Steps for a successful senior year
One year and three months ago, I walked across the graduation stage at Blackwell High School, becoming yet another proud Maroon graduate. Now, I’m just a few weeks away from starting my sophomore year of college at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. Ride, Rangers, Ride!
As I look back on my senior year of high school, I can't help but think of just how much I learned about planning for my future. And right now, there are a lot of great young people who are about to start their last year of high school. My awesome sister, Katie, is one of them.
Seniors: This week, I'd like to share with you some advice on how to make the most of your senior year – taken straight from a graduate's mouth.
TAKE CONCURRENT COURSEWORK
If there's anything you can do to get the best educational experience out of your senior year, that would be to take college coursework. Many college classes count as both high school classes and as college classes. For example: If you take a college freshman-level English class, it will count as your senior English class AND as your freshman English class in college. What a deal! (And better yet – some college classes are free to high school students.)
If your next stop is college, take the opportunity to knock some of those classes out before you walk onto campus. And what about those of you who aren't fit for college? There are some great technical schools you can attend to learn valuable trades (and probably wind up making more money than some of those college grads). Speak to your guidance counselor about attending a trade school and earning credit for those courses, too.
APPLY TO SCHOOLS
Apply, apply, apply. If you are a senior, apply to no fewer than four colleges. Why? Because the more schools you apply to, the greater the chance that one of them will offer you a good financial deal. Research schools you think you would like, apply for admission to those schools, and apply for any kind of scholarships they might offer.
Even if you don't think you're “good enough” for a school, apply anyway. You might find out that you're just what they're looking for. (And another tip: Even if you really think you're “set” on going to one school, keep your mind open. That can change in a heartbeat. The lesson: You never know until you try, so apply!)
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
If you're like me, you've always been told to apply for scholarships awarded by different organizations in your area. These are called “outside” scholarships. These are great, and the people who sponsor them are very generous. But if you really want to maximize your chances of getting the most money, you need to focus your efforts on applying for institutional scholarships. These are awarded by your college, and they are often based on your GPA, your ACT score, and how involved you are in school activities.
Colleges can give out more money because they have more. You should apply for as many scholarships as you can, but you've got to be smart about it. Would you rather spend three hours filling out an application for a $500 outside scholarship from a local business, or would you rather spend that time filling out an application for a $5,000 scholarship from a college?
Use your time wisely, and apply for as many scholarships as you can. (But don't stress out about that, and don't beat yourself up. You're still in school, and you have a lot going on. Do what you can and be satisfied. You'll do great!)
The biggest mistake you can make during your senior year is doing nothing. When you apply to colleges or trade schools, your admissions counselors want to see that you spent your senior year becoming a better person. They want to see that you can be a leader by serving in student government; they want to see that you are able to work as a member of a team by being in a choir, a band, or an athletic team; they want to see that you love your community by volunteering with service groups.
I don't care if you have a 4.5 GPA. Yes, you need to keep your grades up. But if high grades are the only thing you can put on your résumé after high school, you're not going very far. People would rather see that you can work with other people and do cool things than be an isolated bookworm. Facts.
You're about to embark upon the next chapter in your life. Or are you?
During your senior year, start thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Are you going to college? Are you going to a trade school? Do you want to live in your hometown? Do you want to move far away? What career do you want to have?
You don't have to have all of the answers right away – and chances are, you won't. I didn't. But the sooner you start thinking, the better off you'll be. Last-minute plans rarely work out, so start talking with those you look up to about what you want to do with the rest of your life. The more you plan now, the less you'll stress later.
AND MOST OF ALL – HAVE FUN!
Your senior year is an awesome time, so live it up! Hang out with your friends, spend time with your family, take some fun trips, stay involved in school activities, and soak up all of the knowledge you can. You only get one more year in high school (hopefully), so enjoy it! Even if you don't really like high school, try to find the “bright” spots. Someday, you might just look back and wish you could be there once again.
To all of you who are about to be seniors, let me be the first to wish you good luck. Have a great year, and hats off to you, Class of 2021!
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