Senior Year Essay

Every day I realize that I’m a senior. I know that probably sounds like a weird thing to say, but every day I have this enlightened moment where I say to myself “Whoa. This is my last year of high school. This is my last year of mandated public education.”

When I wasn’t a senior, I heard seniors talk about missing things about the place they live before they move, and this is something I’ve been consciously trying to avoid. I thought it would be easy, because the place I live is notorious for its lack of things to do. I’d bet that Murrieta is more exciting than a farming town in Nebraska, but if you only went by what you heard from the kids here, you’d think that this city is some kind of punishment. It really isn’t that easy to stop those nostalgic feelings from forming, though, even this early in the year.

Despite my attempts otherwise, I’ve started to notice things that I really like and that will be different no matter where I move. They’re usually just little things, like the Chinese restaurant with the sign out front that says “CHINESERESTAURANT” that serves amazing orange chicken. Or the fact that every morning on the way to school I see hot air balloons in the distance over the wineries. Or just the fact that I have a comfortable house to live in. When I go to college, I’m going to have to live in a dorm. I’ve stayed in the dorms of three different colleges for summer camps and programs over the years, and the thought of living in a dorm room just doesn’t appeal to me.

It’s not just material things that are becoming apparent, though. It’s people too, like my family. Obviously, I’ll never lose connection with my parents, but after next summer it’s going to be different. It’s something that I look at with a good mix of apprehension and eagerness. I’ve always been excited to live in my own place, have a job, and earn my own money. But it makes me sad to think that this is the last chance I have to spend a lot of time with my parents and family. Have I taken full advantage of the time I’ve had? Of course it’s fun to think about being independent and responsible, but it’s not fun thinking I can never go back.

And it’s the people at school. I’ve mentioned before that we have a large student body. With the understanding that by June this campus will no longer be home to me, I realize that the people I see every day I will most likely never see again. I’m not really concerned about friends — we’ll find ways to stay in touch — it’s more the people who I don’t yet know. At a school of so many, I can honestly say that I see a new face every day. It’s a little weird, and it’s a little depressing. I’ve had all this time to meet as many people as possible, and I do think I did a pretty good job of it, but there are still all these people I haven’t met. What about those people? They’ve been there, but I haven’t learned from them. I have so little time left to glean whatever I can from them — stories, experiences, jokes, whatever… I have a hard time not seeing them as a missed opportunity.

Every day the future becomes more real. The idea of college and life after college becomes less of an intangible fantasy and more of a hard reality.

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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.

Follow Kat Cohen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrKatCohen

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