The 8 Questions of Senior Year

You are a senior. Now what? You may be reading this as a student or a parent, but either way you have imagined this moment for 12 years. Doesn’t it seem like yesterday that your dinosaur backpack or ballerina lunch box was prepped perfectly and you walked in the doors to kindergarten? Even more recently, did you start high school and watch the seniors walk around campus and wish for the day you would be in their shoes? Now here you are on the verge of adulthood and about to experience a year like no other.

I think the main question on everyone’s mind is how do I navigate this year to prepare for what is to come after graduation? Of course no two experiences are the same, but here are the basics that if you tackle these, you will be ready to graduate with confidence.

1.     Are you going to college?

yellow caution sign with the background of the clouds, saying "College just ahead"

For some of us this has been the expectation all along and you won’t think twice and you can skip down to the next steps. However, for others of us, this is the most important question to consider. A lot of our time in the Guidance department at LCS is taken up by helping students apply and decide on colleges, but we also help those who are ready to learn a trade or join the workforce. Polk County has many options for this and research is important. After all, how many of us can say we are working an occupation that we learned from our college major? Experience in a field is the key to success.

2.     Where do you want to live?

Whether you are deciding on a college or a career, location is an important component. How far from “home” should you go? What are things you do in your daily life now that you can picture long-term? For example, I have always loved to go on walks, eat out, go to Disney World, and hang out with family and friends. If I were to move out of Lakeland I would be looking for a location with great food options and trails; although I may not want to move far because of my love for taking my kids to Magic Kingdom and seeing our family every week. I am the same now as when I was 18 in that respect – however my brother has a more adventurous spirit than I do and has enjoyed living in five different places around the world since he graduated high school. Location can be very important to deciding which colleges you should apply to or where you work. While tours may not be as readily available on the college campuses, you can still explore towns and cities for you to picture yourself there or not.

3.     You know you have to do college applications – but how?

First step is making your list of where to apply. There are three options colleges may use to receive applications: institution-specific applications, the Common Application, and the Coalition. The Common App and Coalition are application platforms where you can use one application to apply to multiple schools at the same time, which is time-efficient. Pay attention to deadlines – most of them will be between November and January. Other requirements for college applications are transcripts or self-reported grades, resumes, letters of recommendation, or short answer responses.

4.     What do I write my college essay about?

Your essay is about YOU. You could literally write about anything. The point of the essay is for them to get a glimpse of your personality and understand how you would fit into their college campus and student atmosphere. Some of you may have had your topic in mind for years and others of you are having major writers block. Think of your favorite Pastor or comedian and why you like them so much – odds are it is because they can talk about something very normal in a way that not all of us have considered but we relate to. Maybe you write about the Starbucks order you make each Friday or the kid at your soccer camp that you mentor. Most importantly, write your own reflection and get specific. Give imagery and let the reader feel the situation along with you. When you don’t even know how to start, just start typing ANYTHING. One of the most intimidating parts is the introduction, so don’t start there – write the body of the essay and then go back to how you want to start. Lastly have people read it that will give you honest feedback about your essay and if it sounds like you.

5.     Do you need ACT or SAT scores?

Due to COVID-19 more and more colleges are going test-optional or test-preferred, but my recommendation is to ALWAYS take the test so you know what your scores are before you make any decisions. You are giving yourself more options if you have a test score ready to go. This has been a crazy year with a majorly altered timeline, so a majority of our seniors did not start senior year with a test score they felt comfortable with, so testing has become a part of the process over the next few months. For any other class, I highly recommend taking tests at the end of junior year to relieve the stress of testing as a senior. Most importantly, study! Use what suits your needs whether that is free personalized prep through Khan Academy or ACT Academy or tutoring centers such as Huntington or Sylvan. You need to feel confident that you tried your absolute best!

6.     What if I don’t know my major?

At 17 or 18 years old it is 100% ok to not know what you want to do with your life. In fact, even if you have a plan it could change. Think of your options and review the majors online for your schools of choice, but if you change your major later it is ok. The exception to this rule is when you want to pursue a major with a very strict timeline and structure such as Nursing, Architecture, or possibly engineering which has a lot of classes that you would need to take your first year. Ask some of the adults in your life what their major was and if it ever changed and if they are now working in the field their major was designed for – you may be surprised by what you hear!

7.     I’ve applied to college. Now what?

Now you wait. Each college will work on their own timeline. If they are “rolling admissions” then they are constantly notifying applicants on their decisions as they review them, but other schools will have one decision day where all applicants find out together.

Once you hear your decisions you will receive financial aid information so you know your costs and be told about accepted student events and steps for housing and orientation. Make your decision based on what is important to you! This is a very big decision that will have a ripple effect on your future. Pray about it and let God lead you where you feel called.

8.     Everything is lined up for after I graduate! Will this year ever end?

Yes it will. It will actually end faster than you think. Soon you will be sitting around the table with your family next Thanksgiving while they say every cliché about how you grew up so fast and can’t believe you graduated and are in college or starting a career. I highly recommend that you just enjoy it. Go to school every day joyful for the moments you are living now. We all look forward to the next steps, but life is about to change a lot and I promise you will miss aspects of high school. Keep good grades and share memories with your teachers, administrators, and classmates. Walk across that stage in May feeling proud of your year and everything you have accomplished.

Do not walk through your senior year alone. The Guidance department as Lakeland Christian School is here to help you. No question is too silly and we love to work one on one with you to help you meet your potential no matter what your situation.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

Psalm 20:4
the back of the heads of lined up graduate students (showing their graduation hats and tassels) walking into the sunlight blurred scenery