How to Graduate with High Honors in High School

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Academically gifted students benefit from the right kind of challenge, and graduating high school with high honors can provide exactly that challenge! This distinction is no easy feat, but with encouragement, hard work, and mentorship, pursuing high honors can be as rewarding as it is academically enriching for teens. 

If your student is interested in achieving high honors in high school, it will take careful, long-term planning to get there. So, we recommend starting to think about this and plan accordingly as early as freshman year. That way, your teen will have time to build the solid foundation necessary for this accomplishment.

What are high honors? 

High honors is a recognition bestowed upon students who graduate with a certain level of academic excellence. Specific requirements to achieve high honors will vary per high school. For example, some schools might award high honors to students with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.79, while others will hold this recognition for students with a 3.8 GPA or higher. Some school might also implement a tiered system with honors, high honors, and highest honors. 

How is GPA calculated? 

Grades students receive are assigned a number value: 4 points for an A, 3 points for a B, and so forth. When students take honors or Advanced Placement® classes, these numbers receive a weighted boost. That means that an A in, say AP® Calculus, will carry a 4.5 grade point that contributes to the overall average. 

Some high schools may also require that, in order to receive the official high honors designation on their diploma, they achieve a certain SAT® score, participate in a national honor society, or meet other requirements. To set your student up for success, make sure to check with their guidance counselor for the most accurate details. 

With those specifics in hand, here are seven strategies to help your teen achieve high honors. 

7 strategies for graduating high school with high honors

There’s no magic bullet that guarantees teens can graduate with high honors. However, there are strategies students can employ that will help them on their way. Encourage your teen to find a routine that works for them, and those good habits will pay off throughout their high school years.

1. Pursue academic challenges

Graduating with high honors is a tall order, and it goes without saying that going above and beyond will be necessary. Extra credit projects, independent study, research, and other GPA-boosting activities are a great way to (literally) score bonus points. 

Talk with your student about subjects that spark their academic curiosity and that they would be interested in pursuing beyond the standard curriculum. 

2. Take honors and AP® classes

In addition to an academic challenge, the opportunity to earn college credit, and the many other benefits of AP® classes, these types of classes can provide a useful GPA boost. 

Honors and AP® classes, when balanced with less demanding coursework and elective classes, will likely be a necessary component of your teen’s schedule. We recommend choosing them carefully, and make sure to do so in a way that plays to your student’s strengths. 

3. Check-in regularly with teachers

When aspiring to high honors, it’s best not to get blindsided by test or quiz scores. So, teens will need to stay on top of their grades and regularly communicate with their teachers in order to stay on track. 

In addition to keeping up with the grade book, it’s also a good idea for students to be proactive in attending after-school help and tutoring with their teachers as needed. The more proactive they can be about this, the better! After all, the best time to clear up a confusing concept or catch up on missed content is not the day before a quiz or at the tail end of an academic quarter. 

4. Develop top-notch note taking & participation habits

Excellent in-class participation is a must to reaching the high honor roll. From taking the lead in projects and discussions to careful note taking and completion of labs and other activities, teens would do well to make sure they’re engaged during class.

Not only will this likely improve students’ grades on test day, they’ll get more out of their classes while also building useful collaboration, organization, and communication skills. 

5. Set SMART Goals

Creating specific goals, sharing them with others, and following through will help your teen break the major undertaking of high honors into more manageable chunks. 

Reaching a major milestone like this won’t happen overnight, so use this as an opportunity to teach your teen how to craft SMART goals. Revisit them often, and include rewards for meeting benchmarks. That way, teens will stay motivated, focused, and ready to tackle hurdles and academic challenges. 

6. Create a challenging but balanced schedule

There’s a fine line between a challenging and overwhelming course load. Plus, when extracurricular activities and other commitments and responsibilities are thrown into the mix, it’s all the more important to ensure teens aren’t biting off more than they can chew.

Earning high honors is a marathon, not a sprint. Students will need to set aside plenty of time for homework and studying to achieve the necessary results, so make sure that’s built into their schedule. They may also need help with organization and time-management techniques, which can often be half the battle to success in school.

It’s a good idea to check in with your teen regularly, encourage them to take appropriate breaks, and help them develop self-care and de-stressing strategies. That way, teens can not just survive but thrive during their high school years. 

7. Participate in honor societies 

Academic honors societies on the local, state, and national levels are a wonderful way to support students in academics and connect them with like-minded peers. 

Talk with your teen’s guidance counselor and teachers about honor society opportunities. From the more general National Honors Society to subject-specific organizations, offered for everything from STEM to languages to history, participation can enhance teens’ learning in meaningful, community-based ways.

Help your child shine in academics and beyond 

High school is a demanding time for teens. What with their busy schedules and pursuit of opportunities after graduation, it’s a lot to manage!

iD Tech offers expert tutoring and STEM enrichment camps and programs, designed to help students achieve their goals and open doors to their college, internship, and more! Check out the latest tricks for studying, navigating college admissions, and other pro tips on our blog.

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains. 

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