By Elise Mello
After a stressful, tumultuous first semester, seniors thought they could finally take a breath of relief knowing that graduation was right on the horizon. However, a little something known as COVID-19 threw a wrench in those plans and has us all social-distancing for the rest of the school year. Lucky for you underclassmen, this means that I have more than enough time to write up some wisdom I’ve gained over the last four years that will help you make it to the finish line in one piece. Granted, I was fortunate enough to have a full-length Junior year, and our two journeys will not mirror each other exactly, I’m confident that the tips I’ve picked up from both cautionary tales and my own personal mistakes will help make the lives of any upcoming Juniors easier. Without further ado, here is the abridged Paw Prints Guide to Senior Year!
Visit schools (either digitally or in-person) as soon as possible
The guidance counselors often recommend students begin researching and touring prospective colleges in the spring of their junior year as well as the following summer, but if you’re anything like me you might think that you can push it off until August, September, or even October. Who can blame you? The last thing that anyone wants to be doing with all the uncertainty in the world is deciding where they want to spend the next four years of their lives. However, DO NOT WAIT TO TOUR COLLEGES SENIOR YEAR! My biggest regret of the college process is delaying going on tours, simply because I thought I would have plenty of time during the summer. I’m sure that anyone who was looking to tour schools this spring is annoyed that they are unable to visit them for the foreseeable future, but use the internet to your advantage!! Practically every college has some sort of virtual tour on their website that will give you an idea of what the campus is like and if it checks the boxes for what you want in a school. This will help you narrow down a list of where you’re applying well before the fall of your senior year rolls around, because I can assure you that squeezing all your tours in during that first term will be incredibly difficult. Application deadlines tend to creep up on you, especially if you are applying early action/decision, and if you don’t finalize your list of schools ASAP you may end up with just a month to complete all those supplements. Not to mention keeping up your grades and obtaining some solid recommendation letters will be more important than ever (since many schools are waiving SAT and ACT requirements), and you might even want to try to get some social interaction in despite the chaos of it all. All I’m saying is do what you can to minimize your stress senior year, and the first step is to schedule those college tours!
Don’t overdo it with the honors and AP classes
It’s an age-old cliche for upperclassmen to complain constantly of their senioritis and for underclassmen to joke that they already have it. No matter how hard you’ve pushed yourself for the previous eleven years of public education, chances are you will develop senioritis pretty early on in your final year. Even a simple one-sided worksheet for math will seem so unimportant that you will brush it to the side so you can binge the next season of You on Netflix. However, grades are still important senior year, regardless of whether or not you were accepted to college early. No one wants to see you suffer academically because you chose an overly ambitious schedule. After all those years of hard work, you deserve a break! To avoid any failing grades, I would suggest picking out a schedule that’s not overly challenging, along with one or two more difficult classes in topics that interest you. This will minimize the amount of homework you have to complete each night, while also allowing you to enjoy your final year of high school and all the events that come with it.
Don’t let senioritis leave you credit pending
As mentioned in the previous bullet, senioritis hits pretty hard. It may seem unimportant to miss a day of school every now and then, but those absences add up fast. Soon enough you’ll receive an attendance warning for a core class (take it from someone who was one absence away from being credit pending in A.P. Statistics). It would be so disappointing if you worked hard to maintain your GPA, and then have it all go down the drain simply because you slept in one too many times. So suck it up, roll out of bed - pj’s and all - , and get to class. You can sleep when seniors get out in May.
If you haven’t yet, ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE
For the last three years, I have been the first one to scoff at people who whip out their planner every class to write down the homework and mark down important dates. Personally, I’ve always been (semi) capable of remembering what needed to be completed and felt absolutely no need to garner my organizational skills since they would never be used. But senior year is your final chance to get it together. Once college rolls around you will need to have perfected your time management to keep track of all your classes, tests, internships, and work studies. Quarantine is the perfect time to find an organizational method that works for you and implement it into your life. Most of us haven’t had this much free time since we were toddlers, so instead of scrolling through TikTok for three hours a day (trust me, I understand the temptation) try to plan out your remote learning assignments and any other tasks you might have to complete throughout the week. You’ll be surprised by how much time you actually save in the long room as well as how much more difficult it is to procrastinate something when its due date is explicitly written down.