Every student thinks differently, learns differently and experiences their time at high school differently. Some students are happy to drive through high school in the leisurely right-hand lane, savouring every last day of their education, friend groups and semi-structured lives.
Others, meanwhile, are itching to get on with it. Armed with tenacity, eagerness and (some might say) impatience, these students want to fast-track their high school education to level up quicker, graduate quicker, and throw their university applications to the top of the pile.
Is there a right or wrong way to be? Absolutely not.
As the premier Ontario online high school, OES aims to accommodate the vast spectrum of students. If you want to take your time and savour every unit in a course, our self-paced model will fit like a glove. Conversely – and here’s the subject of today’s blog post – if you want to get high school credits faster, we’re here for you too.
Below, we explore what high school students need to know about fast-tracking their education.
What Is Fast-Tracking?
Firstly, what do we mean when we say “fast-tracking?” Are we talking about cutting out essential courses, cutting corners in our existing courses, or skating by on the bare minimum requirements? No, no and no.
Fast-tracking isn’t about sacrificing the quality of your high school education. Instead, it’s about enacting strategies to fit a complete, rigorous course load into less than the traditional four-year, grade-9-to-12 pipeline. We want you to receive the same quality education as your peers – that’s of paramount importance. But we also want to support your decisions to work ahead at your own pace.
A fast-tracked student might complete a few grade 10 courses in their final semester of (a conventional) grade 9. They might complete grade 11 summer courses after they finish grade 10. And/or they might assume a 1.5X workload in the first semester of grade 12 to cross that final finish line faster.
Weighing Your Options: Pros and Cons of Picking Up the Pace
Is fast-tracking a popular option among Ontario high school students? It’s hard to know the concrete data. But if internet search queries are anything to go by, the practice is at least considered by several students. “How to fast track in high school,” “fast track high school credits toronto” [sic] and “fast track high school diploma” are common regional searches around southern Ontario.
But for all of those students searching “fast track high school credits toronto,” how many have truly spent the time weighing the pros and cons? While we commend those ambitious students eager to advance their education, we also want to be sure that you’re making the right choice for you.
Before we delve into how to fast track in high school, let’s spend a moment on pros and cons.
The Benefits of Fast-Tracking Your Education
Undoubtedly, fast-tracking has several benefits. Those internet search queries are popular for a reason, after all.
Our advice is to sit down with a guardian and/or academic counsellor and consider these merits and advantages:
- Fast-tracking your high school courses lets you apply to universities quicker: This is a popular reason for fast-tracking. The thinking here is that by working ahead, you can get a head start on post-secondary applications, perhaps even sneaking in a semester earlier when competition isn’t quite as fierce.
- Fast-tracking your courses lets you learn as fast as you think: Some students think quickly, act quickly and absorb information quickly. Why should their education be dictated by the rigid constraints of a traditional four-year education model? If you’re a so-called “fast learner,” a fast track high school diploma lets you learn at your desired pace.
- Fast-tracking leaves wiggle room for upgrade courses: If you work ahead, you leave buffer space at the end of each year (or your final grade 12 year) if you need to upgrade a mark. Boosting your marks through upgrade courses ensures a more competitive post-secondary application (see the first point).
- Fast-tracking lets students advance their careers quicker: If you have your sights set on the workforce – a dream career or professional track – earning credits faster enables you to expedite the process.
These are each valid reasons for picking up the pace in high school. But remember, fast-tracking students must be prepared to assume larger course loads, summer courses, or both.
The Downsides of Fast-Tracking Your Education?
While we love seeing young minds demonstrate their ambition with hefty course loads and summer learning, we have to be realistic. Fast-tracking isn’t for everyone. As you did above, cover these points with a guardian or counsellor:
- Fast-tracking your high school courses might not afford you the requisite time to absorb your course material: Not everyone works at a rapid pace, and that’s okay. If you’re a student who benefits more from mulling over material, taking frequent breaks and days off, etc., maybe the tight turnarounds on fast-track courses won’t work.
- If mismanaged, fast-tracking can lead to burnout: The last thing anyone wants is for you to burn out – work so tirelessly that you reach a point when you just can’t summon the energy any longer. You know your academic stamina best, so be honest with yourself.
- Fast-tracking leaves less time for other things: Are you an avid member of several clubs, a relied-upon member of a sports team, a band leader, a social butterfly, a frequent flier or evening employee? If you have other important, time-intensive obligations vying for your attention, fast-tracking might add too much to your plate.
We encourage students to write these points in a dual-columned “Pros and cons” document. Try to determine what kind of student you are and how you learn best. Then weigh the advantages of fast-tracking against the potential drawbacks.
How to Get High School Credits Faster
Let’s assume you’ve done your due diligence; you stewed over your pros and cons list and decided, after some deliberation, that you’re a prime candidate for earning quicker high school credits.
Now, the big question remains: how do you pull it off? For the remainder of this article, we’ll discuss models, strategies and pathways to earn high school credits faster.
Enroll in a Self-Paced Online High School
You probably saw this first point coming! Nevertheless, we owe it to you to explain.
Attempting to fast-track courses at a conventional brick-and-mortar school is very challenging, often asking students to surrender their evenings and/or weekends. They require you to be away from home longer, adhering to rigid schedules. (They’re also tricky to find – very few physical schools offer courses outside of school hours).
By contrast, OES’s asynchronous online learning offers a flexible option for fast-tracking. If you’re already an OES student, you can assume a larger course load (complete with courses for the following year) to graduate quicker. Or you can work through all of your courses at a speedier pace, blurring the conventional lines between “grades” by levelling up whenever you finish a prior course. And if you attend a brick-and-mortar school for your daily education, you can supplement your courses with flexible online courses.
Either way, you enjoy a personalized, self-paced, supportive experience. A ministry-inspected online school like OES offers an innovative alternative to the old problems in education surrounding one-size-fits-all timelines. We round out our offerings with top-notch support: virtual office hours with teachers, free 24/7 tutoring, academic counselling, etc. And to cap it off, you can complete your accelerated high school tenure wherever you want – the comfort of your home, on the road, or a mixture.
Consider Summer Courses
Another fantastic way to advance your high school timeline is to take summer courses. Recently on this blog – to celebrate the season – we ran a few resources on summer courses, which we encourage you to check out. (This article on how to get ahead by taking summer school courses is particularly pertinent)!
If you’re in a hurry, allow us to summarize. Online summer courses are the best of both worlds. They allow you to advance your courses to graduate quicker. But they’re also flexible enough to accommodate a typical teenage summer – with all its social obligations, cottage visits, family vacations and lazy afternoons in front of a gaming console.
To view OES’s summer courses (it’s never too late!), click the “Our Courses” dropdown menu at the top of our homepage and select “Summer School.”
Develop a Personal Timeline
While we at OES provide the ecosystem for accelerating your high school courses, it’s up to you to bring the motivation and hard work. And the first way to set yourself up for success is by developing a long-range personal timeline.
Grab your calendar, select your courses (for this year, the next year and beyond) and determine how long you believe each class will take. This rough roadmap will act as a scaffolding device as you structure the remainder of your high school career.
Better yet, don’t go it alone. Join one of OES’s expert academic advisors for a one-on-one personalized education & career planning workshop. In this comprehensive workshop, you can hash out a path toward graduating sooner.
Set and Track Your Goals
Your timeline will look naked without concrete goals attached to it. The idea of goal-setting is to externalize your ambitions and wishes so that you hold yourself accountable. As such, we at OES advocate for “SMART goals,” which are:
When goals fit the criteria above, they are direct, easy to track and within your personal scope of achievement. Further, you make them relevant to your broader ambitions, spurring your motivation throughout the process. Give them a try!
Leverage Tried-and-True Time Management Strategies
If you’re attempting to a) fit more courses in a semester, b) incorporate summer courses into an already busy social calendar or c) supplement your regular education with fast-track online courses, you will need to manage your time effectively. Each scenario above creates a busier schedule than the average high school student enjoys. Therefore, using your time wisely is of paramount importance.
Thankfully, you can leverage one or more tried-and-true time management strategies. Some of the time management strategies we like are:
- The Pomodoro Method: This time management method involves subdividing your daily study schedule into short bursts of work (25 minutes) interspersed with even shorter breaks (5 minutes). Experts swear by the technique to maintain concentration and productivity over long periods. Read more about it here.
- Daily Goal-Setting: Beyond your high-level goals, start each day by setting daily goals. Follow the SMART model above, but scale down your targets (i.e., you might set goals to finish reading a unit chapter by 11 am, complete the first page of a math worksheet by 1 pm, edit an English assignment by 3 pm, etc.).
- Task Management Apps: Your brain is a powerful storage compartment, but it’s imperfect. To manage your many tasks, assignments, deadlines, exam dates, etc., consider a task management app. Here’s a list of some good ones, courtesy of the University of Waterloo.
- Distraction Busters: Distractions are nice… in moderation. But they become a real problem when you realize you’ve burnt through half the day on Tik Tok. To avoid surrendering undue time to distracting apps and websites, we recommend implementing a distraction blocker app.
With these proven, dependable strategies in your corner, you can kickstart each day in high gear – fast tracking high school one day at a time.
Don’t Be Afraid to Slow Down, Upgrade and Ask for Help
Some courses are challenging! Some courses require frequent concentration breaks so you don’t burn out. Some courses demand that you slow down, read carefully and ask for help. In these cases, throw everything you know about time management and strict goals out the window. Listen to your body and brain.
If things get overwhelming, take a step back and get the support you need from your teacher or tutor. For instance, if you take MHF4U Advanced Functions on a fast timeline and attempt to speed through the unit on trigonometric functions, you may do yourself (and your grade point average) a disservice. In this case, don’t worry about “losing time”; it’s better to get good marks than fast marks.
If you have further questions about fast tracking high school, feel free to book a workshop with one of our academic advisors. We’re always happy to help an ambitious, eager student carve a path for themselves.