Updated: Apr 29, 2022
by Jacob Connell
Senior year—the year when everything comes to a head. College applications are due, classes are more difficult, varsity sports demand more time and energy, and money needs to be saved. It is undoubtedly a stressful time for everyone; however, students tend to exacerbate their stress levels or miss opportunities by concerning themselves more with finishing high school rather than with making the most of the time remaining. So to help you have a fantastic senior year, here are 5 pitfalls worth avoiding:
Overworking yourself. Eating right and sleeping plenty is paramount when your brain is active for so many hours a day, and doubly important if you play a sport. You need to give your brain and body time to rest and relax. Power naps after school were my saving grace senior year. Additionally, you need to give yourself time away from work. Spending time with friends in a casual setting can be a solid outlet, but sometimes you’ll be too drained to spend time with others and that’s perfectly okay! Use that time to pamper yourself, play video games, or mess around with your dad’s guitar. It is amazing how much sharper your brain is when it is rested and fueled.
Doing it all by yourself. Remember, you have a support system specifically designed to aid you during this time! That isn’t to say that the system works perfectly, but it can provide valuable help. Talk to your teachers and ask for extensions if you need them. Teachers are generally pretty understanding when it comes to the workload of senior year and prefer to see your best product a few days late than a hurried product submitted on time. Communicate about what you have on your plate and more often than not they will be willing to help you out. Use your guidance counselor more than you think is necessary—they can be amazing intermediaries between you, coaches, teachers, and parents. And don’t forget to let your parents help from time to time: one of the reasons they’re bugging you all the time is that they care.
Taking 25 Study Halls. A study hall can be an invaluable period of the day for students to get ahead (or catch up) on work, but don’t take more study halls just because you technically can. Take advantage of the classes offered! This will be the last time that they will be free. Try a subject you normally wouldn’t or do an independent study on something that interests you. You might be surprised by what you gain. So, now that school’s about to start, take an honest look at your schedule: If you’ve gone too easy on yourself, talk to a guidance counselor about adding a meaningful course.
Disengaging. It can be difficult to stay engaged with your extra-curricular organizations during the first semester of senior year given the amount of work that the college application process is, but resist the temptation to pull out completely. Ideally, you’ve chosen extracurricular commitments not just to build your “resume” but because they represent areas of genuine interest. Staying engaged will continue to enrich your high school experience. Moreover, consider using the relative freedom of second semester to try something new! Personally, I joined a black box theater group senior year and while I didn’t transform into a theater major, I am extremely glad to have had that experience.
Blowing off AP/IB tests. Listen, I know. You’re almost on winter break or leaving for college, and while these tests might not mean much for your high school career, their impact resonates in college. Testing out of entry-level college courses means that you have much more flexibility with your schedule and you can jump straight into the interesting stuff. Sitting through a class that you’ve essentially already taken because you tested poorly on the AP test is incredibly boring and a waste of money.
Best wishes for a successful and rewarding senior year!
Jacob Connell is sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC.