As the college Class of 2019 gears up for their last year of high school, there are a lot of emotions and uncertainties about what the next year -- and the four years after that -- will bring. High school seniors are on the brink of making some of the biggest decisions of their lives, and for many students and their parents, it will feel as if this moment came sooner than they anticipated.
The previous three years of high school went by in the blink of an eye, and senior year will be no different. Navigating the final year of high school can be eerily similar to the first, with a lot of nerves and high expectations for the "best year ever."
Senior year of high school lends a lot of "lasts," but for the first time students will be navigating the college admissions process while trying to make the most of what's left of high school. Students: Start senior year focused and prepared by knowing what to expect and how to resolve any challenges you may face.
Here's what to expect senior year, and how to handle it:
Your grades STILL matter.
Just because colleges may initially only see your first semester grades doesn't mean that the rest of the year doesn't matter. Colleges look at grades from all four years of high school, even if colleges don't see senior year grades right away. Colleges will require you to submit a final grade report, and poor grades senior year can keep you out of your dream college. Some colleges have even been known to rescind acceptances if your final transcript shows a sharp drop in grades.
Stay focused on finishing out the year strong and keep your grades up! If you already have an A average, maintain it. If you're somewhere between a B and A, work hard to bring it up! Colleges will notice that you're working hard and that you have the maturity to handle a college course load.
Senioritis will hit -- fight it.
Whether it strikes mid-fall semester at the height of application season, or next semester when school seems to be winding down, the plague known as "senioritis" -- a slide in motivation and classroom performance -- will affect you. It's important to know that senioritis, while playfully named, is no joke. As I said before, colleges can rescind your offer of admission if your performance drops. Also, succumbing to senioritis can leave you ill prepared for a college course load, as you can get used to putting in the bare minimum to get by -- which won't fly next year.
So what's the cure? Set realistic goals throughout the school year and work to attain them! Whether it's an A in a challenging course, preparing for a competition or volunteering more often, working toward simple goals will keep you on track for a great finish to senior year.
You will be busy, so stay organized!
Balancing a tough course load, college applications, extracurriculars and all the final activities that come with senior year will be an enormous challenge. Time management is essential to your success, especially as you dive deep into those college applications.
Keep a detailed agenda with important deadlines, test dates and other obligations you'll have throughout the school year. Set aside blocks of time for studying, extracurriculars and college applications. Putting it in writing will hold you accountable and keep your schedule organized.
College applications will be due sooner than you thought.
Jan. 1 application deadlines -- and even November Early Decision deadlines -- may seem too far off to worry about now, but they're really only a few weeks away. It's important to get started on your applications as soon as possible, as you'll need plenty of time to refine your essays, gather letters of recommendation and finalize your activity list and resume.
Don't take these lightly! While it may not seem like a lot of work now, if you're scrambling the day before your apps are due, you're bound to make careless mistakes and forget to include certain details or materials.
It'll be exciting -- and emotional.
There will be a lot of lasts this year. Last first day of school, last homecoming, last football game, etc. It's easy to get caught up in the nostalgia, especially as the reality of the end of high school begins to set in. It will be an emotional year as you prepare for college and begin to say goodbye to your school, teachers and friends, but it's going to be fun!
Just as you make time for schoolwork, make time for friends and fun. Senior year is important as it's the stepping-stone to college, but it's also an important time to spend with family and friends, making memories before you head off in different directions. Stay focused on academics but also embrace opportunities you have to make the most of your last year.
During your senior year, you'll make some great memories. You'll stress over college applications, exams and graduation. You'll experience disappointment -- whether it's a college rejection or losing a big game for the last time. Senior year requires students to do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time, but with support from your parents, friends and teachers, you'll make it through ready to tackle the next chapter of your life.
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What are the biggest differences between freshman year and senior year of high school? From your classes to your relationships to your, well, you, it’s a lot.
It's not easy being a high school freshman. Ask your parents or older siblings what they were like as freshmen—many will cringe and use any one of a long list of unflattering labels to describe themselves. But then ask them about their senior year and they're likely to describe themselves very differently—for the better.
Students change in many ways between freshman and senior year. Some changes are obvious; others, more subtle. If you’re wondering about what might lie ahead between freshman and senior year of high school, or if you just want to reminisce, keep reading…
Classes and academics
Freshman year of high school is all about firsts, many of which are academic. For many students it's the first time they change classes for each period, which means they have to develop good time management and organizational skills (and regularly ask themselves questions like “What classes do I have today?” “What books do I need?” “How long will it take me to get to my next class?”). Not to mention the pressure of remembering that all-important locker combination. Putting a schedule together is another big adjustment, since prior to freshman year, most students' schedules are pretty much decided for them. Freshmen may be in classes with upperclassmen for the first time too, especially electives like phys. ed. or art. And freshmen find out very quickly that the pace of high school is different than junior high: projects are different, papers require more critical thinking, deadlines come faster, and assignments are just overall more demanding. (Or maybe it just seems that way because there is more work than in junior high!)
That adjustment period is long over by senior year. The confusion over classes and newness of the way high school works fades away. A lot of the initial excitement about high school fades away too, especially as seniors face the struggles and stress of applying to colleges while balancing all their other responsibilities and tougher classes. Speaking of which, seniors often have the freedom to take more specialized high school classes, like electives, and can take advantage of AP and other challenging top-level courses. Then there’s senioritis, that blah feeling that often comes after getting college acceptances. You feel like you’re on autopilot to graduation. Why keep trying in your classes when your future is already decided? Plus, you’re exhausted after long four years of high school and you’re totally distracted by excitement/fear about going to college. Of course, though a little senioritis probably won’t hurt you, it’s important to not throw in the towel on high school just yet. A serious dip in your grades can have real-world consequences, like missing out on scholarship opportunities, disappointing potential future recommendation writers (for scholarships or internships), and maybe even losing your college acceptances. Graduation—and vacation—will come soon enough. You can make it until then!
Not to get all health class about it, but many of the most obvious differences between high school freshmen and seniors are their physical transformations. Freshmen are right out of junior high and still look like kids. Many have braces, glasses, acne...all common headaches of adolescence. Many are skinny and undeveloped, while plenty of others still have a little baby fat hanging around. But, eventually, braces come off, contacts replace glasses, and slowly, freshmen start to transform into stronger, better versions of themselves. With those physical changes, a lot of students gain more confidence—although, of course, most students still struggle with self-image and self-esteem to some degree. Some freshmen are almost unrecognizable by the time they're seniors, while others keep changing (a lot) well after high school.
Students are more mature by the time they're seniors (well, usually). They often take on much more responsibility by the time senior year rolls around. Many get their first jobs, a driver's license, and/or they start volunteering in the community. More is expected of you by the time you’re a senior—whether it’s higher expectations from your parents, teachers, coaches, or after-school employer. And those higher standards and tougher challenges can naturally help you mature.
Whether taking the SATs or researching schools, most college preparation actually happens in the junior year, which seems like forever away when you’re freshman—but it comes up fast. By the time senior year starts, students should be narrowing down their college choices, filling out applications, and waiting for those all-important acceptance letters.
Related:Find colleges that fit you here
The beginning vs. the end
Freshmen are just getting started. The next four years are wide open in terms of new friends, relationships, activities, classes, sports, and experiences. But they’re also four years that should be taken seriously, because they’re the foundation for your college and career choices—and you need to start building that foundation as a freshman. It starts with choosing classes as wisely as possible and working hard and doing your best in them. You don’t need to start choosing colleges or majors; in fact, you probably shouldn’t, because things will probably change a lot by senior year. However, freshman year is a good time to start thinking about some of these issues, because they can keep you motivated.
While freshmen are looking ahead and planning what they want their high school experience to be, seniors are doing some reflecting. Most are looking back at the last four years and marveling at how quickly it went (and it does!). But they’re also looking ahead to their futures, whether it's college, work, the military, taking a gap year, or a combination of these things. And, of course, senior year is full of lasts: last first day of school with your BFFs, last game, last school play, prom, and, finally, graduation. They’re bittersweet times, but they can also be some of your most cherished memories.
Once you start high school, you'll probably hear something like “enjoy these years—they go so fast” dozens of times, but that's because they do. High school is an exciting, confusing, and stressful time, but they are four of the most important years of your life. So enjoy them—they go so fast.
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