Taking Back Control of Senior Year

Right now, you have your acceptance letter, you’re eager to leave home, and your instinct might be to relax and count down the days until you move into your first dorm room.

But what if there were more to senior year? What if you switched off autopilot and settled in back behind the wheel on the long, successful journey into adulthood?

There’s a whole world out there beyond the classroom walls: you’re not just a high school student and you’re not just a college student anymore. You’re a living, breathing, thriving human being!

And, for better or worse, that means you’re also going to be an employee. Whether it’s because of their financial aid program’s requirements or just because they want some extra money to spend on off-campus meals and college swag, over 70% of college undergraduates hold down a job while going to school; of those, over half put in at least 20 hours a week.

So don’t find yourself stuck behind a counter or at a call center. Seek out for jobs that you like — or even love! — by starting that search this year. Dig around in your school’s or local college’s career centers — find some resources to give you a leg up when it comes time to find that sweet gig.

And aim for that dream job by picking up some valuable skills, while having fun in the process: brush the dust off your camera and develop a portfolio; leap onto CodeAcademy and learn how to put together a website; download Duolingo and pick up elementary German so you can place into a higher level in college; or even use your family camcorder — or your smartphone! — to put together a short film during school.

Video editing, photography, programming, second (or third) languages: these are all great additions to your resume that can put you at the top of a pile of applicants.

But don’t limit those new skills to extracurricular ones; build some during school hours, too. Find that one skill each class can help you strengthen or that one concept you can master completely, and spend your year focusing on that specific skill or concept.

Imagine this scenario: it’s the first week of your freshman year, you get to Biology 101, and your first college professor picks you to explain meiosis to your entire class. Or what if you get to your Introduction to Engineering class and suddenly have to integrate a differential equation or solve for the strength of an electric field? Will you know these concepts like the back of your hand?

If you spent senior year reviewing those basic concepts at your own pace so they stick in that long-term memory, then you’ll handle day one like a pro — and not have to spend a semester retaking classes you took in high school.

And sure, you’ll probably never have to close-read an 18th-century poem again. But no matter your major, college means handling project proposals and in-class timed essays; it means writing analytic papers and lab reports that can be dozens of pages long! It’s no wonder why even engineering programs at schools like MIT, UC-Berkeley, Cornell, Duke, and Penn include writing or public speaking courses in their requirements for graduation. College professors know that communication is key in every field, from mathematics to international relations to theoretical physics to neuroscience.

And those professors who’ll be reading that writing already assume you’re underprepared for the prompts they’ll throw your way: almost half of all college professors say that students are not able to handle the writing their classes demand. Only 6% of them think you’re actually well-prepared!

So use your English class and your writing assignments this year to prove them wrong. Pick up the good writing habits you need to make it easy to churn out a 30-page term paper.

After all, senior year isn’t the final step in your journey through life, and neither is college — they’re just the next steps. You’re entering your first years of adulthood: start creating the life you want to lead, in college and beyond.

If you look at senior year as a transition into something bigger, better, and full of incredible experiences, you’ll dream up countless opportunities for ensuring your journey is an excellent one. Cure your senioritis with a healthy dose of imagination — it’s your future, so make it a great one!

How else could you use senior year to prepare yourself for the road ahead?

Like what you see here? We are happy to permit you to use our material as long as you link back! Please refer to us as the Cardinal Education Blog.

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