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The Senior Year Mindset: How To Deal With Stress You Should Know

You are the last year of high school, this means you have one more lap until you graduate. What comes next is not clear. Where do you plan on being next year? Where do you want to live? Who will you make friends with? Don’t let this worry and stress you out if it does. Instead, try getting into the mindset of a senior. This approach to change will calm your nerves, make you feel like you’re in charge, and help you enjoy your last year of high school. Here’s how to get in the mind-set of a senior:

PRACTICE: How do I want to be treated?

Rather than asking, “How do I get in?” Rather than asking, “Will I get in?” or “What do I want?” “What school will be lucky enough to have me?” This year, worry less about what people want and more about what you want. “My parents and teachers have always told me what I should want,” said one high school student. Now I can’t figure out what I want. I haven’t done it before.”

Senior year marks a big change. Instead of thinking about how to be attractive, you should think about what you want and where you can get it. When you make life about what you want, you see things in a different way. You won’t be so worried about how you rank and what people think of you. Instead, you can focus on what you want to do in college and how you can get there.

Make it a habit to ask yourself these questions: What do I want to make, change, or do in college? Who can help me and how do I find them? Where can I go to meet people, find a place to belong, and get answers? How long will it take me to get where I want to go?

PRACTICE SAYING: I’ll be fine wherever I go.

In his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, Frank Bruni shares data and research that show the truth about getting into college and what a degree means. To sum up, where you go to college won’t make or break you. The path to a successful and fulfilling career isn’t a straight line. Not only Bruni has noticed this. Denise Pope, who helped start Challenge Success and teaches at Stanford University, agrees: “Where you go to school doesn’t matter as much as what you do there.”

Know that a cheap school that gives you a good education can put you in the same place as a school with higher tuition that gives you the same things. Once you realize that you’ll do well in college no matter where you go, you can focus on finding the best place for you.

I’m sure I’ll get into the school of my dreams.

Worried you won’t get into the school you want? Don’t worry! If you can think of at least five dream schools, you’ll be able to make your dreams come true. As a best practice, choose at least one dream school that is safe, two that are possible but challenging, and two that are further away. Once you know what you want to do next year, it will be easier to look for schools that will be a good fit for you.

How do you figure out what works best? Think about what “fit” means in terms of making the transition to college on a social, emotional, physical, financial, and academic level. Which two of these areas of change do you care about the most? Find out what’s important to you, and let that guide your college search. Look for people and places that match what’s most important to you, and use this as your guide to choose your five dream schools.

PRACTICE: Can you help me, please?

There are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers during senior year. You can always ask people who have been through this before if you have questions.

It takes strength to ask for help. Talk to your counselors, teachers, recent graduates, tour guides, and even current students on campus. Give yourself a break and learn that it’s okay not to know. Let people help you! What is making you feel uncomfortable right now? Who can you turn to when you need help? This is where you should start.

PRACTICE SAYING: Experience and Experiment (repeat 3x)

Not knowing what you want is normal. Senior year is a time to try new things and learn from them. It’s not too late to try something new and get out of your comfort zone. Look for things that will teach you. Find out what you like and what you don’t. Find a part-time job that you’re interested in. Join a student group or club that you’re interested in. Step up and be a leader. Try out for a sport you haven’t done before. Try out for a part that makes you feel scared. You can even use these experiences to write a strong college admissions essay that will make you stand out and help your college application.

As a senior, enjoy the freedom to try new things in a place that you know and where you can get help. Soon, you’ll know what you want, be sure you can get it, and be able to enjoy your senior year with lots of answers and time to be in the moment before you graduate.

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