Have or know a high school senior (or someone who will be one in the next few years)? Here’s some food for thought on what to do (or not) senior year from a recent graduate.
A Checklist for Senior Year of High School
Excitement is growing for the incoming seniors as school picks up again for their final year in high school. I even saw someone post the other day about being excited to begin college applications and I kind of laughed a little. It’s not that senior year isn’t fun — it’s plenty fun — but there’s a lot of work involved and potentially the year you technically become an adult. As someone who recently wrapped up this year, here’s some advice I’d like to pass on. Take what sticks with you and leave the rest.
- Find your sanity. Throughout this year, you’ll be busy frequently and sometimes the work can get to your head. When you get a chance to rest, take that time and spend it on something you enjoy. Find a viewpoint to watch the sunset, practice that sport you’ve always loved, or if you’re me, make some popcorn to eat while watching your favorite childhood Scooby-Doo episodes (No shame, I really enjoyed it!) This downtime is what keeps you sane enough to get done what you need to get done. Find what works and stick with it.
- For those applying to college: Don’t apply to a ton of schools just because you feel like you have to. I know so many people who applied to schools in the double digits this past year, but in the end, you can only go to one. A teacher gave me some useful advice: Applying to so many schools can potentially make the decision more difficult, because if you get into a lot of them, you have to choose and you’ll never get to know how your life would have turned out differently had you chosen one of the other schools (and worrying yourself about all of the possibilities is a fast way to lose your sanity). Not to mention, for each place you apply, you’ll have to submit an application with a payment and usually at least one essay (if not more). That really adds up quickly, I assure you. Be smart about it. In the biggest scheme of things, you will be able to get an education wherever you ultimately go.
- Dig deep and ask for help. Submitting applications for college is an interesting time to look into yourself. You get to brag a bit and show off what you’ve accomplished and why that college should choose you. You’re special (yes, you are) and have something to offer no matter what, so flaunt what you’ve got. Also note that this isn’t something surface level that you can wing at last minute. Really take some time to dig a bit deeper, and if you’re struggling, ask the people closest to you for help (such as family and/or friends). Some teachers may be incredibly helpful too. If possible, have a few people read over what you’ve written before submitting as a reality check to make sure what you’re looking to submit sounds like you and presents you in the best light possible.
- Prioritize. As easy as it can be to start living in the future with your college applications, remember that it’s important to keep up with your school work in the meantime. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all AP courses or other challenging classes that you could maybe handle a regular year — because this is no regular year. There needs to be a balance between your high school life and your college life because you’re very in between right now. You can drop classes if needed, and taking all APs won’t pay off if you end up failing them because you were too overwhelmed. Keep your sanity in mind and be realistic about what you can handle (and it’s okay if it’s different than what someone else chooses!).
- Apply to colleges based on your interests. It sometimes seems like parents can forget that they aren’t the one going to college. Of course they only have the best interest of their child in mind, but their child is the one who has to choose the life they want to live. One of the first things I took into consideration was location: I wanted to be near a beach. This surely limited me because I was only looking at one coast of schools, but I figured if I was going to be living in this place for four years, I might as well find a place I loved. This connects to that sanity aspect. As for majors, apply to what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Your major is truly just a vehicle for discovering your path in life. It will connect you to people of similar interests and point you in the direction of a job that you’ll hopefully enjoy. Finally, schools don’t make or break your career. My grandpa gave me some good advice before I started applying to schools. He told me that it looks better to someone hiring you if you were top of your class at a “less prestigious” school than to almost fail out of an elite school. Find somewhere you will thrive; you’ll likely end up happier in the long run. And also keep in mind this reality check: the college admission process can be pretty random so while you may be qualified for admission, there may be way more qualified candidates than spots available and so many people will receive rejection letters. No matter what response you get from your colleges: it’s not personal.
- Cherish this time with the people around you and live in the present. It’s easy to push people aside when you’re constantly busy and have a lot on your mind. I know. However, try not to let this get in the way of important relationships. Chances are, this is your last year at home and with these people that you’ve been in school with. As much as you might think you want to be in college already, reality is going to hit you soon enough that these people won’t always be here, so cherish the time that you have with them while you can. Make that extra effort to go to the farmer’s market with your mom on Sunday morning, watch that baseball game with your dad, play that board game with your siblings, goof off with your friends. These are memories you’ll hold onto.
Show up, do your best on applications (if applying right now), spend time with those you love, and enjoy your senior year! It’s a fun one.