Senior year survival guide

Senior year can be overwhelming, but with the right decisions, you can enjoy it.

Alejandra Antron Ramos

Senior year can be overwhelming, but with the right decisions, you can enjoy it.

Alejandra Antron Ramos

Walking into my senior year, I was ecstatic. I began my last year of high school, knowing I would get to participate in all the fun senior-year activities. Continuous restless nights, quitting a job, and going weeks without seeing my friends or boyfriend all due to immense school work, changed my view. College applications, fees, scholarships, saying bye to my closest friends, and much more. I now believe my senior year has been and will continue to be the most stressful year of my life while simultaneously being the best.

Losing friendships throughout high school

Many of us can agree that we started high school with double, or even more, friends than we’re ending with. I am finishing high school with about a third of the friends I started it with, but I wouldn’t trade my few current friends for my many old friends. Losing a friend you care about can be heartbreaking. You also may worry about what you did wrong in the friendship. High school teaches you a great life lesson: people come and go, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people don’t click. Trying to force a friendship that doesn’t work will end poorly and painfully. “I learned what I look for in a friend and what I don’t like in a friend,” Holland High School Sr. Irene Ryzenga said. Learning the values of a true friend and that quality over quantity truly does matter has helped Ryzenga make lifelong friends. Although losing friendships is not ideal, there’s always a lesson to be learned in the end.

The dreaded college talk 

One of the most common stressors of senior year is the college talk. Whether you plan on going to college, trade school, military, or finding a job, everyone asks what you plan to do after high school. More often than not, they will also give you their unwanted opinion.

West Ottawa High School senior Ciara Phonsana said, “I feel I was not fully aware of the timeline and the various aspects of putting together a college application.” A large number of seniors agree with this statement. I felt hit by a truck when I realized all that goes into applying to colleges, not to mention deciding which one you will commit to. A survey given to several seniors showed that not a single one of them said college talk made them happy or excited. “Annoyed, disappointed, dumb, lost, uneasy” are all words that seniors use to describe how college talk made them feel.

West Ottawa High School Guidance Counselor Lacy Otteman said, “Seniors do have a lot on their plates with college applications, essays, senior events, classes and then there are all of the decisions.” The workload seniors have often goes overlooked. On top of our mandatory classes, we have to decide what we want to do with our life come next year. Even if a student gets accepted into their dream college, money can be a significant factor in deciding where to go.

On the one hand, you can choose to spend the next four years of your life in an environment you love and dream of but potentially be in debt for years after your college graduation. Or, you can choose the less appealing, less inviting, more affordable option. Being expected to make all these decisions at age 17/18 is highly demanding.

I’ve had a lot of difficulty choosing where I want to go. “Listen to your gut! Try to block out the noise of what everyone else is doing and think about what is best for you!” is one great piece of advice Otteman had to share. Do what’s best for you. Don’t choose what you ‘think’ is deemed right by those around you. Choosing what college you go to is a crucial and personal decision. Weigh your options, make a pros and cons list, but don’t let those around you decide for you.

Senior year can get very expensive

Prom, graduation cap and gown, going to senior nights, class ring/attire, college application fees, college decision fee, and countless other costs have caused many of us to worry extensively. Many seniors also plan to move out of their parent’s house right after graduation for various reasons. This can become very costly and leave many 18-year-old seniors working 40-hour weeks on top of managing school work.

Experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) is also very common amongst us seniors when we don’t do the stereotypical senior year activities. Buying senior apparel/jewelry is something many of us give in to, despite the prices ranging from $21.95 to over $500. West Ottawa holds Jungle (a sleepover at a surprise location) at the end of the year for seniors which costs $100. I don’t want to go, but I’ve found myself and many of my friends reluctantly going in fear of missing out; after all, it is our last year of high school. You want to experience as much as possible and make sure you don’t regret anything. West Ottawa College Advisor Mitchelle Doyle has excellent advice to avoid being overwhelmed with costs and spending money purely because of FOMO. He encouraged, “Understand your life is your life. No one can or will live it for you (some will try). You are going to make the wrong decision in your life at least once. Set yourself up to learn from it not to be torn apart by it.”

Surviving senior year might be possible

So how do we make it? How do we survive senior year? I’ve found that pacing yourself and taking things one day at a time can ease the stress. Several respondents to a survey stated that making a schedule helped them immensely. By not cramming everything and overstressing, you will get more work done and feel better overall. Senior year is a tremendously impactful year and your first step into adulthood. Regardless, it would be best if you didn’t put too much pressure on yourself. Everything will work out eventually. Take the advice of those around you, and do what you feel is best. Senior year is also an exciting year filled with activities and opportunities. Don’t wrap yourself up in all the work and forget to take advantage of your senior year. Doing this will make senior year a little more manageable and a lot more fun.