4 Universal Truths About Senior Year of High School

Whether you're a high school senior about to graduate or a junior psyched/terrified about what's to come, you will relate to these truths about senior year.

Whether you’re a high school senior about to graduate or a junior psyched/terrified about what’s to come, you will relate to these truths about senior year.

All throughout high school, you hear a lot about senior year from other seniors, teachers, or even your parents. They recount fond memories from their senior year and give you advice for your own. But it can be difficult to tell the difference between the truths and tall tales.

Here are four big parts of senior year—and the truth behind them.


The truth: Senioritis is real and can have real consequences. However, though you probably won’t avoid senioritis completely, it doesn’t need to bring you down.

While some students joke about having senioritis all throughout high school, there is a big difference between your procrastination over the first three years and the severe lack of motivation in the last. (I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s true!)

Students who have been unmotivated in the past may mistakenly think that senior year will make no difference for them, but it’s important to remain strong to make up for any past slacking. On the flip side, highly motivated students may assume they have built up immunity to senioritis. I know from experience, though, that it doesn’t work that way. Your past hard work may trick you into believing that you don’t need to work as hard senior year. Your good habits will certainly help you fight off procrastination, but everyone catches a bout of senioritis eventually.

Related: 10 Tips for Shaking Off Senioritis

A huge misconception is that if you’ve already been accepted into college, you have no reason to continue trying hard in high school. You do have reasons, though. For one, colleges will look at your second-semester grades, and if you clearly stopped trying, they can definitely take back your offer of admission. Second, certain scholarships use your grades from last term to determine if you qualify. Third, the habits you develop now will transfer to college, so your current persistence will help you endure challenges in the future. Finally, you owe it to yourself to complete the task you started 12 years ago.

Senioritis is the feeling that you have no purpose, but you do. Your purpose is to continue to work hard and be open to learning, so you can graduate proud and ready for the future. Senior year teaches you more than higher-level math and reading comprehension; it teaches you how to keep going even when everything inside of you is telling you to quit. It may not feel like it right now, but education is a gift, so don’t squander it. There’s a saying by Zig Ziglar: “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.”

That being said, senioritis isn’t all bad. (Shocking, I know!) It can help you appreciate the time you have with your friends and cherish your last year of high school. Studying with friends, taking healthy breaks, and rewarding yourself after work can help you overcome senioritis. In the end, defeating senioritis is entirely up to you.

Applying to colleges

The truth: The college admission process is hard—and it doesn’t stop when you send in your applications. But you can make your college journey easier by taking everything one step at a time.

I started senior year believing that once I applied to college, the majority of the work would be over. Welp, I was wrong.

I underestimated the amount of time scholarships could take, and I didn’t know there could be other tasks ahead. Filling out the FAFSA and writing a résumé (if you haven’t done them already) are just a couple of examples of what comes after you apply and before you make the final college decision. This is all in addition to what you already do in and outside of school.

My advice for high school seniors? Don’t be afraid of the college process. It’s a milestone in your life, not a burden. The best way to enjoy your year without neglecting the responsibilities that comes with it is to take each moment as it comes. There is a time to hang out with friends and enjoy senior perks, and there is a time to apply for colleges, sort through scholarships, and fill out the FAFSA. You must find time for both the fun and the work in order to have the most rewarding senior year—and future!

For example, putting off applying to scholarships might be the difference between having enough money to go to your dream school. The process won’t be as bad as you think, either. While there seems to be an overwhelming supply of scholarships, you don’t have to apply for them all. Don’t think of the amount as an endless pile of work. The variety of scholarships out there means you can find some you qualify for. Start by searching for scholarships or asking your guidance counselors for upcoming scholarships. (You can even sign up for CollegeXpress e-mails for weekly scholarship updates.)

The point is focus on just one college-related task at a time. Then find another and keep going. Try to come up with a schedule and use time management. Decide how much time you need to, say, apply for a scholarship and plan out the next couple of ones you’ll do over the span of a few weeks.

If you take senior year one day at a time, you’ll stay on track without feeling overwhelmed.

Trying new things

The truth: It’s good to try new things, but you don’t have to try everything—and you may not have time to, anyway. So prioritize what’s most helpful and important to you.

At the first assembly of the year, our Vice Principal advised the senior class to do anything and everything they wanted because it was our last year. I was excited, because I saw senior year as my opportunity to do everything I never had a chance to do earlier in high school...

I quickly discovered why I hadn’t done everything in previous years: I couldn’t. There simply wasn’t enough time in the day. Between my regular school work, college search process, job, internship, and the clubs I was already in, I was spread too thin. I felt as if I was only giving a small fraction of myself to each task because I didn’t have time to give anymore. I realized I couldn’t do everything. 

This was discouraging at first, but I soon understood that all my Vice Principal meant was to make the most of senior year. It’s not really about how much you do but how much you love what you do. While it is good to engage in your last year and maybe try something new, it's not good to overcommit. Remember, you’re already going to feel unmotivated, so don’t pile on a bunch of extra obligations you can’t meet.

If you do want to try new things, like when choosing your senior year classes or extracurriculars, consider what would make you happiest. But don’t forget to balance your responsibilities. For example, if you’ve always wanted to be in drama club, you should go for it now, but consider how much time it takes. Take on less demanding classes to cut down on homework. (Although if a certain tough class is important to you, don’t sacrifice that.)

Also, if you already love your schedule, don’t feel like you need to make a change just because it’s senior year. Your time is valuable, so make the most of the time you do have, whether that means sticking with what you’ve done or trying something new.

Time keeps on slippin’

The truth: The days may drag, but senior year does fly by.

I know, I know. You’ve heard it since you were a freshman: senior year will be over before you know it.

It felt like empty words from nostalgic seniors four years ago, didn’t it? But think about it for a second. Now you’re the nostalgic senior. Crazy, right?

Turns out those seniors knew what they were talking about. The years really do go by too quickly. It never seems like it, though, when we’re in the midst of it. All through high school, the days would drag as we went through our classes and endured seemingly endless assignments. It’s no different senior year. In fact, with senioritis, it might seem a tad worse. During school vacations, though, you realize how fast it’s going. Christmas break marks midyear, and by the time you get to April vacation, you only have a month or so.  When you think about it like that, you can appreciate the moments you have with your friends—and maybe even time spent in class.

Of course, when you’re sitting watching the clock in third period chemistry, and you’re feeling like the year just isn’t going by fast enough, be comforted to know graduation is around the corner. Just remember: the second hand will move whether you’re watching it or not. College will have its own treasures (and tribulations), but don’t be so determined to find them that you miss out on what you have now.

Everyone experiences senior year of high school a little differently. But we’ve all felt the tug of senioritis, and we’ve all struggled to find the balance between work and play, responsibility and sanity. In that struggle is where memories are made. It’s where “the good ol’ days” of nostalgic seniors, teachers, and parents are.

Now it’s your turn to experience it. It’ll be awesome, and that’s the truth.

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About Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.


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