Graduating Early: An Uncommon Path through High School

The first day of Mia Khan’s senior year of high school was April 14, 2023. Even though on the previous day, when she walked into LHS, she had been a junior, she was working to get the last few credits needed to graduate early. Although Khan is not the only student to graduate after just three years of high school she is one of just a few.

Seeking to start their lives after high school as soon as possible, a few students plan out their schedules to acquire as many credits as possible in the shortest amount of time, enabling them to graduate early.


For Khan, the journey to graduating early started with counting credits and meeting graduation requirements. Then came a pros and cons list on why to stay for senior year or why to graduate after junior year. 

“The pros for staying only consisted of electives,” she mentioned, “which I think is kind of a pathetic reason to stay.”

Senior Mia Khan started highschool in the fall of 2020. Khan was able to get enough credits to graduate highschool a year earlier than most people.
(Jana Badawi)

The cons for staying were more substantial. Not only was she ready to move on from high school, but a particularly negative experience with a teacher “ruined the rest of high school” for Khan. Even after dropping the class, she knew what was the right decision for her. 

However, that was the easy part. Despite having fulfilled the graduation requirements outlined by LHS, district administration was rather against the idea of her graduating a year early, according to Khan. 

“It took me begging and pleading with my counselor,” Khan explained. “It  took hundreds of emails to administration and thousands of follow ups, and honestly, it was brutal.”

Being the first person in recent years to graduate early, she believes that their lack of willingness stemmed from a lack of protocol in place. According to Khan, administrators  had to come up with a timeline on when Khan would switch from junior to senior year, along with what finals and other senior privileges would look like.

Although Khan feels some people stood in her way, others “like Dr. Koulentes and people in the CRC were 100% on [her] team” and offered help and support.

Khan will be attending Knox College in the fall on the pre-law track, but despite being incredibly excited for what’s to come, there are some things she will miss about LHS, including the debate team, French class and orchestra. Nonetheless, she’s ready to move forward.

“For me [college] is really important because I’d be the only woman on my mom’s side to obtain a college degree,” she explained. “It means a lot to not only continue my dad’s family’s access to college but also to be the first step in college for my mom’s.”


LHS graduate Karina Castillo also graduated this year, a semester early, in December. Her reasons for doing so differed from Khan’s however. Having moved from Kenosha in eighth grade, Castillo was used to diverse schools, the opposite of what she encountered in Libertyville.

Senior Karina Castillo graduated in the winter of 2022. Castillo had enough credits to get her diploma a semester early.
(Jana Badawi)

“In eighth grade, I went to school with predominantly white kids and I’d never been to a school like that,” she explained. “So out of spite, I was like, ‘In high school I need to just get out of here as fast as possible.’”

It wasn’t just a fleeting idea, though. Castillo put time into researching credits needed to graduate and planned to make her high school years the most productive she could. She booked classes every summer, took extra courses instead of study halls, all so that she could have the credits to graduate early. 

“I could have graduated junior year,” she mentioned, “but my parents wanted to see me walk the stage, so I decided to wait an extra semester.”

Wanting to get a head start in school, Castillo is currently attending CLC, and hopes to transfer once she gets her associates degree to Dominican University and study teaching. Specifically, she wants to teach English as a second language abroad. 

For Karina, the downsides to graduating early are minimal, and even the few that are there are minimized by the benefits of being in college. Having free time and getting to schedule classes specifically, outweighs all the negative she’s faced from graduating early.

 “Every single day, having the same classes, was super draining for me, and it spiraled into dread from school,” she explained, “I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I graduated. Now, I’ve gotten back into drawing and playing my violin. I get to hang out with friends, and I get to actually sleep.”