The Fitzpatrick Guide to Graduating Early

How One Student Bucked the Trend and Finished High School in Three Years

Charles Daniel Norris, Staff Writer

For most people, high school is a four-year period of time where they transition from childhood to adulthood. There are a lot of growing pains, shared experiences, moments to remember, and a lot that is worth forgetting. But for some students, those four years of transition are condensed down to three.

Meet Fiona Fitzpatrick, a current Capital High School junior who will be graduating this year.  In an extremely unusual move, Fitzpatrick has managed to get all of her high school credits accomplished in just a few years. “I was feeling bored and unstimulated,” she says, “so I challenged myself.” 

Fitzpatrick says that she had always planned to do full IB, but when she realized Covid-19 was going to be cutting her workload, she was distraught. “I thought, ‘why should I put in the same effort and time for only half the course?’ I wanted to challenge myself, and IB wasn’t doing that anymore.”

A strange reaction, to be sure, but she seems full of surprises. From then on, she decided to push herself even further and try to graduate an entire year early. She says that, for her, it was less about achievement and more about having fun. “You know, I mostly did it just to see if I could. It was one of those things where the benefits [of graduating early] were just a nice bonus.”

There are a number of challenges that come along with her early graduation. For example, in her Junior year, Fitzpatrick had to double up on both Running Start and IB courses, taking double the amount of classes as everyone else. As such, managing her time is a strenuous effort. “I don’t always manage it perfectly,” she says. “I miss meetings, I turn stuff in late, and I make mistakes. It’s all about proving yourself, though. If you can show the people around you that you can do it, they’re remarkably accommodating. I have a lot on my plate, and I can’t get it all done by some deadlines. But because my teachers and coaches know I’ll get it done, because I’ve built that trust and rapport, they’ll help me out.”

Considering that all classes were virtual this year, it made scheduling a little easier. In fact, according to her, it’s the entire reason she’s graduating early. “I don’t like remote learning. Social interaction is very important for me, and being online does inhibit that. It did motivate me, though. I’ve been really, really bored, and this has given me a lot of flexibility in how I divide up my work. It’s definitely helped.” 

But Fitzpatrick isn’t just all about academics. She’s very much involved in Capital High School outside of her classes. She is an editor on the school paper, captain of the debate team, and a member of the tennis team. 

It’s hard to imagine how she manages the time, but for her, it comes down to prioritization. “I’m not organized,” she laughs. “Consistency is not my thing. I’ll have big spurts of energy, but I try to utilize all the time I have. I budget everything in terms of what’s important and what can wait, and that way I end up having a lot of time to be all over the place while still getting my work done.”

So, is it worth it to graduate early? Fitzpatrick thinks so, and wants to share this advice for students who may want to follow in her footsteps: “Prepare. Don’t do what I did and decide in the middle of the school year to graduate early. It’s a terrible idea. Please, please, please plan ahead.”