This past week I was grabbing a smoothie with several soon-to-be seniors (boy, do I love unintentional alliteration). Naturally, the topic of school came into conversation and, upon hearing their array of concerns, I was inspired to come up with this. So voila! Here is an exceptionally lengthy and most certainly over-kill list of what I wish I’d known (in no particular order) before starting twelfth grade.
1. Tackle college apps early and often
There’s a comfort that comes with being a senior. You’ve made it through rounds upon rounds of testing, you’ve established who your friends are, what teachers are on your side. But don’t let that deter you from hitting the ground running. Applying to college is daunting (big shocker, I know), and the longer you put off writing those essays, the more stress that will build.
2. Ride out your existential crises
You’re going to have one of these. Or, in my case, one million. And, no matter who you are or what your situation is, that’s perfectly okay. If you need to cry it out: do so. If you need to take a day off from school to get some rest: do so. If you don’t take that time for yourself, self-inflicted paralysis will easily derail you.
3. Stop looking left and right
It’s going to feel like your in a horse race at times, fighting to get into the same schools and measuring your worth by comparing accomplishments. Save yourself the energy and knock it off. Applying to college is much better when approached as an individual experience. Focus on your own strengths and your own future.
4. Learn to say ‘No’
Overcrowding yourself with responsibility is the easiest way to resent senior year. You’ll have a fair amount on your plate as is, so don’t feel the need to keep building up a college resume that’s already been sent in.
5. Stay interested
You have a duty to maintain your prior commitments, whether that’s to your sport, your clubs, or simply your education. Mix up your approaches if you have to; practice at different times or study in new places you wouldn’t have bothered studying in before. By actively striving to stay engaged, you can help combat the perpetual boredom.
6. You’re parents really do mean the best
They’re going to drive you absolutely crazy some days (weeks), asking about schools and majors and SAT scores. Remember that they’re trying to sift through their own emotions during this process and only want to see you succeed.
7. Schedule a free period
If this is an option at your school, heavily consider taking advantage of it. I was not able to have a free period senior year, and consequently missed out on some great food runs with friends, trips to the beach, and extra hours that could have been devoted to class work, applications, and sleep.
8. Senioritis is okay
There’s a high likelihood that you’ll experience a dip in your motivation at some point. Don’t hate yourself for it. Don’t deny falling victim to it. Acknowledge that it’s there and then try to keep truckin’.
9. Scholarship applications are worth your time
When scholarships open up in the winter, you will be positively disgusted by essays and questionnaires. Fill them out anyway. Every hour of effort may be rewarded with a nice chunk of money – a whole lot more than minimum wage, that is.
10. Enjoy the people around you
There are a lot of kids in school that you’re friends with out of convenience. You’ve shared a class. You park next to each other. These relationships may not last long after graduation, and you want to ensure that you cherish them while they’re still a part of your routine. On the flip side, senior year shouldn’t be bombarded with needless drama; distance yourself from negativity to concentrate on what (and who) really matters.
11. Sweatpants qualify as clothing
It’s senior year; you’re going to have some brutal mornings. If you want to try hard and look presentable, the more power to you. If, like myself, you are a creature of comfort, then don those baggy clothes with pride.
12. Keep a lighter schedule
You may feel pressured to continue taking at least as many AP’s as you did in your junior year. This is not to say that you absolutely shouldn’t, but really consider what it is you’re signing up for. Will you actually put in the effort for a strong grade? Will you actually study as much as you need to for the test? Within reason, colleges won’t see easing up on your schedule as a huge red flag. (For perspective, I took 6 AP’s as a junior, but only 3 as a senior).
13. Openly appreciate your teachers
Interestingly enough, my teachers are what I miss the most about high school. In college, you’ll have a much harder time finding professors who carry the same level of care for not only your education but also your well-being. Try to stay in touch with them after you leave and make it clear how grateful you are for their efforts.
14. Rejection will not define you…
The best and worst part of senior year is when the admissions decisions start trickling out. It’s riveting and uncomfortable and demoralizing and rewarding all at the same time. Push aside any jealousy that threatens to bubble up and choose to embody integrity. No matter what happens, you will end up on a path that can get you where you want to be.
15. …And neither will graduation cords
You’d be surprised by how many people become petty in those final weeks over a shiny strand of rope. Who cares how much bling you’re wearing when you’re getting that diploma? What really counts is that you’ve graduated.
16. Ask for help
If you’re struggling with applications, with relationships, with your own self-doubt: reach out to someone. Senior year can take an emotional toll in innumerable ways, and talking it through with others (college advisors, counselors, peers) will only make you stronger.
17. Attend school events
Now’s not the time to be “too cool” for school spirit. There aren’t many more occasions where a large portion of your senior class will be together having fun. You don’t want to miss out on some hilarious memories.
18. Attend non-school events
Although there is still one more summer ahead of you, it’s never too early to adventure in your own back yard. (I mean who knows where you’ll be situated this time next year?) Don’t let the same old excuses bog you down: too much homework, a project that needs finishing… all of those things will be waiting for you when you get back.
19. Embrace being a role model
One of the weird things that’ll happen is that underclassmen will look to you now and again for guidance. Even if you don’t realize it, you’re setting an example for the next generations of twelfth graders. See it as an opportunity to give back to your high school and make valuable connections with new people.
20. Save your nostalgia for the end
The best advice I can give to anyone approaching senior year is be present. It’s okay to have periods of sadness, of unwillingness to move on. Just never forget that, as much as senior year is about closing a chapter, it’s also about celebrating an amazing journey of friendship and personal growth.
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About Elise Gout
Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.
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