10 Things You Need to Do Before You Leave High School

If you're a high school senior, you may be counting the days until graduation, but it's important to make some lasting memories while you can.

On the first day of my freshman year of high school, graduation seemed like it was about a billion years away. But by the final days of my senior year, the whole experience seemed to have gone by in an instant. Sure, there were days when algebra seemed to drag by at a snail’s pace, and it’s a wonder that I went through with my decision to major in English after my excruciatingly tedious exposure to Shakespeare junior year. But, in the words of author Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

If you’ve just begun your senior year, the coming months are going to be some of the busiest of your life thus far, and graduation is going to be here before you know it. Be sure to hit the pause button from time to time, savor the moments as they speed by, and do all the things you can only do while you’re in high school.

1. Participate in a senior prank (as long as it’s a harmless one!)

Senior pranks are a time-honored tradition. When I was a senior, the most memorable prank was when a mischievous group of my classmates wrapped my history teacher’s entire car in plastic wrap (he was amused). Go ahead and get in on the fun. Just make sure your prank is completely legal and doesn’t break any of your school’s rules, because many a high school senior has gotten in trouble for taking it too far.

2. Thank the teachers and other mentors who have influenced you

I graduated 13 years ago, and I can count on one hand the number of teachers whose names I remember. While all teachers are doing some seriously extraordinary work, there are bound to be a few that you really click with and who will have a lasting impact on your life. Thank them while you can—it will mean more to them than you know.

3. Go to a dance, preferably prom

I was one of those high schoolers who thought dances were super lame. And they can be. But I went to my senior prom and I’m so glad I did. Trust me. You should go to your prom. Don’t have a date? Go with a friend or a group of friends. Don’t like to dance? You certainly don’t have to bust a move to have good time at prom. If nothing else, it’s a fun excuse to dress to the nines and make some memories with the people who’ve been a big part of your life for the past four years.

4. Take pictures and videos

You might dread going to school some mornings, but one day you’ll feel a certain nostalgia for those hallowed halls. Take plenty of pictures and videos so you can remember your old stomping ground.

5. Go to a school-sponsored event you wouldn’t normally attend

Never been to a football game? Avoid pep rallies like the plague? Does the word “orchestra” give you hives? Get over it and go to an event you’ve never gone to before, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you’ve taken advantage of everything your high school has to offer.

6. Make amends

There are lots of things you should leave high school with: friends, memories, life lessons, not to mention an education and a diploma. But the one thing you shouldn’t leave with is regret. If you’ve ever been less than kind to a teacher or fellow student, now is the time to make things right. You don’t want to be beating yourself up 20 years from now because you never apologized to someone you hurt.

7. Take a risk

Continuing on the theme of regret, your senior year is a good time to go out on a limb. Volunteer for a leadership position in a club. Audition for the lead role in the school play. Tell your crush how you feel. Strike up a conversation with someone you’ve been wanting to loop into your circle of friends. Trying new things beyond your comfort zone will help you prepare for all the adventures that await you in college.

8. Buy a yearbook

Buy a yearbook and make all your friends and teachers sign it. If you don’t, you’ll wish you had. At worst, it’ll be a good way to chart how much your haircut improves over the years, and at best it’ll be like a small time capsule containing some of your fondest memories.

9. Begin taking responsibility for your own life

One day soon you’re going to be totally on your own. The freedom of setting your own bedtime and eating whatever you want will be thrilling, but you’re also going to have lots of un-fun, grown-up responsibilities. Start doing your own laundry and managing your finances sooner than later so you’ll be prepared to take care of yourself once you start college.

10. Write a letter to your future self

You’re going to change so much in the coming years, and it’s important to remember who you are right now. Write a letter to yourself and discuss things like your friends, your classes, your relationship with your parents, and your goals for the future. Keep it in a safe place where you won’t forget about it, and then read it at some point down the road—perhaps, say, when your 10-year high school reunion rolls around. You’ll be fascinated to see how much you’ve changed, as well as how much you’ve stayed the same.

Now go seize the day, intrepid seniors! As one of the world’s most infamous high schoolers once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

senior year

About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie and CollegeXpress. She holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times, she has been an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Tariq Adam Khatib

Tariq Adam Khatib

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me a lot. I am a Tanzania boy who finished my high school studies in Tanzania. I never knew I could get an opportunity to get a scholarship to study abroad. I am happy that now I know how to find the school to study abroad through CollegeXpress.

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Charleston Southern University

North Charleston, SC

Columbia University

New York, NY

SUNY Morrisville

Morrisville, NY

Paul Smith's College

Paul Smiths, NY