Earning a college degree while still in high school sounds like an ambitious goal, but is it really possible to graduate with a bachelor’s degree before you’ve even finished high school? The answer may surprise you.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It is possible, but extremely rare, for a highly gifted student to earn a bachelor’s degree while still in high school through early college programs or by testing out of courses.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore whether it’s feasible to earn a bachelor’s degree as a high school student, look at a few examples of students who have accomplished this feat, and provide tips for motivated students who want to maximize their learning.

Is It Possible to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in High School?

Earning a bachelor’s degree is typically seen as a milestone achieved after completing high school and attending college for four years. However, there have been a few exceptional cases where students have managed to earn their bachelor’s degree while still in high school.

While this achievement is extremely rare, it serves as a testament to the exceptional abilities and dedication of these students.

Early College Entrance Programs Allow Students to Take College Courses

One way that some high school students have been able to earn a bachelor’s degree is through early college entrance programs. These programs provide opportunities for academically gifted students to enroll in college courses while still in high school.

By taking college-level classes, these students are able to accumulate the necessary credits to complete their bachelor’s degree earlier than the traditional timeline.

For example, the University of Washington offers the Early Entrance Program (EEP), which allows highly capable students to enroll in college at a younger age. Through the EEP, students can pursue their bachelor’s degree while still in high school, gaining valuable educational experiences and accelerating their academic progress.

Students Can Earn Credits Through AP Classes, CLEP, and Testing Out

Another avenue for high school students to earn college credits towards a bachelor’s degree is through advanced placement (AP) classes, College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, and testing out of certain courses.

AP classes are advanced courses that are equivalent to college-level classes and are offered in various subjects. By successfully completing AP exams, students can earn college credits that can be applied towards their bachelor’s degree.

CLEP exams provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge in specific subject areas and earn college credits without having to enroll in a traditional course. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer the option for students to test out of certain courses by demonstrating their proficiency in the subject matter.

These alternative methods of earning credits can help high school students make progress towards their bachelor’s degree before entering college.

While it is highly unusual for a high school student to earn a bachelor’s degree, it is not impossible. With the right combination of early college entrance programs, advanced placement classes, and alternative credit-earning options, exceptional students can achieve this remarkable feat.

However, it is important to note that this path requires a tremendous amount of dedication, hard work, and support from educators and institutions.

Examples of Students Who Earned Degrees While in High School

Michael Kearney earned a bachelor’s degree at age 10

Imagine graduating from high school and college at the same time. Well, Michael Kearney did just that! At the age of 10, he earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of South Alabama. This extraordinary accomplishment made him the youngest person to ever graduate from college.

Michael’s exceptional intellect and dedication to his studies allowed him to complete his degree at such a young age.

Sho Yano graduated from college at age 12

Sho Yano is another remarkable individual who earned a college degree while still in high school. At the age of 12, he graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Sho’s exceptional academic abilities and passion for learning propelled him to achieve this incredible feat.

He later went on to earn his medical degree, becoming the youngest person to ever graduate from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine at the age of 21.

Other young college graduates like Noel Jett and Grace Hopper

Michael Kearney and Sho Yano are just a few examples of young prodigies who earned college degrees while in high school. However, they are not the only ones. There are many other extraordinary individuals who have accomplished similar feats.

Noel Jett, for example, graduated with a degree in psychology from Texas Woman’s University at the age of 16. Grace Hopper, a renowned computer scientist, earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics from Vassar College at the age of 19.

These individuals are not only exceptional in their academic abilities, but they also serve as an inspiration to others. Their achievements demonstrate that age should never be a barrier to pursuing higher education.

With determination, dedication, and a love for learning, it is possible to accomplish great things at any age.

Requirements and Steps for Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in High School

Take community college classes starting at age 13-14

If you’re aiming to earn a bachelor’s degree while still in high school, one of the first steps is to start taking community college classes as early as age 13 or 14. Many community colleges offer dual enrollment programs that allow high school students to enroll in college-level courses.

These classes not only provide you with a head start on your college education, but they also give you the opportunity to experience the rigor and expectations of college coursework.

Enroll in an early college entrance program full-time around age 15

An early college entrance program is another pathway to earning a bachelor’s degree in high school. These programs allow motivated and academically advanced students to attend college full-time starting around age 15.

By enrolling in an early college program, students can complete their high school requirements while simultaneously earning college credits towards their bachelor’s degree. It’s important to note that early college entrance programs often have competitive admission processes, so it’s crucial to plan ahead and meet the necessary criteria.

Take CLEP exams and test out of classes to earn credits

Another strategy for earning a bachelor’s degree in high school is to take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. These exams allow students to demonstrate their mastery of college-level material and earn college credits without taking the actual courses.

By successfully passing a CLEP exam, you can potentially test out of certain classes required for your bachelor’s degree, saving both time and money. It’s important to note that each college or university may have its own policies regarding CLEP credits, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements.

Take online classes and summer courses to supplement

To further accelerate your progress towards a bachelor’s degree in high school, consider taking online classes and summer courses. Online classes provide flexibility and convenience, allowing you to continue your studies outside of traditional classroom settings.

Summer courses, on the other hand, can provide an opportunity to focus on specific subjects or requirements. By taking advantage of these additional learning opportunities, you can accumulate more college credits and expedite your journey towards earning your bachelor’s degree.

Work closely with academic advisors to create a customized plan

Throughout your high school years, it’s crucial to work closely with academic advisors who can guide you in creating a customized plan to earn your bachelor’s degree. These advisors can help you navigate the complexities of course selection, credit transfers, and degree requirements.

By leveraging their expertise and knowledge, you can ensure that you’re on the right track and making the most efficient use of your time and resources.

Remember, earning a bachelor’s degree in high school requires dedication, hard work, and careful planning. While it may not be the right path for everyone, for those who are academically inclined and motivated, it can be a remarkable achievement that opens doors to exciting opportunities and a head start in their future careers.

So, if you’re up for the challenge, don’t hesitate to explore the possibilities and take the necessary steps to make your high school years even more rewarding!

Challenges and Considerations

Missing out on social experiences with peers

One of the biggest challenges of getting a bachelor’s degree in high school is the potential for missing out on social experiences with peers. Attending college at a young age may mean sacrificing traditional high school activities like prom, sports events, and clubs.

While some students may not mind this trade-off, others may find it difficult to navigate their social development without these experiences. It’s important to consider the impact this may have on a student’s overall growth and well-being.

Being ready for advanced college-level academics

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in high school requires a high level of academic readiness. College-level courses are typically more rigorous and demanding than high school classes. Students need to be prepared for the increased workload and higher expectations.

It’s crucial to assess whether the student has the necessary intellectual maturity and study skills to handle the advanced coursework.

Ensuring proper emotional development and support

Emotional development and support are crucial during the teenage years. While getting a bachelor’s degree in high school can provide academic advantages, it’s essential to ensure that emotional development is not compromised.

Students may need additional support to navigate the challenges of college-level academics and the social pressures that come with early college enrollment. It’s important to have a strong support system in place, including mentors, counselors, and family members, to help students thrive both academically and emotionally.

Tips for Maximizing Learning Opportunities in High School

High school is a crucial time for learning and personal development. It lays the foundation for future academic and professional success. While getting a bachelor’s degree while still in high school may seem like a daunting task, there are several ways to maximize your learning opportunities and get a head start on your college education.

Take as many AP and honors courses as possible

One way to challenge yourself academically and prepare for college is to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses. These courses offer college-level material and can earn you college credit if you score well on the corresponding exams.

By taking these courses, you not only demonstrate your academic prowess but also show colleges that you are willing to take on rigorous coursework.

Look for summer pre-college programs

Summer pre-college programs provide high school students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in a college environment and explore different fields of study. These programs often offer college-level classes, hands-on experiences, and guidance from college professors.

Participating in a summer pre-college program can give you a taste of college life and help you make more informed decisions about your future academic pursuits.

Consider taking community college classes

Another way to get a head start on your college education is to take classes at a local community college. Many community colleges offer dual enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses for credit.

These courses can be transferred to a four-year university, saving you time and money in the long run. Additionally, taking community college classes can give you a sense of what college-level coursework is like and help you develop important study skills.

Research early college entrance programs

If you are a highly motivated and academically advanced student, you may want to consider early college entrance programs. These programs allow high school students to enroll in college full-time and earn both their high school diploma and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree simultaneously.

While these programs are highly competitive, they provide an unparalleled opportunity to accelerate your education and graduate with a college degree before most of your peers.

Remember, getting a bachelor’s degree while still in high school requires dedication, hard work, and careful planning. It is important to consult with your guidance counselor and do thorough research to find the best opportunities that align with your goals and interests.


While earning a bachelor’s degree in high school is extremely rare, a few exceptional students have proven it’s possible. For highly motivated students, taking college classes early and testing out of courses can pave the way.

However, social-emotional considerations are also important when accelerating education.

With careful planning, dedication, and support, maximizing learning opportunities in high school can set students up for success – whether or not they graduate at 16 or 18. The key is finding ways to challenge yourself academically while still allowing time to mature socially and emotionally with your peers.

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