Graduating Early: Benefits and Pitfalls

Graduating Early: Benefits and Pitfalls

By Natalie Ramirez

The California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE), also known as the high school early exit exam, is an exam offered to anyone who is at least 16 years old and has been enrolled for an entire school year of tenth grade. The exam enables students to earn a certificate that is legally equivalent to a high school diploma.

Some students on campus consider taking the early exit exam in order to get out of high school early; however, before making that decision, one must consider the advantages and disadvantages of taking the CHSPE.

The proficiency exam can give teenagers the advantage of a head start for college or work. Without completing high school, they can graduate college earlier and get a head start in their careers.

“Taking the exit exam has benefited me greatly, because I am now two years ahead academically and I’m currently a sophomore at College of the Canyons. I am majoring in Biology, and I’m planning on receiving my bachelor’s degree at the age of 20 instead of 22,” Granada Hills Charter High School early graduate Daniel Hanna said.

While there are benefits to starting college or the workforce early, some teenagers may not be sufficiently mentally and emotionally mature to enter a college environment early. Considering how demanding college can be due to the heavy workload, some students may not be able to handle it after only having experience with sophomore year.

If receiving a college experience early on is the test taker’s goal, that student may consider attending the many college classes that are offered on a high school campus instead.

However, if a student is struggling with insufficient credits, the proficiency exam may be beneficial. In order to take the exam, a student is not required to have a certain amount of credits as they do for traditional graduation.

Although the certificate of proficiency is an equivalent to a high school diploma, it is not the same as completing all the coursework required for regular high school graduation.

Passing the CHSPE and earning a certificate of proficiency does not meet the federal definition of a regular high school diploma.  Because of this, the state of California calculates students who pass the CHSPE and leave high school early as dropouts,” counselor Wendy Woodburn said.

Hence, the exam allows students to go directly to a community college, and possibly to a four year college. Though not having a true high school diploma can become an issue for students’ job prospects.

“The certificate of proficiency may not be accepted for certain jobs or schools. Even if you have a master’s degree, some jobs may ask for a high school diploma,” Woodburn said.

Despite all of the benefits and pitfalls of the exam, the decision of whether or not to take the exam is entirely up to the student. High school may not be the right environment for certain students, and leaving earlier can be beneficial to them regardless of the consequences. Some may perceive high school as a necessary experience and would not want to miss out on any of the activities. Each student must make the right decision for themselves.

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