Three students sit talking in downtown Decatur, while three walk to join them

Finishing Strong

15 Pieces of Advice for high school seniors

Let’s address the elephant in the room for high school seniors: as you begin your final semester of high school, it’s not necessarily the most relaxing time in your life. In addition to, well, finding out admission decisions, figuring out financial aid, and making your final college choice, you’re also finishing out your high school experience. Oh, and also, doing it in a resurgence of COVID-19 variants.


We can’t necessarily do anything on our little blog to make your experience more relaxing. However, we’d like to offer you a few pieces of advice: some related to the college decision, but mostly related to finishing your senior year happy, healthy and with new memories to spare.


So without further adieu, our advice:


1. Evaluate yourself. You’re about to enter a period of transition, which can be a difficult time. Take some time to sit with yourself in advance. Write down your thoughts in your phone so you have them later. Think about your current goals (not for careers or majors, but for yourself). Think about where you know you have strengths and where you know your weaknesses are. Consider the things that are most important to you. Come back to the list every few months; it will change and grow, but it’s a great way to center yourself where you are.


2. Keep yourself organized. Starting around now, you might be getting a lot of information. Admission decisions, additional materials needed for deferrals, housing deposits, financial aid packages, scholarship applications, and more are easy to let pass by. Find a way to keep track of important dates and deadlines- the last thing you want is to find yourself too late to apply to a scholarship that would have been perfect for you. And speaking of that…


3. Don’t leave money on the table. Make sure that you have filed your FAFSA, finished everything you need to do to get the maximum amount of financial aid you can receive, and applied for all of the scholarships for which you qualify. College is expensive, no matter who you are or how much money your family might make. Set yourself up for success, and less, stress, now. And speaking of stress…


4. Schedule time not to talk about college. Making a college decision is a stressful subject. Sometimes you are the one that’s stressed. Sometimes it’s your parents or other supporters who are stressing too much. Either way, give yourself a break; don’t make every conversation over the next four months about college. Figure out times to put on the calendar when you’ll actually talk about it, and don’t talk about it outside of those times. But when you are ready to talk about it…


5. Talk to college students. There are a lot of people you’ll talk to when you are making your college decisions: your parents, your friends, your high school counselors, your admission counselors, and more. But don’t forget the most useful group: students at the colleges you are considering. Reach out to your admissions counselors to find out how you can talk to current students to truly learn about their experience. The best way to do that?


6. Visit campuses. This one is obviously difficult to do right now as we figure out just how far down in the Greek alphabet we’ll manage to go with COVID variants. Despite that, however, find a way to connect with the colleges where you’ve been admitted either in person or virtually. The only way you’ll know if you’ll feel at home there is actually seeing how it feels. And while you’re doing that…


7. Ask every single question. (And let your mom ask them too). Nothing is too trivial. Talk to financial aid about your financial aid package to make sure you understand it completely. Ask advising about how selecting classes works. Ask about the dining hall, the residence halls, where you get coffee, where you can get your hair cut, whether you can ride your bike around town safely, whether they have Coke or Pepsi in the dining hall, how likely you are to get an internship, or whatever’s on your brain. If you’re wondering it, it’s not a bad question. And speaking of questions…


8. Learn a life skill. Maybe you’re a disaster in the kitchen. Maybe you know how to take care of yourself just fine. Make it a goal to learn some life skills you might need in the future and in college now. A few suggestions: doing laundry, cooking simple meals, basic car maintenance, keeping a budget, scheduling time for exercise, sleeping a healthy amount, etc. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re in college! And another good life skill?


9. Take care of yourself. Learning good habits now for self-care and relaxation will set you up for success in college and beyond. The last semester of senior year can be stressful; find the things that give you joy and relaxation and make sure to schedule time to enjoy them. Enjoying that relaxation time also leads to enjoying it with others…


10. Spend time with your family and loved ones. Okay, maybe we’ve all spent a little too much time together as COVID-19 has made it necessary. However,  especially if you are planning to live on a college campus, you won’t see your family and friends as often as you do now. Spend some quality time together (not talking about college). But also leave time for…


11. Finish your academics strong. The temptation to give up and take it easy can be strong during your senior year. Make sure that you are still dedicating yourself to your academics in the way that you need to do to graduate and keep the GPA you need. You’ve worked hard for 3.5 years; don’t let yourself down now!


12. Celebrate, but don’t compare, with your classmates. Every person is different, and they are all going to make different choices with their post-graduation plans. You can never know the full story of how or why others made the choices they do, and they don’t make your own accomplishments any better or worse. Celebrate with each other your major accomplishment of finishing high school! And also, you probably didn’t do it alone, so…


13. Thank your mentors. Someone has acted as a mentor to you throughout your time in high school. Whether it’s your soccer coach, volunteer coordinator, 9th grade English teacher, cool aunt, or awesome cafeteria worker, someone has been there for you when you needed advice, information, or just a shoulder to cry on. Make sure to thank them for the impact they have made in your life.


14. Live life to the fullest. This is your last semester in high school; give yourself a chance to take it in. Finish out strong in extracurriculars. Cheer for your friends. Take part in silly traditions. Go to school events. Have school spirit. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself that closure of finishing out your high school experience.


15. Trust yourself. Near the end of all of this, you will have to actually make a college decision. There’s no way we can boil it down to one thing; there are many factors involved in you making that decision. But in the end, it’s important to trust yourself. Sometimes a gut feeling is all you really need to know that a place is good for you. And once you make your decision, don’t look back with regret: trust yourself and your own ability to make decisions.


And finally, one bonus piece of advice:


16. Celebrate your accomplishments. You’ve done amazing things to get here. Take some time to pat yourself on the back!


Best of luck as you move through your final semester of high school. Stay strong, and maybe we’ll get to see you as Scotties!

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