As you enter your senior year, you might experience a wave of deja-vu. You’ve done this before, you’re back in your routine, and there’s nothing to do or experience other than what you’ve already been doing for the past three years. But it’s not over yet. Here are five tips and ideas for making the most out of this season while preparing for the next one.
1. Don’t freak out.
With everyone asking you what your plans “after college” are, it may feel like you’re being asked what direction you will be taking for the rest of your life. But an acceptance letter or a job offer is not a marriage proposal. This isn’t “till death do us part.” Remember that—unless you actually are choosing your spouse—few decisions you make now are permanent. You have your whole life to figure this stuff out. In fact, there may never be a safer time to test your wings than while you’re still in the nest. Accept the guidance of faculty, parents, and peers, and, above all, take one step at a time, one day at a time, one moment at a time.
2. Take or audit a class you’ve always wanted to take.
Take advantage of your time as a student to learn something outside your major. Whether it’s in art, theology, psychology, film, etc., you may be feeding a new passion that will stay with you and that might even carry over into your current occupational goals. If anything, you will enjoy exploring a new avenue of thought and develop a deeper understanding of a topic of interest.
3. Stay close to your friends—and make new ones.
By this time, most of the upperclassmen who were in school when you arrived have graduated. You will walk into the cafeteria and think: Where did all these people come from? See this as an opportunity to get to know some awesome people. Be the senior you wanted to be friends with. You will never have more influence than now.
4. Form good habits.
You may feel like you’re too set in your ways to change any of your study, eating, sleeping, or other habits, but now is the time to develop the kinds of habits and routines that will help you grow as an adult. Set some goals for yourself. You’re never done growing.
5. Apply for grad school and internships NOW.
Applications for the fall semester are typically due around December and January, so begin studying, taking tests if your prospective school requires them, and sending in your applications. If you’re interested in an internship, now is the time to start applying for those too.
While it may feel like this is just the fourth (or fifth or sixth) year of the same old thing, senior year is actually a chance for new beginnings: new friends, new classes, new experiences, new habits, and even new goals. The idea that “real life” comes after you’re holding a diploma is a myth. “Real life” is now. But remember that there’s still a lot to learn. Allow yourself to grow, to dream new dreams—or rediscover old ones—and to become who you want to be.
And maybe don’t complain about the caf quite so much—after all, you’ll be cooking your own food soon!