Image from Stocksnap

Image from Stocksnap.

It seems like just yesterday I was in your shoes. Young, dewy-eyed, and unjaded, I thought I’d conquer the world my senior year. Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as I had planned. Here’s to making the best of your senior year, while avoiding a head of hair gray from worrying.

1. Stay busy…

Senior year isn’t the time to slack off, and yes, your grades still matter. Elizabeth, a freshman at Miami University, recommends “taking as many APs as you can handle, because they can make college a lot cheaper.” Don’t blow off your commitments because you’re mentally somewhere else. The familiar things can ground you when so many other things seem left to chance.

2. …but not too busy

It’s easy to get caught up in things because they look good on your resume or seem impressive to your peers. If you don’t love what you’re doing, consider dropping it. Quitting isn’t a dirty word. Just be careful not to make it a habit.

3. Remember that you’re not in this alone

Feeling bummed about that hard math quiz? Your peers probably do too. Got accepted to your dream school? Your friends are happy for you. It’s too easy to get trapped in your own bubble. Keep your friends in the loop so they can help you keep it real.

When things get hard, draw on your support system. Sophie, a freshman at George Mason University, says she “wishes she’d gotten more teachers to look over her essays.” Do your teachers seem busy? Ask your friends. Peer reviews and criticism can be surprisingly thorough and enlightening.

4. Get your applications done early

“But I’m swamped in work and have a test tomorrow,” you say.

It doesn’t matter. Do them anyway. School only gets harder.

I didn’t feel inspired to write my essays the summer before senior year. I thought I hadn’t lived yet. (Yes, I was seventeen and angsty. Don’t judge.) I didn’t feel inspired when the Common App opened. I thought I’d have an epiphany in the middle of my senior year. The epiphany came when I realized that I didn’t have the time I needed to perfect my essays because I’d procrastinated. You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to make it. And trust me, you don’t want to make it on December 31 at 11:00pm.

5. Don’t worry when it’s out of your hands

After you submit your applications, you should forget about them. When people asked me where I applied to college, I responded with a blank stare. Kidding. You shouldn’t be that extreme. You also shouldn’t google your school every waking moment. And you definitely should stay away from your school’s forum on College Confidential. Seeing other people worry about getting in will make you worry too. This also applies to scholarships and gap year programs. Take up a new hobby, like knitting, to distract yourself.

6. Agenda planners are your friends

I tried to keep all my assignments, meetings, and projects in my head during senior year. This is a grave mistake. Productivity master David Allen once said “The mind is made for having ideas, not holding them.” This applies to deadlines and meetings too. Use a physical planner or an online one, not your head. That only results in headaches.

7. Ignore the haters

It’s your last year. Stress gets to people. They’ll probably be more irritable as a whole. Don’t take it personally, even if it is personal. Be patient with your friends, and let any stray haters along the way be your motivators. Don’t let anyone distract you from your goals.

8. Do the things that really matter

Go to prom. Hang out with your friends. Don’t blow off your senior year, but don’t get caught up in the little things. It’s all about balance. Gracie, a freshman at Middlebury College, recommends “living it up and finding a balance between work and play.” In the end, you’ll remember having the time of your life with your friends, not that one test you pulled an all nighter to study for. It’ll be good practice for college, where you’ll have fewer people explicitly telling you what to do.

9. Take care of yourself

Please. Coffee isn’t liquid sleep. Being sleep deprived and worried all the time isn’t good for you. Remember to exercise. Walking to the fridge only counts in a pinch. Again, it’s about balance. Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day if you need it.

10. Document your experience

Your friends and parents will want to take many pictures. Indulge them, even if you dislike pictures. As Etienne, a freshman at the University of Southern California, says, make sure you look fabulous for all of them! Keep a journal and write in it during your downtime. Senior year passed in a blur, and I wish I had taken more time to smell the roses.

Senior year can be one of your fondest adolescent memories. Make sure you don’t look back on it with regret.

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