We know and we empathize. (The “we” being the “royal we” of friends, family, teachers, and society in general.) You might be suffering from Zoom fatigue. You might be tired of online learning. You probably just want to hang out with your friends. You may not have been accepted to your first-choice school. You might be worried about paying for college. You might be annoyed by how bad your skin looks when you take off that mask. You aren’t sure what the new normal will look like. You might be feeling anxious. You just want to have some good old-fashioned fun!
You’re probably also thinking you don’t want to fail out of high school and will not do things to ruin your chances. You may have heard that colleges will rescind their offers if they see significant unpleasantness with grades or behavior during that last part of your senior year (and yes, that includes what you do on social media). But you know that, right? (PLEASE say you understand!)
Ever heard this one? “The way you end anything determines how you begin the next thing.” Wait, what? What do I mean by that?
It’s actually relationship advice. It means that if your last partner cheated on you, you might not feel very trusting as you enter the next relationship. However, if you parted as friends with your significant other, you might feel more open to the next new romance. Those feelings carry over, even though your brain knows one thing has ended and something new might be beginning. No degree of closure can make us forget those lingering feelings.
But what does this have to do with college? Well, the way you end your senior year determines how you start your next phase. If you end senior year with a sort of blah feeling, you will likely feel just semi-okay about entering your next school. If you end it on a high note with great confidence, it will be much easier to start college feeling positive. Research shows that having positive feelings of gratitude leads to better relationships with those around you and more active engagement in the community at large.
So, how do you generate gratitude when the burnout is real? Here are a few ideas for finishing strong:
- Grades – Do what you can to maintain what you have already accomplished, but also know that a half grade less in a few classes won’t make colleges think twice. No one is expecting you to get the same exact grades you have had all these years, but no one wants to see a sharp decline either. So, basically do your best without sacrificing your sanity or sleep.
- Tests – Many of you are taking AP tests this spring. You might check online to see what kinds of scores you’ll need for credit. Some schools will max out on credit after you have taken a certain number of AP exams. Other schools make you take placement tests in math and language and don’t award credit in those areas. Check to make sure before you invest the extra time and money for an AP test.
- Closing ceremonies – Graduation ceremonies and parties help us feel a sense of closure. Many schools are doing their best to make graduation happen. Attend if you can or find another way to end the year with some joy, like having a small party with cake, balloons, and a big sign at home. Or maybe celebrate with a camping trip with family or friends.
- Thank-you notes – These are a great way to show gratitude to all the people in your life who have supported you by guiding you, writing letters of recommendation, and helping you through some late nights. Friends, family, teachers, and school staff will LOVE your kind notes of appreciation and you will feel just as awesome writing them. Warm fuzzies and gratitude all around will ensure the next step starts positively.
- A present to yourself – You might make yourself a scrapbook or collage to help you remember those high school years. It doesn’t have to be anything big and lavish. It just has to be something that makes you feel like you finished and are celebrating this MAJOR accomplishment!
- Journaling – This is a way for you to easily express yourself. You might write about your favorite high school memories, why you are going to college, who you are right now, and who you hope to become. Look back and look forward at the same time as you write. You feel nostalgia and let go of the past while dreaming about the future.
Take it from your just slightly older peers: college can be a bumpy start. There’s so much to digest. There are new classes, new teachers, new locations, and new friends, so your world might feel off-kilter. Most students doubt themselves at some point that first semester or quarter, regardless of their choices of community college, a nearby school, or a faraway university. They question if they should have gone to a different place or down a different path. They wonder if they are really ready for this next experience. They ask themselves if they will find the next group of friends who understand them. They think about if they will be successful and what that might look like. (And, sidenote: sometimes these feelings and thoughts don’t show up until the winter or spring of that first year because the fall is just so full that there’s no time to think.)
Trust me and everyone else out there when we say you need to have a healthy level of confidence, motivation, and positive energy as you start that new journey. The best way to get ready is to end your current chapter with the satisfaction of putting in your best effort, despite all the pivoting, resilience, and other annoying terms we have thrown at you. A good firm closure will carry you farther than you know.
About Us: With more than twenty years of experience, Collegewise counselors and tutors are at the forefront of the ever-evolving admissions landscape. Our work has always centered on you: the student. And just like we’ve always done, we look for ways for you to be your best self - whether it’s in the classroom, in your applications or in the right-fit college environment. Our range of tools include counseling, test prep, academic tutoring, and essay management, all with the support of our proprietary platform, leading to a 4x higher than average admissions rates.