You finally made it! After three years of scrambling around your college campus, you are finally the top dog! Senior year should be one of the most epic times in your life, but often with that expectation comes a lot of stress. Planning for your next step, preparing for graduation, and still trying to squeeze in time to actually have fun.
Pay attention because while senior year can get a little hectic, it will go extremely fast. It will be filled with ups, downs, memories, and plenty of opportunities, so here are some tips on how you can prepare!
MAKE IT COUNT
While you’re in school, try to make as many memories as you can. Go to every event within limits, do service and give back to the community, and engage in as many opportunities as possible. This year should be about happy, healthy desires and should not be focused only on stressful things. Surround yourself with peers that bring out the best in you and capitalize on your best self.
In class, try to give it your all. Think of it as the final count down and make every move count. Begin to work early on the paperwork that you may need such as your personal statement, your resume, and your recommendation letters. This is also the time to reach back to younger classmates and load them with advice.
CHOOSE YOUR PATH
Typically this thought process should start your junior year and be finalized in your senior year. Pick the Masters or PhD program or job you feel that you would succeed best in. Now, it is okay if you need more time to figure things out. Don’t worry if you don’t have it all together just yet. Some people need more time than others. However, if you decide to take time off, be productive during that time and whatever you do make sure the decision is solely yours. Now let’s get specific:
IF YOU CHOOSE A MASTER’S OR DOCTORATE PROGRAM
Scholarships and Financial Aid– See what kind of scholarships and financial aid you are eligible for at that particular school. Find this information early if you can and contact any and every one to get all the answers on how to apply. This even includes information on how to score an application fee waiver. Also, don’t forget about seeking government funds, such as applying for your FAFSA. You may also want to apply for some type of work-study program while at your choice school.
Take the Required Exam Early– Many students need the MCAT or GRE etc to apply for programs. Try to study and take this as early as possible, that way you have time to retake it if you need too. Don’t forget about prep courses! They are in an abundance at various college campuses.
Prepare All of Your Paperwork– make sure everything is in order from your personal statements to your recommendation letters. This will help you 100 percent when it’s time to fill out the actual application and submit.
Submit Before the Deadline– Waiting until the day of the deadline to submit your application is the easiest way for schools to overlook you. Submit your application and all the necessary parts early if possible.
Secure connections– Outline your connections with people in the field that you want to continue studying in. They will be your best link to getting information on opportunities and your school of choice.
Interviews– Some schools may want to interview you. I would advise placing your interviews in the first semester, because the second semester will be occupied with getting everything in place for your graduation from college.
IF YOU CHOOSE A JOB
Location– Choose a location that you will thrive in. Some students need to move far away from family to thrive and this is okay. Some may be hoping to head back home, whatever your choice it’s perfectly fine!
Find a Place to Live– This could be moving back home with parents, but this could also mean moving into your own place. Start making this decision early so you won’t be running around like a headless chicken once graduation is over.
Secure Connections– Just like if you were going back to school, start to outline your connections with people in you field, or even research fellow graduates or alumni that are in your area. They will help you adjust to your new transition!
IF YOU TAKE TIME OFF
Be confident Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for deciding you need an academic break. It’s is YOUR journey, not theirs. You’re making this decision for you, be proud of that!
Brainstorm Start thinking about what you want to do during your time off. Do you want to travel? Secure an internship? Get your own apartment? Whatever your next step, think about ways to make it happen!
Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind After you take you glorious break, what do you want to do next? Keep that goal in mind and it will help you stay secure in your decision to take a break.
MANAGE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Senior year is a time when everyone buckles down, trying to get every last detail in order. As I mentioned before, it can get hectic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare to conquer that stress!
Realize You Don’t Owe Anyone an Explanation As a senior, one of the top questions people will ask you is “So what do you plan to do after you graduate?” For me this question just sent me into an anxiety I could barely climb out of. I always wanted to say the right thing for that other person, but you know what? WHO CARES. If you’re answer to that question is “I’m not sure yet, I’m still working on it.” That’s OKAY! Don’t feel pressured to have your life all together to please someone else.
Seek Counseling If you aren’t privy to going to a therapist, right now would be a perfect time to start. It doesn’t have to be intensive, maybe start with scheduling an appointment once a month. You’re going to need that unbiased ear as you work through the kinks of senior year. Don’t wait until you’re at the end of your rope, be proactive.
Find Your Outlet In the midst of working towards deadlines, filling out applications, AND staying on top of your course load, you will need an outlet. Don’t forget to cater to yourself during this time! Start working out, pick up a hobby, or schedule regular outings with your friends. Whatever it is, find time to do it!
Senior year was hard for me, but it was definitely filled with some of the most amazing memories I will never forget. Yes, is your time to get serious but it’s also your time to really soak in the last bit of your undergrad experience. Make sure you HAVE FUN! (Not too much of course), and remember that in the end EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT… it always does!