What I wish I knew before senior year

Notre+Dame+Preparatory+Seniors+jumping+in+their+black+polos.

Notre Dame Preparatory Seniors jumping in their black polos.

Notre Dame Preparatory Seniors jumping in their black polos.
Notre Dame Preparatory seniors jump in their senior black polos. Wearing the black polo is one of the perks of being a senior.

By Francesca Decastell

Senior year has gone by faster than the Class of 2015 likely ever imagined. Today’s juniors will be seniors before they know it. Despite the varying opinions, pre-concieved notions and bits of advice prospective seniors may have heard, here are some things I wish I would have known before my senior year.

1. Senioritis is real.

You may find your last year of high school as a tempting opportunity to relax and allow your social life to rise above your academics. Do not let this happen. You need to keep a balance between your social and academic life. Colleges look at your senior year grades, and they still are heavily considered in you college application. Even if you feel that the colleges you are applying to will not care about your grades, it is still important to continue excelling in your academics and finish your last year of high school strong.

2. Senior year is not easier than junior year.

I remember I was told that my junior year was the toughest academic year and that senior year would be a breeze. This is only partially true. If you are a student who continues to take academically rigorous classes, be prepared for the workload. Even if you are not taking the most academically challenging classes, college applications and tests will catch up to you. My workload has been tremendous this year. and I will admit it’s been rather stressful. Be prepared for what lies ahead. Do not think senior year will be a breeze.

“Everybody says that senior year is easy but it is not,” said senior Colleen Sullivan. “It is time management times 10.”

3. Time manage is important.

Senior year will keep you plenty busy with a ton of things to do. So do them, and not at the last minute. Try your best to get things done ahead of time and use your free time wisely. As your responsibilities increase in quantity and difficulty, your future self will thank you for getting things done ahead of time.

“I wish I would have known how long the college application process was, and I wish I would have started much earlier than I did,” said senior Alyssa Wagner. “Even though I got everything in on time, it would have been nice to get everything done earlier and been done with it.”

4. Study for and take your SATs and ACTs as soon as possible.

Make sure that you have ample time to prepare for your exams. You do not want to juggle college essays and the workload of your senior year with studying for standardized tests. Taking the tests early will give you a chance to see where your strengths and weaknesses are and give you plenty of time to study and retake the tests if necessary.

5. Where you apply to college concerns you, not the person next to you.

You will hear many people talk about where they are applying, when they are applying, and how they are applying for college. Whether someone prefers going to school on the East Coast vs. West Coast or applying early decision vs. regular decision does not mean that that is what you have to do. It can be stressful hearing people talk about when they are applying or submitting applications. If you have not applied yet or plan to apply later for reasons of your own, do not feel rushed to apply  because other people around you are. Don’t let other’s opinions about certain colleges change your opinion. If you like a school, don’t change your mind because someone else doesn’t like it. What is best for someone else may not always be what is best for you.

6. Pick a passion.

This is a good year to identify things that you enjoy and that make you happy. Discovering subjects and activities that interest you will help you to discover what you can elaborate on in your college applications. What do you find yourself doing in your free time? Which activities have you participated in high school that you enjoy? If you cannot think of any interests, consider joining clubs or becoming  involved in extracirculars your senior year. Colleges want to see commitment and leadership in things that make you a better you.

7. Your college applications should be reflection of who YOU are.

Think about all of the extra circular activities you have been involved in over the years and explain why these activities were meaningful to you. Your applications should highlight your passions, interests and accomplishments. Aside from listing extracurricular activities, you have a chance to show colleges who you are through your essay. When writing your essays, it is easy to list generic facts regarding a college, such as the colleges location, great dorms, superior academics in your college essay. Keep in mind that colleges already know plenty about themselves and want to know who you are.

8. Do not fear the college essay.

Colleges want to see that you can write well, but they also want to get to know who you are. Don’t feel the need to list your whole life story in your college essay. Think about important events in your life that had meaning to you. What did you learn from those experiences? Find a passion of yours and elaborate on it. Write from your heart and be yourself. Do not try to be something or someone that you aren’t or  it will show in your essays. When finishing your essay, try to aim for a meaningful closing. If you can’t imagine yourself dropping a microphone at the last sentence of your essay, your conclusion needs to be stronger.

9. Establish connections with your favorite teachers. 

You will have to start considering who you will ask to write your letters of recommendation. This is an important step in your college application process, and it is helpful to have your letters of recommendation best exemplify your academic strengths and leadership qualities. Think of this as someone speaking on your behalf. Generic phrases and common compliments regarding you and your academics will not help you stand out among the thousands of others applying to your favorite school. Talk to your teachers outside of the classroom and feel free to dialogue about your letter of

10. Participate.

Haven’t gone to many football games? Have you wanted to go to a Neon Dance Party, Homecoming, Hope Kids Day or a Kairos retreat, but haven’t done so yet? Go for it! This is your last year of high school. This is your last opportunity to take advantage of the amenities our school offers. Even if your good friends do not want to go to activities you are interested in, go for yourself. Do things that make you happy and interest you. This may open more doors to finding new friends or even discovering what it is you are passionate about, which is going to be helpful in your last year of high school.

11. Be open to new friendships.

It is important to continue to build strong friendships and relationships with your closest friends. You may not see these people as often as you have been in your future college years. However, do not be afraid to continue to make more friends and get to know as many people as possible before you graduate. You may never know what the future will hold or if a potential great friendship is waiting to happen. You never know who you will build a lasting bond with this last year.

12. Taking breaks is OKAY.

Do not think of this as an invitation to procrastinate or neglect your responsibilities. Rather, think of this as a a suggestion to stratciaclly manage your workload. If you are in a situation where you have several tests, an essay, and SAT or ACT tutoring the next day, take breaks from school work. Try exercising, running errands or taking a short nap to relax your mind. You will find that it is difficult to be productive if you do not space out your study time.

According to the MIT Center for Academic Excellence,  “Generally, studying in one-hour blocks is most effective (50 minutes of study with a ten-minute break). Shorter periods can be fine for studying notes and memorizing materials, but longer periods are needed for problem-solving tasks and writing papers.  Our minds need an occasional rest in order to stay alert and productive, and you can look forward to a reward as you study.”

13. Time flies when…you’re a senior.

Do you feel like your life is flashing before your eyes? In a small sense, it is. It is almost as if someone pressed a fast forward button and hasn’t let it go. Where all of us end up is unknown; all we can hope is that we have made the most of what we have been given in high school. Find the pause button during your senior year. High school will be over before you know it.