Some teens decide to take it easy and slack off the last year of high school, coming in late and skipping classes. But when it comes to how to prepare for senior year of high school with success, succumbing to senioritis isn’t the wisest move.
Taking a hands-off approach to the final year of high school might seem tempting, but it’ll leave students fumbling into college playing catch-up.
Jaylin Harris, 18, a 2018 graduate from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit and a student activist, says wisely using the weeks – and even years – before the first day of senior year is the key to starting, and finishing, strong.
Senior year can feel daunting even with the end of high school in sight. Preparing for college – the essays, applications and transcripts – is a huge task. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Read on for our tips on how to prepare for senior year of high school.
Get your sleep schedule in order
Before the school year starts, Harris says one of the easiest and most impactful tactics is to start shifting when you go to bed.
“It’s a good idea to start adjusting the sleep schedule about a month before,” he says. “Get yourself prepared by going to bed at 9 or 9:30 p.m. – you should aim for all eight hours of sleep and eat breakfast in the morning.”
Using a sleep cycle calculator can also help: Waking up at the end of a cycle, which ends every 90 minutes, will make it feel like waking up naturally.
Start volunteering in the summer
Harris, a student and community activist, organized his school’s walkouts during his senior year. Balancing his activism work with his schoolwork was difficult, he says, but using his summers to slowly build relationships with other activist groups and mentors prevented him from feeling overwhelmed.
“Start volunteering and working with activists before school starts to make sure you have the right people and contacts, and that will let you have the right timing when it comes to organizing,” he says.
There are a variety of teen volunteer opportunities in metro Detroit and Ann Arbor that let kids get their foot in the door and help their communities, too – all while gaining valuable experience before college.
Write your college essays early
When it comes to needing college application help, one common source of angst is the essay. It’s an area Harris knows well – and one where planning, again, pays off.
“I struggle with writing essays, and for others that struggle, too, I encourage them to write them before they get into their junior year,” he says. “They can even be written in your sophomore year.”
He says writing essays in the summer gives more time to ask others to read them and provide feedback. If the task still seems overwhelming, get some friends involved. Head to the library with a few pals and devote an hour or two reading and giving feedback on each other’s essays.
Ask counselors for help
Harris says one of the most important things he did before starting senior year was leave an impression with the school’s counselors.
Make a connection, and these school professionals can provide direction in a variety of areas – whether it’s finding the right college fit, getting financial aid for college or offering advice on taking a gap year between high school and college.
“Even if your school has separate counselors for each grade, standing out to your counselor will be important,” Harris says. “All the counselors talk, and if they know you, they can help you more – with FAFSA, essays, scholarships and everything else.”
Reach out to teachers
Keeping an open line of communication with teachers is another helpful tip on that checklist of how to prepare for senior year of high school. Harris says if you know you’ll need extra help with a subject, you can reach out to teachers via email over the summer to ask for ways to prepare.
If you do start to struggle when the school year starts, be sure to “ask for help in the beginning of the year – that’s what I did, and the teachers worked with me.”
Figure out an agenda-keeping method that works for you, and get the supplies you’ll need to keep it up before school starts. Bullet journaling, an agenda-keeping style that uses different symbols to indicate the status of tasks, has become popular with students, and there are even Instagram pages, like @thepalepaper, devoted to it.
Harris says the most important thing for students using an agenda is to write everything down – even if they think they’ll remember. “Put something on the fridge to remind yourself of things like when your practice starts,” he says. “And don’t try to overbook yourself.”
Ready for that next step? Be sure to check out Metro Parent’s college planning guide for more tips and advice.