Matthew Zarkani graduates early

Matthew Zarkani decides to graduate a year early in order to escape McLean and large student debt


Photo taken by Andy Chung

Senior Matthew Zarkani leaning next to the school lawnmower. Zarkani is happy to start his last year in McLean.

McLean student Matthew Zarkani decided to graduate a year early and plans on attending Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Zarkani is well known throughout the McLean community for his loud, outgoing personality.

“The idea of graduating early came across my mind one day in school, so I went to the counselors office and talked to Ms.You about potentially graduating a year early. Ms.You told me that she graduated early from college and how it’s not a bad idea,” Zarkani said. “After talking with her, I decided to graduate early, I got the forms from Ms.You and took it home to my parents which they gladly signed.”

Graduating early wasn’t all fun and games for Zarkani, as he had to complete many time-consuming tasks before leaving McLean. But he believes the decision benefits him financially.

“By graduating a year early and attending community college for a few years, and [then] transferring into UVA or VCU, I’m able to save thousands of dollars and I’m able to leave McLean a year early. It was a win-win situation,” Zarkani said.

Contrary to popular belief, graduating early doesn’t end with the signing a few documents. Some students have to plan their next school year ahead to meet the required course credits. Schools also require students to meet a certain number of credits to graduate.

“Because I’m graduating early and [don’t have] enough credits to graduate with a standard diploma, my counselor informed me that in order to graduate a year early I’m going to have to take two core classes for certain subjects,” Zarkani said. “After going to school for several weeks, I realized how hard it was to manage all the work that I get from my teachers.”

Time management was key for Zarkani to succeed with his rigorous school schedule. Even with challenges, he hopes that by sacrificing some of his high school memories and time, it will help him reach adulthood and his achieve his dreams a bit quicker. 

“I’m interested in Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity, because my dad works in those businesses,” Zarkani said. “He told me stories about his co-workers, how funny they were and all the behind the scenes work him and his co-workers do and I got super interested in it after all those stories.”

After making changes to his schedule and signing documents, Zarkani officially changed his graduating year from 2022 to 2021. It wasn’t the end of the process Zarkani had to take, because he then had to enroll into a college. 

“I chose NOVA because it is very close from where I live and where my friends live. Also, NOVA has many students that are going there for a few years and transferring to bigger colleges like me and they have a good reputation for that, so it was an easy choice,” Zarkani said.

Following the decision to attend NOVA for the fall semester of 2021-2022, Zarkani had to fill out numerous forms in order to officially enroll into the school.

“I am still in the process of filling out all the documents and papers they gave me. I thought this process would be easy, but I still have many pages left to fill out. My parents are helping me so I’m grateful for that,” Zarkani said. 

When making these big, life-changing decisions at a young age, it is very important to have strong support from parents and adults. Zarkani’s parents gave full support for their son’s decision to graduate early. 

“His sister goes to VCU and I didn’t want to pay that much for school, that’s why I supported his decision,” Zarkani’s dad Ezat Zarkani said. 

Having all the support he needs from his parents, Zarkani now only needs to finish his NOVA enrollment and wait until summer of 2021 to graduate. 

“They asked me if I wanted to walk across the stage for graduation before COVID-19 but I told them that it is unnecessary because I just want to get the diploma and dip,” Zarkani said.