You're almost done with high school. Applications have been sent. The frantic process of trying to sell yourself to colleges has turned into a period of waiting.
So, time to check out?
Not quite! Although the pressure's off a little once your college applications are in, what you do in school still counts. You're now paving the way to your college career, and how you handle being a senior in high school will shape what kind of college experience you have.
Senior year is a special time – it's the end of the era. You should make the most of it. But that doesn't mean you have to let your performance in the classroom slide.
Here are 7 tips for avoiding senioritis:
1. Remember that colleges still care about how you do in school.
It might seem like your fate is irreversibly sealed once you submit your applications, but remember that colleges keep an eye on how you're doing in school even after they've offered you a spot.
The most notorious way colleges can react to your declining academic performance (including lower grades, unexcused absences, etc.) your senior year is by revoking your offer of admission. Even if a school has accepted you, they might have second thoughts if your grades drop off at the end of your high school career. (Unfortunately, the opposite of this doesn't happen much – colleges that rejected you never seem to change their mind and offer you admission if you do really well your senior year!)
However, there are a range of milder but still unpleasant consequences you can encounter if you slack off your senior year without doing so awful as to warrant having your offer of admission rescinded.
For example, if you're applying for scholarships, declining grades at the end of high school can impact how much financial support you get. Even if a college has already offered you a financial aid package, they can adjust it when they get your final grades.
Colleges can also ask for a written explanation of drops in academic performance. This isn't a fun letter to have to write, and the response goes on your permanent record.
Finally, colleges might place you on academic probation before you even show up on campus. Not a great way to kick off your college career, and it usually means you have to achieve a certain GPA your first semester at college to avoid getting the boot.
Of course, your senior year grades aren't under a microscope the way they are when you're applying initially, but don't fool yourself into thinking how you do in school doesn't count anymore!
2. Think of your senior year as an end and a transition.
It's obvious that your senior year is the end of your time in high school, with everything that entails.
But what might be less obvious is that your senior year is also a transition to a new phase in your life. The second semester of your senior year isn't just the final chapter of your time in high school, it's a warm up to your time in college.
Academically, whatever you take out of your senior year in high school you'll have to pay back freshman year at college. If you don't make the most of your classes senior year, you'll be less prepared for college. In turn, your college experience will be more stressful and less rewarding.
Senior year of high school definitely isn't too early to start looking ahead to what you want your life in college to be like. You're laying the groundwork for whatever kind of student you want to be in high school.
Take advantage of your high school classes, and you'll be a student who's ready for college and able to have a good work-life balance. Give in to senioritis, and you're more likely to end up spending your time and energy in college playing catch-up.
So celebrate the end of your high school career – you deserve it! But also keep an eye looking forward to your time in college.
3. Notice the lasts.
Senior year is a year of lasts. You're doing everything for the last time.
This is what makes senior year bittersweet and what makes it special! So notice the things you're doing for the last time, and savor them.
Noticing the lasts is good both for the things you enjoy and the things you don't. For the things you enjoy, remembering that you're doing them for the last time will help you make the most of them.
And for the things you don't enjoy, including the things you might be tempted to blow off all together if you're feeling the pull of senioritis, use the fact that this is the last time you have to do them as a motivator!
For example, maybe you don't want to have to study for those finals, but remember, this is the last time you have to do it in high school, so don't lose your edge now. Push through it, then enjoy knowing you're never going to have to do it again.
The key to staying on top of your game as a senior is knowing that for the things you like, this is the last time you get to do them, and for the things you don't like, it's the last time you have to do them!
4. Plan ahead.
Senioritis is an insidious disease. It has a way of just creeping up on you!
The antidote, then, is to plan ahead. Making to-do lists, managing your time, and planning things out in advance will keep you from lapsing into summer vacation mode when it's only March.
Planning your work out in advance and keeping track of everything you have to do is also a good way to get in shape for college when these organizational skills become even more important.
So plan, plan, plan, and senioritis won't be able to touch you!
5. Add some extracurriculars.
The most important reason to avoid senioritis is that you want to keep growing as a person and as a student in the months leading up to college. Getting into college isn't a good reason to put your academic and personal development on pause for half a year.
One way to do this is by adding some rewarding and challenging extracurriculars to your life. Look for an internship. Volunteer doing something you enjoy. Even starting a new hobby or learning some skill you've always wanted to learn before college will be great for keeping you on top of your game.
If you stay focused on personal growth, this attitude will also feed into your schoolwork, and you'll be less likely to find yourself writing a “Why I Failed Calculus” letter to Dean Albertson at Dream University over your summer break.
6. Make time to relax.
It's important to keep your eye on the prize academically when you're a senior, but you also want to make sure you have time to relax, spend time with your friends, and enjoy the end of your time in high school.
This goes back to why planning ahead is a (very) good thing to do: With good time management, you can have your cake and eat it to. You can keep your grades up while also enjoying the unique time between college applications and actual college.
In the end, avoiding senioritis means making decisions that will help you have a senior year you can look back on knowing you made the most of things. Having this kind of senior year means recognizing all you've accomplished by making it this far, enjoying your final days in high school and staying on top of things academically so you can thrive in college.
Here's to a happy, productive, balanced, senioritis-free end to the semester!
(This article first appeared on ThinkTank Learning and is reprinted here with permission from the author.)