Surviving--and Thriving--Your Senior Year (for teens)

By — National Association for College Admission Counseling
Updated on Mar 13, 2009

It starts piling up almost as soon as the bell rings on your first day of senior year: item after item appears on your ever-growing list of things to do. There's school work—books to read, papers to write, tests to study for. There are your activities—clubs, sports, community organizations—and as a senior, you're probably part of the leadership of at least one of those groups. Then there's a whole new set of responsibilities—the college search and application process. And of course, there are those little necessities like sleeping, eating and spending time with family and friends.

If just thinking about your schedule makes you tired, read on for some tips for coping with senior year.

Write It Down

One of the best investments a busy student can make is a calendar or day planner. Take some time to write down all of your upcoming commitments, such as academic deadlines, practice times for athletes or performers, club meetings, social events like homecoming, standardized test dates, college application deadlines, and so on.

But don't stop with getting your schedule into your planner. Look for scheduling conflicts—is your research paper due the same week as the big game? Does the application date for one of your college choices fall on the same day as your star performance in the fall drama production? When you see possible "crunch times," think about what you can do reduce your stress. You might have to buckle down and start that research paper a bit earlier than you'd like, for example.

You can also use your planner or calendar to plan the various steps of large projects. Let's say you've volunteered to plan a fundraiser for one of your organizations. Break the project into smaller pieces—such as researching possible fundraisers, deciding on one fundraiser, recruiting volunteers, training volunteers, finding sponsors, promoting the event, etc. Then write down each step in your planner. You may allow two weeks to research and decide, three weeks to promote the event, and so on. Each week, consult your planner to make sure you stay on course to your goal.


Even the most well-organized students can be overwhelmed by too many commitments. If you feel like you're drowning in activity, it may be time to cut back. Of course, blowing off that big Calculus test is not an option (at least, not if you want decent grades), but dropping extracurricular activities that no longer interest you or delegating more leadership responsibilities could give you some relief.

Are you continuing your participation in a particular organization just because you did it last year, or are you truly interested and committed? Senior year is a time to focus on the activities that mean the most to you.

You may also want to look at "time-wasters"—things you do that get in the way of accomplishing your goals. Everyone wastes time, whether by watching too much TV, idly surfing the Internet or playing computer games. You don't want to cut out these pastimes entirely—everyone needs down time. But could limiting your TV-watching to one or two hours a day rather than three or four give you more time to research colleges? (Another strategy is to record or Tivo your favorite shows and watch them later, skipping the commercials.)

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