Top 5 Reasons to Finish High School Strong

Last updated: May 5, 2021

You’re in the second semester of your senior year. It feels like the final stretch of a journey you started more than a decade ago. Maybe you’ve even been admitted to your dream school. If so, congratulations are in order! But before you get too carried away, remember that your high school journey is not yet over; the weeks remaining still matter. Read on for the top five reasons to finish high school strong and safeguard your academic and financial future.

5. Earn Late-Deadline Scholarships, Awards, and Other Opportunities

While you may have spent your fall turning in college, financial aid, and scholarship applications, not every deadline has passed. There are still awards, scholarships, and opportunities to be claimed. And staying on top of your game can help you gain some last-minute cash, recognition, and opportunities.

Senior Awards

Many high schools use senior awards around graduation to highlight top students’ contributions and successes – like stand-out performance in a particular subject, leadership and service, or academic growth. You’ve worked hard these past four years; don’t miss out on a chance to reap the rewards (and recognition) now. And if your classmates are suffering from senioritis, your end-of-year efforts can help you stand out from the crowd even more.

Scholarship Programs

While it’s wise to start your college funding search early, take heart: there are some late-deadline scholarships still available. Not all of them require a copy of your high school transcript (though continuing to work hard in school can only strengthen your application), but some of them do.

If you live in Florida, the state’s Bright Futures program can be an excellent way to help pay for college – and it requires that you maintain a certain GPA to be eligible. Finally, if you’ve already received scholarships or merit-based funding aid from your college or university, make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your offer as it may be impacted by your senior year performance.

Exclusive Opportunities

Some colleges offer competitive opportunities to incoming students – like USF’s Provost’s Scholars Program (PSP) or the Innovation Scholars program on USF’s St. Petersburg campus. These programs may come with benefits like special mentorship, internship, or job-shadowing opportunities, access to special courses, and more. Whether or not you’re chosen to participate may hinge on your senior grades or the number of college credits you’ve already earned. Keep your effort and grades up to make sure you don’t miss out.

Student meeting with his advisor discussing the reasons to finish high school strong.

4. Keep Your Options Open

Speaking of opportunities, maybe you’ve gotten into a college, but it’s not your dream school. Or maybe you’re happy with your college choice now, but you don’t know what the future will bring. Regardless of your situation, it’s good to keep your options open. Finishing high school strong can help you do just that.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, about one-third of college students transfer to a different institution before finishing their degree. Students who have earned fewer than 60 college credits generally have to submit high school transcripts when applying to transfer colleges, which is why it’s so important to perform well all four years of high school. You won’t regret giving yourself more options even if you end up not needing them.

3. Build Strong Habits and Momentum for College

Newton’s First Law of Motion loosely states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. In this analogy, you want to be an object in motion. While you may be approaching the end of high school, you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. And once you do, you’ll have another even bigger journey ahead of you.

Don’t kick your feet up and lose momentum now. Maintaining good study and work habits during your senior year can make it easier to keep up those habits in college, when you’ll really need them. Also, your college courses may build upon classes you’re taking now, so tuning out in high school can mean playing catch-up later on.

2. Save Money – and Time

Speaking of college-level work, maybe you’re taking some Advanced Placement (AP) or dual enrollment classes. Or perhaps your high school is part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. All of these options offer an excellent way to earn college credit while you’re still in high school. Take advantage of the numerous benefits they offer:

  • Prepare for college classes and exams. AP, IB, and dual enrollment courses are rigorous. Doing well in them can improve your time-management skills, boost your confidence, and help pave the way for a successful college career.
  • Cut your costs. More college credits earned in high school means you have fewer to pay for in college. College credit hour costs can run the gamut from $200 to more than $1,500, so acing your exams can literally save you thousands of dollars.
  • Graduate on time and with less stress. Banking some college credits while you’re in high school can take some pressure off when it comes to meeting requirements. It also lets you focus on courses you find interesting!

While it may be tempting to blow off your AP exams, resist the urge. You’ve put in the time to get to this point. Now you can set yourself up for future savings and success, which brings us to our final reason to finish high school strong.

1. Your College Admission is Conditional

If a college or university has offered you admission, that’s wonderful news that deserves to be celebrated. Something you may not know, however, is that admission offers are conditional; colleges can reserve the right to withdraw them if you don’t uphold certain academic standards.

Before starting college, you must submit a final high school transcript showing your senior year courses and grades, as well as proof of graduation. If colleges see a significant drop in your grades or performance — or see that you withdrew from or failed a class they were counting on you to complete — they have a right to rescind your admissions offer.

Is getting a B on your calculus exam going to ruin your future? Probably not. But could earning Cs and Ds and tanking your GPA make a college wonder if you’re really ready to join their student body? Yes. Some colleges (including USF) also have specific GPA requirements when it comes to dual enrollment courses, so be careful. Remember, your grades were a key part of getting into college. If colleges see your performance slip, they may take that as an indication that you’re not ready for college-level work.

Female student researching the reasons to finish high school strong on her laptop and writing notes.

The End of High School Is the Beginning of Your Next Chapter

Now’s the time to celebrate your admission and senior status. Have fun. But don’t throw away all of your hard work when you’re so close to graduation. When in doubt, reach out to your college admissions office with any questions on the conditions of your admissions offer or what to do next.

And if you’re a rising senior just finishing up your junior year, the above advice applies to you, too! Check out these additional tips and planning suggestions to make sure you’re on track for a successful senior year college search.