Early Graduation

Early high school graduation is allowed in Indiana.  IC 20-36-5 specifically permits a waiver of minimum number of semesters required for graduation in order to allow students to graduate high school early.


Early high school graduation is allowed in Indiana.  IC 20-36-5 specifically permits a waiver of minimum number of semesters required for graduation in order to allow students to graduate high school early. Some high schools may not allow early graduation and some colleges may not admit students who have graduated early.  There are advantages and disadvantages to early high school graduation, which should all be discussed with the student and his/her parents or guardians.  Planning for early high school graduation should begin as early as possible, with a careful look at graduation requirements and what the student’s next step is in their college and career plan.


  • Early graduation may not be permitted at all high schools.
  • Some colleges may not admit students who graduate from high school early or your application may be seen as less competitive.
  • To ensure a competitive college application, students graduating early should be sure to have taken honors and AP classes.
  • Students who are interested in graduating early should meet with a school counselor to plan their course schedules as early as possible, being mindful of meeting all graduation requirements.
  • If students do intend to graduate early, it is important for them to think about what comes next and what is the next step in their college and career plan.
  • Summer school, on-line courses and courses offered outside of your high school are all possible ways of completing high school requirements in under 4 years.
  • The desire to better tailor the educational system to students’ needs is the motivation behind allowing early graduation from high school. If students are enrolled in a structured CTE program or rigorous course work such as Advanced Placement classes, then four years of high school may be necessary.  If they are not, senior year may have fewer benefits.
  • Advocates of early high school graduation say that it helps reduce state spending and can give students a jump-start on college and their careers.
  • There are students kids who are mature enough to begin college when they’re 17 years old and there are students who are not. This should be taken into account when discussing the option of early graduation with students. The drawbacks to accelerating high school may not reveal themselves until a student enters college or the workforce.
  • Disadvantages of early high school graduation:
    • It can be overwhelming trying to finish graduation requirements ahead of schedule.
    • It can also be socially isolating to be on a different path from your friends and peers.
    • Less time to develop a competitive college application profile.
    • If many classes are taken simultaneously, students may not achieve grades as high as those they could achieve if they had more time to devote to individual classes.
    • Limited time for extracurricular activities and leadership opportunities
    • Students will miss out on many perks seniors enjoy, such as ceremonies, prom, and other opportunities for recognition.
    • Some financial aid opportunities are only available to graduating seniors.
    • Students may not be emotionally ready for college or the work force.
  • The Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship is an educational benefit for students who graduate from a publicly supported high school at least one year early, after December 31, 2010. This one-time scholarship pays $4,000. The scholarship may be used toward tuition and fees and any remaining funds shall be remitted to the student. The scholarship may not be used for remedial course work.



  • Q: If you have a junior graduate at the end of the year, what Cohort are they considered to be a part of?
    • A: They stay in the same cohort. We actually just had a cohort question last week and were told that students never change cohorts.
  • Q: We have several juniors who plan to graduate at the end of this school year.  At your school do you change their cohort in your student information system or leave them with juniors?  Do you allow them to be included with the seniors in the yearbook? Would you put them in a senior SRT or special senior class?  Are they allowed any other senior rights and privileges?
    • A: We change their grade level but not their cohort and we give them all of the privileges of having senior status. We do tell them, however, that they aren’t eligible to be valedictorian or salutatorian. Once you make the transition, it’s a pretty easy process.
    • A: We change grade level, not cohort. We allow them the same opportunities and privileges as any other senior.
  • From Ben Carter, IDOE (April 2019):  Students are able to graduate early utilizing Graduation Pathways (successfully completing each part of Grad Pathways).  However, students are not allowed to utilize a Graduation Pathways Waiver to graduate early. If using the Graduation Pathways Waiver students must complete their Senior year.
  • Q: Will the new graduation pathway requirements make it impossible for students to graduate from high school early?
    • A: Yes, students will continue to be able to graduate early if they meet all state and local graduation requirements early. They can do this now as well. (Amanda Culhan, School Counseling Specialist, Indiana Department of Education, July 2018)
    • A: A student could earn the General Designation, but would also need to satisfy the Employability Skill requirement, and the Postsecondary-Ready Competency Requirement.
    • However, students cannot graduate early utilizing a waiver from the Postsecondary-Ready Competencies in Graduation Pathways. The statute makes the waiver available to a qualifying student who has been unsuccessful in completing the postsecondary readiness competency requirement by the conclusion of their senior year. So they would not be eligible for a waiver prior to the conclusion of their senior year.


If you have suggestions, feedback, or resources, please email counselor1stop@inspiresuccess.org and let us know.