College-bound high school seniors should keep two things in mind. The coming months will define the coming years, and you will define the coming months. That’s a bit scary, but the jitters will fade once you take control. To that end, here are 5 back-to-school tips for senior year success.
5. Look to the Future, but Stay in the Moment
Senior year is no time to break stride in the academic marathon that high school resembles. Keep your eye on the finish line, and don’t let your grades and extracurricular activities suffer from an excess of graduation hoopla and too much focus on the college colors you want to sport.
Your studies should remain a priority, along with well-chosen extracurriculars, but be sure not to overload your schedule with the latter. Solid performances in a reasonable number of activities will look much better than the so-so record that overreaching can yield.
Two critical and forward-looking senior year duties are research and networking:
- You should be researching colleges for a target list, along with college majors and concentrations suited to your skills and likes, scholarship and financial aid options, admissions essay topics, and admissions choices such as early action or regular decision. All this and more must be studied while staying current on international and national news and issues.
- Networking must feature person-to-person efforts. Engage teachers who can write recommendations, counselors and admissions officers who can help shape your college adventure, and family and friends who provide critical support.
Networking should include digital footprints that advance academic and potential career pursuits. Two examples are accessing virtual college communities that yield connections and information and exploring LinkedIn and other career- and job-oriented platforms.
4. It’s Time to Begin Identifying Your Goals
Charting your academic future is a study in who you are, and that includes figuring out how to find your passion and a career you love. Most students are still in the hunt when it comes to careers and majors, beginning college with a direction chosen but not a destination.
As a high school senior, however, it’s worth noting that:
- Narrowing your career choices, or at least identifying your interests, will make the college decisions more productive.
- You might not be ready to choose a college concentration or major based on a career path, but it’s not too soon to start the process.
- You can’t get the admissions process rolling until you have a realistic list of target schools.
3. Tracking Your Goals Will Keep You Organized
The essence of this tip is the senior year checklist, and the essence of the checklist is avoiding being overwhelmed by chaos. The checklist imposes a sense of order, putting things such as standardized tests, college admissions hurdles, and scholarship applications on your radar and elevating the odds for and degrees of success.
All academic goals have a timeline, so mark the important dates for each on a calendar. Scheduling apps can help, too. They are great for tracking the steps necessary to reach each goal. But if you want to stay on track, nothing beats having your primary objectives listed on a calendar on a bedroom wall. Better yet, craft a multiple-month presentation, so you can visualize several months’ worth of tasks easily.
2. Do the Math on Your Finance
For most, planning and preparation must fall within limits imposed by financial realities. A budget is the best way to project, track, and control spending, and it’s never too soon to start.
Budgeting is a skill that can map the financial limits affecting your college options. Use it to expose the financial gap you must close to make your college plans happen. To determine whether you can close that gap, explore financial aid options and pursue scholarships.
At USF, we offer a peer to peer financial education program called Bull2Bull (B2B). The B2B program offers education services such as coaching, workshops, and events designed to help USF students handle their finances well.
1. Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Working at the small things can be tedious; it’s easier to cope with the seemingly endless workload if you keep things in perspective:
- You aren’t just studying for a high school trig quiz. You’re building an academic record that will make your college applications stand out.
- You aren’t just filling out college applications. You’re trying to find the best available path to a fantastic future.
- You aren’t just picking a school. You are choosing the way you will define your contributions to the world and shape your dreams.
Stay focused on the big picture while you work on the small details. And remember, there are people who can help you by answering your questions, so reach out when you need assistance.
You can download our back-to-school tips below:
About Joe Emerson
Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.