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High School Seniors: Preparing for Your Next Step After High School
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Your senior year in high school is a wonderful time, with students filled with a wide range of emotions, expectations, and plans. Senior year is a time spent reflecting back on all those years in the classroom while looking ahead to new adventures of work or college. Senior year is also about making plans and decisions, and that's where this article can help you.
This article is about helping you manage and make the transition from high school to college. Taking the advice in this article will make you a better person and a more prepared student -- and will help make all those college plans and dreams come to fruition. Following these seven tips will help lead you to success from high school to college -- and beyond.
Tip 1: Don't Stop at High School
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slightly more than three in every five high school graduates continue on to college (with young women doing so at a slightly higher rate than young men). If you are unsure that an additional two to four years of schooling will make that much of an impact on your life -- and believe me, they will -- read one of our other articles, What Good is a College Education Anyway? The Value of a College Education.
We are in an information-based society and almost all of the high-growth occupations identified by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics require some training/education beyond the high school level. Research the careers that interest you by following this link to search the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Tip 2: Finalize College Plans
The fall of your senior year is the time to finalize the list of colleges and universities that seem best suited for your needs. You'll want to spend time with your family, friends, and guidance counselor in paring down (or developing) your list of the best schools for you in terms of the criteria you deem most important.
How do you develop your list -- and what criteria should you use? For help with the mechanics of narrowing down your list of colleges and universities, please read one of our other articles, Choosing a College that's Right for You.
And for help in best organizing and utilizing your time, please take advantage of our College-Bound High School Senior Planning Calendar.
Tip 3: Avoid Senioritis and the Senior Slump
There's a common misconception that once you've made it to your senior year -- and especially once you've been accepted by colleges -- that senior grades don't matter. But colleges do request and review senior grades, especially from the first half of the school year. Be forewarned, though, that if you let your grades slip anytime during the year, colleges have the right to ask you to document and explain why your current grades have dropped below previous years.
Continue to take pride in your grades and continue to attempt your best. Some studies report that high school seniors who lost interest in high school because of a "senior slump" also had problems in college because they had lost interest and devalued the importance of education. And you don't ever want to face the worst-case scenario: not graduating high school because you are short one credit because you failed some elective course.
Tip 4: Keep Challenging Yourself
While senior year might seem the right time to load up on those electives you've been dying to take instead of advanced or honors classes, you might want to hold off on taking too many easy electives. Many colleges recommend that your senior year should be designed to best prepare you for your first year in college, and some of the more selective schools may downgrade your application if you ease up on the challening courses.
Studies also show that students who continue to take advanced courses in the sciences, math, foreign languages, or English during their senior year are better prepared and perform better in related college courses. Another benefit is that you may be able to earn college credits for some of the courses you take -- or through the your scores from the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP).
Read what courses Get Ready for College recommends in helping high school students better prepare for university-level work.
Tip 5: Stay Involved
If you've been involved in various social clubs, actively volunteered with local agencies, or have been involved in the community in other ways, don't stop now just because it's your senior year or because you no longer need to do it to impress the colleges and universities. Make a lifelong commitment to give back to your community. You'll be helping others, making an impact on people's lives -- and you'll feel the better for it.
And volunteering also helps you gain important career skills -- and can possibly even help you in discovering a college major or career path. Read our article, Volunteering Can Reveal Your Work Passion.
Tip 6: Strive for Balance
The key for you is to avoid burnout. You have your high school work, college planning, social activities, family obligations, and outside activities (such as jobs, volunteering, etc.) -- all demanding your time. Try and keep your life balanced -- and be sure to schedule time just for yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously. And remember that while you don't want to have a senior slump, it's equally important not to crash and burn.
Tip 7: Set Life and Career Goals
As you reach the precipice of your primary education and are about to make that leap into the journey of the rest of your life, now -- amid the relative calm of senior year -- is a great time to find a quiet spot and reflect on your future career and life goals. Don't worry about definites and don't let yourself get bogged down in specifics; instead, focus on issues such as what you are searching for out of work and a career, what success means to you, what is important in your life. Consider taking a shot at writing a draft of a personal mission statement or other life-affirming communications.
Finally, to get a jump on college, consider reading our article, Choosing a College Major: How to Chart Your Ideal Path.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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