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9 Crucial Lessons I Learned In My Senior Year Of High School

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Are you a current high school junior or incoming senior? Your last year of high school is almost here, and I’m here to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible.

In this post, I’m going to share 9 valuable lessons I learned in my senior year (and wish I knew earlier) and exactly what you need to do to implement these lessons and avoid unnecessary problems.

Bookmark this post if you find it useful, and share it with your fellow high school friends! Now, let’s get right into it.

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9 crucial lessons learned in senior year of high school

Start Applications Early

The elephant in the room as we discuss how fun senior year will be is college applications. For many students, applying to college is a significant step in their educational career. If that’s you, pay attention!

Start your applications early. During junior year (11th grade), you should think about who could and would write a letter of recommendation for you. Your teachers in junior year know you better than those in senior year will, at least when you ask for a letter of recommendation.

In May (the end of junior year), start making a college list and brainstorming essay topics. Make sure to stay super organized by using some tools to manage deadlines and to-do’s. I used a spreadsheet, which you can download a copy of for free after subscribing to my newsletter:

Throughout the summer, focus on crafting good essays (through multiple rounds of revision). Make sure to go through all the prompts (supplemental, personal, and optional prompts) and see which ones you can group together to answer with one essay.

The Common Application opens on August 1st. However, most Early Action/Decision deadlines are in November, and Regular Decision deadlines are not until January.

Though these deadlines may seem late, they’ll sneak up on you. Especially if you’re applying to more than 15 colleges, the number of essay prompts will be a major headache if you don’t start early.

Be Flexible With Your College List

Though some high school students already have a clear set of colleges in mind, others don’t really know any schools beyond those that are well-known or nearby– and that’s okay!

Additionally, as you research your colleges and start working on essays, your college list will expand and contract. There are many factors you are likely to consider while making your list:

  • Tuition: is this college affordable for you or your family? Does it offer generous merit-based or need-based scholarships?
  • Proximity: where is this college located? Do you want to go somewhere far or nearby?
  • Size: is this a large university or a small, maybe a liberal arts college?
  • “Specialty”: is your major a strong suit at this college?

But as you do more research, here are some more details to keep in mind:

  • Quality of living (dorm, food, commute, safety)
  • The university’s values
  • University response to student complaints
  • Your likelihood to be admitted
  • Student life (talk to real students, go on Reddit)
  • The number of essays (this might become a bigger factor near the end of your applications, though if you start early and manage your time, it shouldn’t have to become one)

Be willing to change your college list as you go, especially as early results come out. And if you find yourself adding more and more schools to your list, this next tip will help you out.

Waive All The Fees You Can

The average application fee for each school on Common App is around $70. This means that to apply to 10 schools, you’ll have to pay $700; to apply to 20 schools, you’ll have to pay well over a thousand dollars.

If this is too high a fee to pay for your family, consider requesting a fee waiver. If you are eligible (read about waiver eligibility here), simply state so in the Fee Waiver section in the Common App portal.

If you don’t qualify, still look into school-specific waivers. If you’re receiving emails from colleges encouraging you to apply, search through them to see if they offer a fee waiver.

Lastly, you can also email colleges directly, expressing your interest in applying and explaining that the application fee poses an obstacle. This will work especially well if you have above-average test scores, as schools would be more willing to have you as an applicant.


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Talk To Your Teachers Often

As you come closer to graduating high school, your teachers will become more like your friends. Work to maintain these relationships with your teachers, as they may become invaluable connections.

This is especially true for the teachers from whom you asked for letters of recommendation. During the school year (and even after), you’ll have to reach out multiple times to ask for copies of the letter for more applications, scholarships, etc; keeping in touch will make those conversations less awkward.

Even after you graduate and move to college, you can keep in touch. If you’re comfortable, ask for your teacher’s phone number or another form of contact. Let them know of your college results, when you leave, when you move in, when you come back to visit… treat your high school teachers like your friends!

Explore Your Interests

In high school, even in the last year of it, you don’t need to finalize a major or a carer yet. If you have already chosen one, good for you! But if you haven’t, don’t feel stressed. There are many students just like you!

Colleges also understand that many high school seniors aren’t sure what to do with the rest of their lives yet, which is why some of them allow you to choose “Undecided” as a major when applying, and others don’t require you to choose one in the first place.

In addition, most universities don’t require students to officially declare a major until later in their college career (usually at the end of the second year, or the start of the third).

Therefore, while you’re still in high school and even early in college, take some time to explore your interests. Though everything you’re doing right now may seem like a big deal, they usually aren’t in the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to try and fail at new things. Here are a few things to try:

  • Take a difficult elective
  • Join a new club for fun
  • Try out for a sport
  • Try out for a play/musical
  • Volunteer at a new organization
  • Intern at a small business
  • Make a new friend

Get A Part-Time Job 

There are two main reasons I suggest looking for a part-time job. 

The first is obvious. The money you make, no matter how little or how much, will help you lessen the burden of college application fees and– eventually– college tuition. You can help your parents and yourself out with just a few extra hours per week.

Secondly, getting a part-time job is a relatively easy way to get a taste of the real, working, world. Not only will this experience embellish your resume, but you could experience and see for yourself what environments you enjoy working in.

Do you prefer to work in a group or more independently? Do you want to interact with customers frequently, or work behind the scenes? Are you best at creative, structural, or physical work?

Here are some popular part-time jobs for high school students like you:

  • Coffee shop baristas
  • Restaurant waiters
  • Dessert shop workers
  • Grocery store workers
  • Department store workers
  • Tutors
  • Interns

Some Relationships Are Temporary

I won’t get into the details of this story, but one of my closest friends “broke up” with me in senior year seemingly out of the blue. Although I had expected high school friendships to drift apart throughout college, this breakup caught me off guard and made me realize– perhaps prematurely– that even strong relationships were temporary.

Whether you’re in a friendship or a relationship, put yourself first. Don’t lose a part of yourself trying to maintain a relationship. Be willing to let go of people, and be open to connecting with new people.

On the flip side, don’t throw away past friendships as you move away to college. Even the healthiest and happiest of relationships require maintenance, whether that means weekly FaceTime calls or occasional memes sent via text.


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Opt-Out Of CollegeBoard Emails

If you– intentionally or accidentally– opted in to CollegeBoard’s emails, then your address was sold to colleges. That’s why you’re receiving so many marketing emails from them, even though you never really expressed interest in applying. If you find them annoying, you’re not the only one.

After you’ve applied to colleges (and used the fee waivers sometimes offered in the emails), there’s really no need to stay in touch with CollegeBoard. (If you’re worried about finding scholarships, check out this post).

Therefore, feel free to opt out of CollegeBoard’s marketing emails. Simply select “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of the next email, or change your email preferences in the website’s settings.

Enjoy Your Senior Year

Last but certainly not least, enjoy your last few months of high school. Even if it sounds cliché, high school can be the best years of your life.

Once you are finished with college applications and have more free time on your hands, let loose a little. Go on day trips with your friends, sleep over with your friends, travel somewhere far, and enjoy the time you have left.

Try to keep your grades up, though it shouldn’t be too hard if your teachers are experienced and understanding of senioritis. But don’t let them drop too low, as it is possible for colleges to rescind you (even after acceptance) due to unsatisfactory grades.

And of course, stay safe and healthy. You still have much to experience!

You’re reading 9 Crucial Lessons I Learned In My Senior Year Of High School by Ellie from Sincerely Students. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the rest of the blog and follow Ellie on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!

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