Whether it’s their first year of school, their last, or somewhere in the middle, summer is winding down for students everywhere, and the new school year will bring new challenges. Ada, the new Up Your Score: SAT Guest Editor, is attending Stanford University in the Fall. Read this look back on her senior year of high school, as she prepares for the next chapter: college!
One thing that no one tells you about senior year is that by the time summer rolls around, you will be a pro at small talk. From the check out lady at the grocery store to the all those people you haven’t talked to in years but run into at graduation parties, there is one line of questioning that every high school senior comes to expect: what are you doing after graduation?
The stock answer to the senior-year-question is simple: insert college and major here. Indeed, I dutifully chirped “Stanford University, environmental engineering” countless times. But while this is the easy answer to the after-graduation question, I think that a lot of seniors are asking themselves a bigger question throughout senior year, about who they’ll be after high school, and the answer is more complicated than college choices.
As senior year progresses, relationships change. Your friends apply to different schools in different states. As everyone begins to go in new directions, certain relationships crack under the pressure of change while others grow stronger, even as new opportunities approach. There are the awkward days of acceptance letters, where everyone wants to know who got in where… but no one wants to ask. And then there are the lasts—the last time you will see your lab partner, the last test you take, the last time you have to awkwardly encounter an ex-best friend or former flame. And after those lasts come the even tougher ones—the moments with close friends and family.
But the goodbyes aren’t limited to people. Like many teenagers, I had a full schedule of activities in high school, partly because I enjoyed and even loved them, and partly because I knew it wouldn’t look bad on a college application. Now that my friends and I aren’t worrying about which activities will look attractive to colleges, the old reasoning falls away, and there are choices to be made. Is it worth playing sports so you can put it on a future resume? Starting college means preparing to enter the working world in just four short years. What activities do you still love? And is that enough to continue participating? Should you think about just moving on?
When it comes down to it, the tough part of the classic after-graduation question is knowing how to move on. It’s easy to pin the stresses of senior year on the pressure of perfecting the last draft of a college essay or raising a standardized test score. In reality, there are plenty of ways to make a strong college application and there are plenty of guides to beating standardized testing (I should know, I had a great time working on Up Your Score). But there are less sure-fire handbooks on how to handle the other pressures of senior year. There is no simple guide to leaving the people and habits that have made up the majority of your life so far.
The symptoms and side-effects of these pressures are often called “senioritis.” In part, it might mean studying a little less for those final exams or blowing off the occasional homework assignment. But it also means figuring out which parts of your paper-perfected college-applicant-self you’re actually going to bring with you to campus.
So what am I doing after graduation? I’m still figuring that out. But I’m OK with that.
For more about Ada, visit the Up Your Score Facebook page here!