For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jun 07 2016
by Hannah Nelson

10 Things They Didn't Tell You About Senior Year

By Hannah Nelson - Jun 07 2016
It is a well known fact that movies are not the most accurate when it comes to real life. Prince Charming does not travel across town to figure out if the shoe fit, college students don’t spend all week drinking and that one couple doesn’t live happily ever after. Though we know all this, there’s still a small part of us that hopes it comes true. I know when I was in elementary school and High School Musical broadcasted for the first time on Disney Channel, I really hoped my life would be like that. Then when I got accepted into an art school for middle and high school, my only thought was “Sharpay Evans will be so jealous."

However, high school was absolutely nothing like the movies. When I realized Troy Bolton would not sing to me his feelings, I at least thought the things former seniors said would be true. It’s hard to be granted these high expectations, and when things fail to meet your expectations, everything feels like its falling apart. You start feeling like Troy Bolton in “Scream” in High School Musical: Senior Year. Out of the things they tell you about senior year, there are ten things they definitely did not tell.

1. You think you know what your senior year will be like. But you don’t.

Again, with the stories and movies, it feels like you’ll have a sense of how things will go. You make this plan for yourself, an idea of how each stage in your year will play out. The thing I’ve learned is that if you have a plan, nothing in that plan will come true. In my case, I planned on getting into at least three colleges with a full ride and the other five with pretty close to it, I expected to have all my friends by my side through every step of the way and I expected to have a year of easy sailing. I didn’t get into my top choice or a full ride, and I was rejected from three schools. I did, however, have a super easy year in terms of classes, which was a gift when you’re juggling all those applications.

2. Grades, while important, are just a small component of the things that make you great.

You can be valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA and a 100 numerical average and still not get into your top choice. Your grades are a great indicator of your work ethic but do nothing to show true intelligence. Keeping up your grade point average is something they preach from ninth grade until the day you graduate, but it’s not as important as you think. Almost all colleges now have a holistic approach to the college decision – they consider all aspects of a student. They look at your extracurriculars, the level of your classes, your volunteer hours, work history, letters of recommendation, etc. This considered, even if your grades aren’t the highest, it wouldn’t hurt to still apply to that school.

3. Class rank is just a number.

Again, you can be valedictorian and still not get into your top choice. In my case, I was fifth in a very competitive class. A fellow colleague was lower in class and got into the college we both applied to on a full ride. They succeeded in ways that I failed and in ways that the school in particular appreciated more. Where you are in your class is solely a number, and not an indicator of you directly, but more of your class.


Former seniors told me to apply to as many colleges as possible and as many scholarships as I could. However, I had not realized how true this was until I was running out of options both in college choices and ways to pay. It is unbelievably important to apply when you can and as much as you can because once those offers start rolling in, you’ll be glad you did so.

5. It’s okay if you don’t get into your top choice.

You hear the success stories about all the alumni from your school that got into their top choice – you know the ones. You hear the stories about your current classmates getting into their top choices, but you very rarely hear the underdog stories about what happens when you don’t get in. I wrote an article on this a couple weeks back about how not getting into your top choice isn’t always a bad thing. And it’s true. That’s one thing I personally think teachers and counselors don’t tell students often enough: it is okay if all your dreams don’t come true. See it as a chance to push yourself harder to prove the schools that rejected you wrong. Plus, you may be better off (like me).

6. We’re not all in this together.

The class before mine told me that their class ended the year closer to each other than ever before. My class did not experience that at all. I ended the year with a completely different group than I started with. I lost friends that I thought would be my ride-or-die’s and friends I hoped I would talk to for the rest of my life. Most of them, I’m better off without; the others I miss more than words can explain. This is another way that High School Musical lied. Your friend group will not stay the same your whole high school career, and that’s okay. Your senior year is when you will change more than you ever have and it’s the year you begin to realize your wants and needs as an adult.

7. Go to everything. If you don’t, you’ll regret it.

Going to the freshman performances may not seem like a fun thing to do on a Friday night, but it will definitely be worthwhile. Once you cross that stage and receive your diploma, you very likely will never go to a performance, pep rally, football game or dance ever again. It may feel dorky, but you’ll never experience it ever again! Embrace it all. I didn’t go to much this year, and I regret the things I didn’t get to enjoy one last time; I do rejoice in the things I did go to, though.

8. Focus on all your firsts rather than your lasts.

Senior year is full of lots of lasts: YOUR last games and performances, your last classes and lunches, your last goodbyes and hellos. As daunting as these things may seem, it won’t do you any good to focus on these things. Pay attention to all your firsts ahead of you! Your first acceptance letter, your first scholarship offer, your first move-in day, etc. Senior year and the year that follows brings so many new things that it’s hard to pay attention to the things you’re leaving behind.

9. Being scared is okay

As commitment day neared and the graduation countdown reached single digits, I was overcome with fear and anxiety. Actually, I was anxious all year. Having no idea how the future is going to pan out is a terrifying experience. But that’s okay. You ought to be scared, and if you’re not, you’re crazy. I thought it was overreacted all year, but after talking to classmates, I realized I wasn’t the only one. It’s important to remember that.

10. The world is unfair but you have to make it work for you.

Things aren’t always going to go your way. Honestly, they almost never go your way, but never let that get to you, especially during your senior year. You have to keep on moving and fighting even when the whole world seems to be knocking you down. If the gods seem to be fighting you, fight back. If you start to feel like Troy Bolton in “Scream” or “Bet On It," just keep your head in the game. Remember that your losses and defeats are just ways to keep you going. Be proud of your accomplishments, senior. You deserve it. 

Lead Image Credit: Tomash Devenishek from Flickr Creative Commons

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Hannah Nelson - University of Tennessee Knoxville

Hannah Nelson is a Freshmen at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, majoring in Biology with a biochemistry concentration. Hannah loves to dance, write, binge watch Netflix, and read. She's an ENFJ, Pisces, Ravenclaw, and an Oxford Comma Enthusiast. Follow her on twitter and instagram @nelsonator98!

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