2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Not Graduating from HS

I’m currently a high school sophomore. I'm currently planning on applying to colleges next year (a year early, as a junior), and am currently making class decisions for next year. I was wondering how important it is to colleges that I meet my high school’s stated graduation requirements. For reference, I’m currently planning to meet requirements, but I believe that I can run a substantially larger and more deeply interesting extracurricular project next year if I drop that burden. I have a 1600 on the SAT and plan to be teaching myself content in the areas I’m interested in up to the graduate level, so this would not represent a failure to pursue academic opportunities. Moreover, if I don’t meet high school graduation requirements, I still plan to obtain a high school diploma equivalent and take several AP/college level classes next year. Given that context, I’d like to know if colleges would have an issue with me applying without a full diploma, or if you would prefer that I do obtain a diploma even with these circumstances. Thanks for your time, and have a wonderful day.

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2 answers

2 years ago[edited]

If you have challenged yourself all you can and feel you can get into the best colleges, then I would research each school and see what their HS course work requirement are.

Regardless of your test score, some top colleges like Harvard fully expect you to have completed 4 years of English including evidence of expository writing, 4 years of Math, 4 years of a single foreign language, 4 years of a Science including Bio,Chem, Physics and 1 AP in either 3, and 3 years of history including Euro and American history.

If you are applying to an Ivy or Elite or Top Liberal Arts colleges, what they are selling is not a degree but a 4 year life altering experience that will challenge you not only academically, but socially. To thrive on a such a campus, you will be fully expected to contribute to the quality of life on the campus either by engaging in school activities like writing for the newspaper, playing a sport, holding leadership positions in clubs, traveling abroad and learning a new language/culture and representing the school as an ambassador wherever you are. They are all looking for great people that have other people's interests at heart. People that want to make the world a better place and are committed to a life of service.

So that is why it is difficult to get accepted into these places. What I'm saying is that it's not a meritocracy and your perfect SAT score will not guaranty anything. When close to 60,000 highly qualified self selecting students can apply to one Ivy, it's a fairly known fact that there are more applicants with perfect grades and test scores than there are seats to be filled. Top Schools have very complicated admissions rubrics and checklists of applicants they are looking to admit for the few coveted spots that are available. If you are not a ALDC or hook applicant, then up to 60% of the seats are already spoken for. And the rest have to compete against other highly qualified students that have excellent honors, awards, commendations, essays, ECs, leadership and community service and talents and skills. Some have national level achievement as well.

No one can tell you what to do but since some of these schools are 250-350 years old, there is a lot of data on not only what kinds of students they want but what it takes to get admitted into these schools these days. That is why I think CollegeVine has such a wide reach and is a trusted resources for not only Americans but International kids.

Some families have been grooming their kids since pre-school to ensure they get into the right private grammar schools and boarding schools when they are in HS. They figure out what quirky sport(s) they have to play, whether that is rowing, lacrosse, water polo or sailing in their early teens so they have a spot on the Varsity HS teams that recruiters go to fill their rosters. And this is not just Harvard, recruiting happens even at a tiny college like Caltech. I had a number of zoom calls with the head Water Polo coach at Caltech with like 50 geeky WaterPolo girls from all over the country before deciding that I wanted to apply to different schools.

I would seriously be asking different questions than the one you posted. I would ask, what am I giving up by not curating the best possible academic and EC narrative I can during my time in HS in order to get into my top choice college a year early?

For me, I felt that enduring 3 semesters of remote learning was both mentally debilitating and the experience robbed my of my high school experience. Even though I had amazing grades, test scores, ECs, essays and recommendations that helped me get into Columbia University ED, I decided to take a gap year because I want to feel safe on campus and not endure more remote learning. So Columbia approved my GAP year and allowed me to go to a top boarding school for a year where I could have a social life, write for various publications, take 15 college level classes at my own choosing, and experience living in a dorm and eating in dining halls like a normal human being at a table with friends. I'm not like most people because I don't feel any rush to power through college. Rather, I'm setting myself up for a greater college experience because I'm a better writer, thinker and human being than I was a year ago. My renewed optimism and confidence in myself will ensure I won't be burdened by the Columbia Core Curriculum and that I'll be able to thrive while participating in other aspects of college life besides studying.

I wish you the best of luck in figuring out your future. Some of us can't wait to leave home and grow up and jump into college. Others want to savor the journey and make it as memorable as possible.

2 years ago

Hi, thank you for asking your question! I agree 100% with @CameronBameron here. The decision t0 graduate high school early is not to be taken lightly, especially since it is such a critical time in ones social and personal development. Additionally, having a 1600 on the SAT in no way guarantees ones admission to a top school -- which you seem to know give that you stated you are working on a potentially very successful project in your field of interest. I would check out this livestream to see what it takes to get into Elite Universities. Additionally, here is a blog post with our recommendations if you decide to graduate early.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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