Senior year is both daunting and exhilarating. You at once want to break out of the cage and into the real world, but you also want to throw away the key and stay forever. Reflecting back on my senior year, I’ve come up with my top eight points of advice for thriving during your senior year.
1. Free food – where it is and how to get it.
When you graduate, free food is few and far between, so make sure you make the most of it now. There are two times of year when free food is most abundant. One being the first few weeks of classes as clubs vie for the attention of first year students. Hit up those meetings and bring your to-go container. And actually, bringing your to-go container should be something you do throughout the year – far too many events have extra food at the end. It’s your senior year, just stroll in like you’re part of the club or feign interest. And who knows, you might end up actually being interested. The 2nd time of year that food is abundant is during spring semester, particularly after Spring Break. There are a lot of events geared particularly towards seniors that you should attend if you can: End of Year Banquets, Inductions Ceremonies, etc. These ones are specifically for you, so you don’t even have to pretend you’re supposed to be there. Plus, this is usually where departments shell out the big bucks for their food spread. Happy eatings.
2. Whether or not you have a plan after graduation, get a one minute blurb ready for anyone who asks, because EVERYONE will ask.
The irony is that they will open up the conversation with “I know everyone asks, but…” or “I know we’re not supposed to ask, but…” Anyone and everyone who knows you are a senior WILL ask what your plans after graduation are so just get over that fact real fast and get an answer ready – even if you don’t really have one. And your answer can be: “I’m applying for jobs in [insert fields and/or cities that you MAY be interested in applying].” Most people do not want to hear your internal dialogue and uncertainties. Save those for your friends in similar positions, your mentors and advisors and those who genuinely ask. Trust me, most people just want the quick answer. They want to know that you are making someone of yourself. This is especially true when chatting with underclassmen. They need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that all their hard work and soul searching will come to something. I’m not saying lie to them, particularly those underclassmen you feel like a mentor to. Be honest and open about the search process – where ever you may be in it. But don’t let the impending doom of not knowing what you are doing after you cross that stage seem staggering.
3. Other seniors – you’re all in different places and it’s important to be sensitive to that.
The truth of the matter is that not all seniors are going through the same thing. Some seniors want to stay in college forever, some have been waiting to graduate since freshmen year. Some seniors have had a job lined up since their summer internship ended – two years ago, and some are still unsure what they want to do months after graduation. So if you’re one of those who already has a job lined up, definitely celebrate it, but it is in poor taste to bring it up every minute of everyday, particularly with other seniors that are still waiting to hear back. Those that are unsure, still applying, etc, be supportive of your friends that have a job lined up, try not to let your pride get in the way of asking for their advice, and don’t think just because they have a job lined up doesn’t mean they are not sympathetic towards your dilemma – they are still your friend. At the same time though, the fact that you haven’t found a job yet might not be ALL they want to talk about.
4. Staying involved and letting go.
This is going to be a very hard balance to strike, particularly if you are the president of an organization. But throughout the year, the thing you should be thinking about the most is: transitioning. Make sure that you are taking small steps to ensure that your organization won’t fall apart once the seniors graduate. Let underclassmen and juniors see what goes on behind the scenes and give them increasing responsibilities. And Even before elections begin, start to have a few people in mind that you want to groom for your position. Throughout the organizations that you are a part of, stay involved enough to offer advice and help out when you can, but realize that if you don’t show up to one meeting – it’s not the end of the world.
5. Applications above all else.
If it’s between staying up all night and studying or getting a good night’s sleep for your big interview – sorry, interview wins. It’s like that saying “Don’t sacrifice what will make you happy in the future for what will make you happy now” – or something like that. I mean ideally, you studied for your test nights before and you’ll be able to ace it along with the interview, but we all know it doesn’t always happen like that. You’ll be surprised how many teachers are understanding of the fact that you’re not going to be in college forever and give their ok for you to go to that cross-country interview. (I’m not saying they will change their attendance policy for you, I’m just saying they won’t be as mad as you think they will be).
6. Take a few students under your wing.
You’re still on campus for two semesters. In thinking about the legacy that you leave on your campus, consider going out of your way to show some underclassmen the ropes. Perhaps in them you see yourself from 3 years ago – teach them what you wish you knew then. You never know whose life you’ll be changing.
DO NOT. And I repeat, DO NOT wait until the last possible minute to take your senior photos. Particularly if your photographer is also a senior – they are just as busy as you are with graduation prep AND they are trying to get people’s photos back to them. Photographers don’t just take pictures and send them to you. They weed through them, organize, edit and then send them to you. (And no, don’t ask them to just send it to you and you’ll do that part). How long this will take depends entirely on the photographer, how many pictures they took, and of course what other photoshoots they have done recently. Give them ample time to get the photos back to you before you start nagging them. I would suggest getting your photos done anywhere between soon after you receive your cap and gown (especially if you are planning on doing graduation announcements), and a month before graduation. Graduation comes fast, and you won’t believe how much there is to do between your exams, maybe moving to a new state, more applications and all the random little things you have to do for the school, your family or yourself to make sure graduation is a success. Plus you want to have time to enjoy. I know all of this from experience because my friends and I took our graduation pictures the weekend before graduation and everything worked out fine, but I wouldn’t advice it.
Which brings me to another point: who will be in your graduation pictures with you. If you cannot think of a specific friend or group of friends, it is completely ok to take your graduation pictures alone. Do not be afraid to do so. Also, if there are non-seniors that you are close to, and you want a few pictures with them, feel free to tell them when and where you will be shooting so they can come in for a few shots.
If you are taking shots with a group of friends, make sure you all coordinate beforehand: What kind of shots do you want, where on campus do you want them, what time works best for everyone (and looks best in photos), are you wearing matching outfits, etc. But, only one person needs to be in contact with the photographer. Discuss with the photographer how many shots you can expect and make sure they will also do individual shots for each person. As fun as it is to have those great group shots, you want a few of just you.
8. Make the most of where you are and have fun.
I can’t stress this enough. College is a magical place and even if you plan on going to grad school, nothing compares to your undergraduate experience. Take the time to make a bucket list of all the things you want to get done before you graduate – maybe school traditions that you have yet to participate in or attending random sporting events at your school. Take time to get lunch with your favorite faculty and staff and reach out to those you’ve always been shy to contact but thought were really cool. Spend time with your friends and explore the area around you. BUT don’t be so obsessed with spending quality time with your friends that you shut out the possibility of new friends. Make those too. Whatever you can do to make sure you are making the most of ALL the opportunities at your school (free events and productions, the gym, career services, etc), make sure you do that because it’s never all going to be in one convenient bubble again.
To all seniors out there, have a wonderful and successful senior year. Please comment below or send me an email via the contact form if you have any questions. Those who have graduated college already, any other points of advice that you would offer?
All Photos in this post were taken by Sophia Spach.