An Extensive Guide to Surviving Senior Year by Sara Li

An Extensive Guide to Surviving Senior Year
by Sara Li

Truth be told, I can only remember fleeting moments of my senior year. The inevitable had finally come and I was unprepared for dealing with the great fear of all high school students: senior year. I can recall flashes of panic, the anxiety of college applications, and a sadness associated with leaving behind four years of my life. As exciting as senior year is, it’s also an awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood. It’s the last obstacle before you’re out in the real world as an adult, and for many, it’s a last hurrah with old friends that you’ve known for years. It’s a scary change that you can never truly be prepared for. Every senior year experience is different but I thought that I would put together an umbrella guide based off of my personal experiences. Remember to take a breath because as terrifying as it is, you will get through it.

Finish your summer homework.

If you’re anything like me, you’re cursing your AP teacher for assigning summer homework in the first place. But sadly, mentally roundhousing them won’t get you any closer to those deadlines. You look back to the start of summer when you told yourself that you’ll get to it “eventually” and mourn the chances that you could have taken to actually complete those assignment. Here’s what I would do: make a list of everything that you need to do and just go after it. Don’t let yourself get distracted with anything and start working ASAP. Break down your assignments and assign certain days to finish certain projects in order to give yourself space. Do not wait until the day before to finish everything. This is important. Start senior year with a good night’s sleep and the knowledge that you’ve finished all that you’re supposed to do. As tempting as procrastination is, you’ll feel much better if you get your assignments done.

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Start on your college applications now.

Oh, Common App. The enemy of almost all college students. If you’re looking to continue your higher education, you’re probably well familiar with the dread that comes with college applications. Personally, I hated even looking at the website. But here’s the thing: you have to submit an application at some point. Don’t talk yourself into freaking out, and force yourself to write those essays. Spend around 20 minutes each week to write, edit, and review. Do not write and edit your entire personal statement the day before the final deadline. Ask for help and force yourself to start now. Starting it is the hardest challenge, but don’t let yourself slack. Rewriting, weeping, considering dropping out of high school — those are natural stages. But push through them and remember that the worst thing you can do is procrastinate on your applications.

Senior Year!

College is important — but it’s not the end of the world.

I know that this might sound like a contradiction to my previous point, but I promise you that everything will be okay in the end. You might not get your top choice. You might not be able to attend your dream school. You might end up attending your last pick. Those are realities that all seniors have to face — but I promise that you will be okay. The one thing that you have to know about college is that it’s what you do, not where you go, that matters. Make the most of your college education and you will be successful. Give yourself some flexibility when things don’t work out and direct your attention on what you can do instead. It’s unfortunate when plans don’t work out, but don’t let it ruin your entire life.

Friends will drift apart.

There’s a rumor that senior year is filled with drama, especially friend-wise. I am here to report that that’s absolutely true but again, it will be okay. Senior year is an extremely stressful time. Your friends will get scared of drifting apart next year and inevitably screw up. You will get scared of drifting apart next year and inevitably screw up. Fights occur because everyone is a little bit on edge. It’s not going to be pretty, but you will make it through. I wish that I had comforting words if you and your best friend break apart, but that’s one of the downsides of life. Senior year is full of changes, so expect your relationships with people to be one of them. Do what you can, be nice to your friends, and try to end your last year of high school as well as you can.

Stress is inevitable.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re already stressed out. And that’s okay. Don’t try to repress any emotions and just embrace the giant ball of anxiety that is senior year. You will get stressed out. You will cry over deadlines. You will feel overwhelmed and lost and confused. If you don’t feel those things now, you will at some point. Take this opportunity and learn how to deal with stress. Pick a healthy outlet and see what’s the best way for you to handle hard tasks. Whether that’s reading, writing, exercising, it’s all completely up to you. Stress management is a huge part of life so think of this like your first test. I cannot stress (get it?) how important it is for everyone to have an outlet of some sort. Even if it’s as dumb as listening to Taylor Swift and writing in the bathtub, embrace it and give your mind a break.

Stay organized.

Confession time: I’m already a neat freak so if I excelled at anything, it was this. But all in all, staying on top of things is vital to senior year and, well, life. Find a method that works for you and stick with it. Whenever I’m feeling panicky about life, I make a ton of lists to alleviate my stress levels. Find what works for you and stick with it. Organization is different for everyone so as long as you know what will fit best with your schedule and mindset. It’s more important for you to find a system that works for you rather than a method that works for someone else. It’s especially important to stay on top of deadlines and assignments and other tasks during this period of your life, not to mention a good pattern to set for later. This also goes for maintaining a neat environment for you to work and decompress in. Stay organized, and I promise that you will be happier in the long run.

Have some fun during your year.

As cheesy as it is, high school is important. Your senior year might be rough and challenging, but allow yourself to enjoy it once in a while. See your friends, thank your teachers, and give yourself a mental time out when you deserve it. Even if you didn’t particularly enjoy all of high school, try your best to do what you can. I’m not saying to do anything stupid, but create some good memories that you can fondly look back at ten years down the road. Furthermore, a break once in a while will help alleviate your stress. I’m a huge advocate of working hard but it’s also equally important to not overwhelm yourself. Have some fun, enjoy your youth, and remember that life isn’t supposed to be all work. Don’t make yourself miserable during your last months of high school.  Senior year is an emotional time for everyone, so make the most of your experience.

Don’t get lazy.


The temptation to slack off second semester is going to be a strong one, I promise. By the time that spring rolls around, most students will have mentally exited the metaphorical rollercoaster that is education. But if you push yourself to work, you will be at least ten steps ahead of those who just give up right there and then. Look for internships. Learn a new language. Pick up a new hobby. Do something beneficial and cool while you have the time to explore. A lot of people seem to think that college acceptance is the only goal of senior year but the smarter ones use every opportunity to get ahead. Do something productive with your time and remember that the work ethic that you build now is the one that will be with you for the rest of your life. So rather than just surfing through Netflix in spring, find something worthwhile to devote your time and energy to. Here’s an idea: apply to write for Miss Heard Magazine!

Your parents will get emotional.

I firmly believe that one of the most uncomfortable moments in life is when your parents start tearing up. It’s awkward and frustrating and you’ll be tempted to lock yourself in your room until they’re done. But think about it: they’ve spent the last eighteen years with you and now they have to let go. Not everyone has the privilege of having a supportive and present family, but if you’re one of the lucky people who does have loving parents, appreciate them while you’re still living with them. There will be a time when you get emotional about leaving the bird’s nest as well. Spend time with your family. Love them as they’ve loved you, and just accept that your mother will cry over your baby pictures.

High school is important — but don’t let it define you.

I’m going to be extremely blunt: if high school was the best years of your life, then you’re not going to lead a very happy life. High school is an important milestone for everyone, but it’s exactly that: a milestone. Be proud of yourself for graduating because it’s amazing to see how much has changed over the course of four years. But do not let high school define who you are as a person because one of the best things about life is that you are constantly growing, learning, and evolving. Stay open to new experiences, and look at high school as a stepping stone towards the path of a greater future. It’s human nature to make mistakes but what you do is what truly sets you as a person. Senior year is definitely important, but don’t let it eclipse the rest of your life.

With that, I hope that everyone reading this has a fantastic senior year and makes it out alive. I have complete and utter faith in you.

Sara Li is a storyteller, founder of Project Consent, and all around cool woman. Follow her on Twitter

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