This coming June, 275 graduating seniors will walk up to a stage in regal blue gowns to collect their diplomas and hug their final goodbyes as a flood of balloons cascade down from the ceiling. However, for nine seniors, their final moments at SAS will come much sooner. This is because Bea Basilio, Bentley Uehling, Lois Campbell, Mano Choi, Ethan Shaw, Case Powell, Adriana Ballas, Stephanie Chang, and Jon Wong will be graduating early this December.
Over the past three years, there has been a steady increase in the number of students graduating early. Just last year, there were only four early graduates, and the year before that, only two. For some, it’s a personal choice. But for others, it isn’t their choice at all.
Bea, who is currently living with her 25-year-old sister because her parents have already moved back to the Philippines, will be leaving in December because her parents want her to move closer to them.
“It wasn’t my decision,” Bea said. “My parents wanted me to come to the Philippines earlier so that they could take care of me.”
Ethan’s reason for graduating early, on the other hand, had more to do with the scheduling perks of attending a college in Australia. Because Australian universities begin their school term in March, Ethan had the option of graduating in June with the rest of his class, and then interning until the next year’s college semester began, or simply graduating this December. He chose the latter.
“For students going to university somewhere other than the U.S., it just makes sense to graduate early. Otherwise, the school year just doesn’t sync up,” Ethan said.
Of course, there are also students who choose to leave high school prematurely purely for personal reasons. Adriana knew since her junior year that she wanted to graduate early so that she could do something that would make her happier.
“There’s a lot of pressure at SAS, from every aspect – the way you look, the grades you get, what you do – and last summer when I was by myself in Minnesota with my aunt and uncle was when I was happiest,” Adriana said. “When I returned to school and was met with all that pressure again, I realized I wanted to find something different to do that could still make me happy.”
Although her parents initially wanted her to finish off the year with everyone else, they eventually agreed to her wishes. There was just one requirement – she would need to come back to SAS to walk with her class in June.
“It’s funny because I’m going to receive my diploma in December, give it back, and then receive it again later!” Adriana said.
No matter the reason for leaving early, the administrative process for all early graduates is fairly simple. In order to complete all of their credits, students need to take two English courses during the first semester of their senior year to complete the 4-year English requirement. Students also need to fill out an early graduation application by May 1st of the preceding school year for their parents, their counselor, and the administration to sign.
“The key thing is making sure the student can articulate what it is he/she plans to do for their six months off,” counselor Trevor Sturgeon said. “The school wants students to have a sound reason for why they want to graduate early and a concrete plan.”
Following graduation in December, Ethan will be moving into his dorm room in February, Adriana has decided to take creative writing classes and volunteer at a primary school, while Bea is still trying to decide.
“I’m not sure, but if my college accepts me for the last half of the year, then I’ll just go directly into college,” Bea said. “Otherwise, I’ll find an architecture internship in the Philippines for job experience.”
Across the board, early graduates experience mixed feelings on having to leave so soon. Some feel an anxiety about having to start college so soon.
“I’m actually kind of nervous to go to Australia, because I haven’t been there in so long. I’m going to be very different from everyone there, but here, I feel connected,” Ethan said.
But others are thrilled.
“I’m so excited. I’m going to miss everyone, but I’m so looking forward to using those six months for myself,” Adriana said.
The rest of the seniors will not be as happy to see these nine early graduates go. As an SAS family, we wish them the best of luck in the months to come and hope that they will continue to succeed in the next chapter of their lives.