More Fairmont students choose to graduate early

More Fairmont students choose to graduate early

Thirty-six Fairmont students decided to graduate in January 2012.

Once seniors finish the first half of the school year, the eagerness to graduate starts to arise. Some get so anxious that they even count down the days until graduation. For a few, though, this countdown doesn’t have to be as long. If students are willing to meet the graduation requirements early and have a strong desire to start their post-high school lives sooner than normal, it’s possible to graduate early.

Fairmont High School reports that 36 members of the Class of 2012 graduated in January. In addition, at least three juniors have declared their intention to graduate at the end of this school year.

The number of students graduating early has been rising over the past 10 years, and Fairmont Guidance Counseling Department Chair David Elliott has an idea to why this is happening.

“A few early grads who are 18 years old tell me that they’re earning money to pay living expenses, and some are moving out of their homes and living independently. Also, many of these students are starting college in January, getting half a year of course work completed by the end of the regular school year,” he said. “Nearly all of them are working part-time or even full-time to earn money for college or living expenses and a few have enlisted in the military and have headed off to basic training.”

Although this decision may sound difficult for some students, the process is actually quite simple. Elliott says there are just a few steps students have to take to begin the process.

“To start the process, students usually come either the end of their junior year if they’re graduating early their senior year, or at the end of their sophomore year if they’re graduating early their junior year. They must get an early graduation form from their counselor’s office,” Elliott said. “But if students feel at the last minute, such as after winter break of their junior year, that they want to graduate early, they’re still welcome to talk to their counselor and discuss graduating early.”

Because these students have to earn the same 21.5 credits required of all other graduates, they must take the time to fill out the form, which must be signed by the early graduates’ parents as well. “We feel that parents should be required to sign the form because it’s important they know what is going on in their child’s educational life and are on the same page with their child’s decisions,” said Elliott.

Elliott said counselors not only help the students through the paperwork and formalities of the process, they try to mentor these students as well. “Mainly, our jobs as counselors are to review our students’ transcripts to ensure eligibility for graduation and to help students make the best decisions about their schedules and plans for higher education and careers,” he said.

Reasons for graduating early

Each student who chooses to get his diploma early has specific reasons for doing so. Tyler Edmondson, who left Fairmont midway through his senior year and began at Sinclair Community College on Jan. 9, simply wants to get a head start in his life. “I’m graduating early so I can start college earlier and be able to work more,” he said.

After it’s all said and done, though, Edmondson knows his decision won’t be so simple. “Since I’m 17, I don’t get financial aid, so I’ll have to balance two jobs with college in order to pay for my classes,” he said. “Also, it’s kind of a bummer that I won’t be able to see all of my friends because I’ll be so busy.”

Edmondson says he knows his life won’t be easy at first, but he’ll always be working to complete his goals. “I plan to go to Sinclair for two years and then transfer to the University of Cincinnati,” he said.

While some students work to get a head start on achieving their goals, others have to take on new and unknown challenges in order to even go to college. Senior Lauren Lee finished early in order to join the military. “The job that I want to do in the Army is only available if I leave in February,” she said.

Since money is a main priority when it comes to going to college, some students have to do extra work to get money for school. Lee has decided that the Army will help her in the end. “I really want to go to college and receive my doctorate, but I don’t have the money to pay for all the schooling,” she said. “I also would love to travel, so I figured joining the Army will help me do everything that I wish to do.”

Weighing the pros and cons

For some students, graduating early during senior year isn’t early enough; they decide to start talking to their counselors during their sophomore year and graduate at the end of their junior year. Junior Shannon Brown was interested by this idea and took action.

“I’ve always been very driven and felt like I’m stuck a few steps behind where I want to be,” said Brown. “Also, I have not enjoyed high school at all. So when I discovered that I had enough credits to graduate without taking any extra classes and still get an honors diploma; it was an easy decision to make.”

Brown also feels her decision allows her to end her high school career on a good note. “I don’t have to write a senior research paper and I have two semesters’ worth of exams I don’t have to take to take,” she said. “A lot of people think that I’m missing out on being a real senior, but you still get all the senior perks and experiences.”

But Fairmont English Department Chair Penni Meyer feels teens who skip their senior year may end up regretting it. “If students are going to college, they’re hurting themselves by not learning the process of how to write a research paper and document sources correctly,” she said. “If students see avoiding the research paper as a ‘perk,’ then they’re not looking at the long-term benefits of a thorough education.”

The fantasy of leaving high school ahead of other students may appeal to some students, but there are still some disadvantages. “When graduating early, you miss out on quite a bit, like senior prom, senior pranks, walking (if you’re not walking) and the rest of your childhood,” said Lee. “In a way, I’m being rushed into my adulthood.”

Edmondson agrees and feels teens who graduate early do grow up faster than other students. “Unfortunately, you face the reality of growing up and actually starting a future immediately after high school,” he said. “Not being able to spend time with all your friends is really tough, too.” He added, however, that he thinks it will all work out once he gets used to his new schedule.

At the end of the day, Elliott feels most students should graduate with their class. “With all the extracurricular activities and experiences Fairmont offers that can really help shape students, I feel students staying in high school for all four years is an excellent idea,” he said.

But Elliott also acknowledges that some students have special circumstances. “I do believe it’s a good thing that Fairmont offers the option of students’ graduating early because of the flexibility it provides and how well it represents our diverse population.”