I know it can seem sometimes like senior year of high school is eating you alive. But do not fret! There are some things you can do to beat the never-ending time management/college admissions struggle!
Think of the admissions process as its own class.
First you have to acknowledge that no matter what you do, the college process will take time. Time to find schools, do research, write your application, and ultimately be ready to hit send. I found it helpful to treat the process like any other class; I spent one free period four days a week sitting in the library doing something on my college application to do list. Sometimes I would just read over things I had, but at least it made me feel like I was doing something.
It is really important when planning other aspects of your senior year to think about the college application process. When figuring out classes, remember that you already have the college process, and so give yourself some free time to take care of that. Even before agreeing to one-time events, think about what deadlines may be around then and how much preparation this event will require.
Get things out of the way.
Part of planning ahead is seeing what you can take care of sooner rather than later. One big thing to consider is standardized tests. A good strategy is taking most if not all tests before the start of senior year. This may seem overwhelming, but think about how much time prep, practice, and stress take up. Try to aim to get tests done quickly, but if you need to take one that semester, take it.
A smaller way of getting things out of the way is try to stay ahead of assignments. Even if you’re one of those people who “works best under pressure,” or “only needs to do one draft”, try breaking assignments down and doing them in a timely fashion. You never know when you’ll start getting swamped, but when it happens, you’ll be happy that essay is halfway done.
Focus on extracurriculars.
Extracurricular activities are a tricky area. People really like doing them, and even you don’t, it looks good to keep them up. Extracurricular activities require you to be honest with yourself, and you have to accept when you can’t handle the time commitment. For me it was the school play. I really loved being involved in the show and the community it created for me, but it meant being in rehearsal for several hours four days a week. I found that by being a wardrobe mistress, I could still be part of the process while only being there once a week.
If the activity you have in mind doesn’t have a lesser role, talk to whoever is in charge and explain your situation. While you may think you have to tough it out like the rest of the seniors, you’d be surprised how understanding people are. What’s important to a teacher is your wellbeing, and if being a starter is impacting that, they’ll understand.
Have a life.
Lastly, the plight of every student everywhere at any time is just having a life. It can be hard, really, but it is doable. You can go out, you can get work done, all it takes is a little planning and the right mindset. I am generally a planner, and if I knew that my friend’s concert was a week from Saturday, I made sure my work was done before that. Knowing I had somewhere specific to go and have fun pushed me to just get my work done so that when I hung out with my friends, I was hanging out with my friends and not worrying about the essay I had to write the next day.
I also enjoyed that when I went out it was to places where I knew no one would be talking about schoolwork. A lot of my friends did not go to my high school, and so being with them was like entering a separate world. What really makes you feel like you’re not having “a life” is feeling like even your non-work activities are tethered to work. Once you find a separate sphere, things feel more interesting. When you can’t escape from school, it feels like you don’t have a life. If you can find a way to branch out to people and things not centered around your school, life suddenly feels more complex, more interesting, more fun.
So those are my big tips for surviving first semester senior year, or really any stressful time in your academic life. All it takes is a little planning, a practical state of mind, and a good escape from it all. For some people that means going out literally every weekend, for others it’s having an online escape. Try different things, see what works for you, and before you know it, you’ll be in easy breezy second semester.