If you are anything like the vast majority of high school seniors, chances are you’re in high-stress mode right about now. The path leading to graduation can feel like an obstacle course — you’re leaping over midterms and exams, wading through college applications and possibly scrambling through a final SAT test.
The sheer multitude of things to do may seem daunting, but don’t worry! The shining light at the end of the senior year tunnel is growing brighter, and it’s easier to reach than you may think. Practice these three tips on living a stress-free senior year, and you will be donning your cap and gown before you know it!
1. Ask your teachers for their help early to avoid unnecessary stress.
At least one of your college applications will ask for a letter of recommendation, character letter, reference or some combination of the above. You probably have that one teacher in mind to write it for you — the one who helped you on papers, who knows your academic potential and who you feel may best understand you as a student. That teacher would love nothing more than to write you a recommendation, right? Yeah, you and the 20-30 other students who ask.
Do both your favorite teacher and yourself a huge favor and ask for recommendation letters or help on your applications early. As in, send them an email right now. The earlier you ask, the more likely you are to avoid the flood of students pining for recommendations and essay proofreads. This means you will get more of your teacher’s attention, and they will be able to spend more time on your letter of recommendation or proofreading your application essay.
2. More may not be better when it comes to college applications.
Every college you will apply to has a unique application process. Even if half of them use the Common App, they will likely require you to write essays on different topics, or they will have sections of the application specific to that college. These sections distinguish you from other applicants, so it’s important to spend a little more time on them. Doing this for 20 applications could make you unnecessarily overwhelmed. College applications are both expensive and time-consuming, and applying to an excessive number of schools may not be necessary to find your perfect fit.
Keep it simple and categorize the schools you are considering into three classes — reach (ones you think you can get into, but it may be a bit of a stretch), target (ones you’re pretty sure you could get accepted at) and safety (ones you know without a doubt you’ll get into). Now, when deciding which of these schools you’ll actually apply to, most of them should be in your target range, with a few each in your reach and safety categories. This way, you’ll have a nice selection of schools to pick from when the acceptance letters start rolling in!
3. Tour college campuses and engage with students and faculty.
One of the most exciting things about senior year is the opportunity to walk around potential future homes. Taking tours of different college campuses is a great way to get a glimpse into the lives of students and see what each college can offer you. If you can, take a formal tour with a campus tour guide, but also walk around a bit on your own. Explore the area surrounding the college as well — you never know what hidden study spots you may find!
When you are on campus, be sure to talk with a few students and/or admissions folks. Getting the inside scoop of the school can be a big stress reliever when it comes to finally choosing which school to go to — you could get a good sense whether a certain school is or isn’t right for you. Ask them about what life is like on campus — this may help you gauge whether the school is a good fit for you. Talking to or interviewing with faculty can also give you a good perspective on the school. Faculty members are good sources of information about academic opportunities and career possibilities, and talking to them about what the school may be known for could help you make your decision. It’s also a great way to start building connections before you start school!
Senior year is an exciting time full of new possibilities to explore. Avoiding stress is absolutely possible, if you plan ahead of deadlines and are intentional when looking at and applying to colleges. Of course, don’t forget to enjoy everything your senior year has to offer — your final homecoming, prom, graduation and your last year together with your classmates. Enjoy your final year of high school, and you’ll be off to college before you know it!