughton believes he got enough of a high school experience for him.

“I’m not a prom or big dance kind of person,” said McNaughton. “I’m really happy here so I don’t think I missed out on anything important.”

His one piece of advice for prospective early grads- know yourself and your level of readiness.

“I would say this is a great option if you’re ready for it,” McNaughton said. “It’s not just enough to be ready academically; you have to be in the right mindset to start college and all of the social implications that go along with it.”