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College Preparedness: Recovering from the PandemicSuzanne Shaffer
The final year of college. When we drop our first-year student on Move-In Day, this year seems a long way off. In what seems like a blink of an eye, it’s here.
For most seniors, this is a year of mixed emotions — stress, anxiety and concern about the future, coupled with excitement, impatience and a dose of nostalgia. They are anxious to be done and to move on with life and also fearful of the unknown future. Leaving behind the place they’ve spent these last four years and the close friends they’ve made makes graduation bittersweet.
During senior year, students focus on graduation, next steps in building a career, adulting, finally living out their dreams, and joining the professional world. Although it seems counterintuitive, communication with parents can increase during this final year as students try to plan their next steps.
Although seniors are focused on life after college, the work of college is far from done. This is an important academic year.
The beginning of senior year is an important time for students to do a final check of their degree map and degree audit. They need to address any remaining requirements. Failing to keep track of these can mean delayed graduation involving an extra semester or even an extra year. The finish line is close, but students need to make sure they stay on track.
For many students, their final courses will include capstone classes or projects, research projects or internships. This is also a last chance to take any out-of-the-box dream classes they’ve always wanted.
Students who plan to attend graduate school will be busy completing required testing and meeting application deadlines. Much like senior year of high school, they’ll begin an anxious time as they wait for acceptance letters to arrive.
Although seniors know intellectually that this is their final year, an interesting moment of realization often occurs in the spring when underclassmen register for fall classes. Suddenly seniors realize that they don't need to scramble to register. This is their last semester! Reality hits home.
Much like the senior year of high school, some students may feel less motivated, miss classes, miss deadlines and put forth a lackluster effort in some areas.
The reasons for college senioritis vary from student to student.
Sophomore and junior years were about career exploration; senior year is about professional preparation.
It’s time to be sure students are ready to step into their professional roles.
The list of tasks for seniors can be daunting, especially if they haven't addressed any of these during earlier years.
And they need to do all these things while maintaining a full load of courses!
Students have been maturing throughout their years in college, but as they face the prospect of leaving school, they may also face adulting issues that are new.
As excited as most students are to finish college and step into their career, they also realize that they may begin a life of 9-5 work, fifty weeks a year, without the open schedule and flexibility of college life. There are so many decisions to be made!
Is it any wonder that the research on emerging adults finds that many young people are in no hurry to categorize themselves as “adults?” Sometimes, it doesn’t sound like very much fun.
Finally, senior year is a lot about saying goodbye. It is another year of transition into an uncertain future – and students may feel as though they’ve just finished transitioning into college.
Students experience so many “lasts” during this year: last Move-In, last Parent Weekend, last sports events, last holiday festival, last theater performance or concert, last classes. It is also a time of saying goodbye to close friends who will be spreading out around the country. This becomes a year of finishing – and of leaving.
College seniors look back even as they look forward, and sometimes that means that they feel as though they are going in circles. As they face the perennial question of “What’s next?” they need to enjoy the NOW even as they focus on the future.
The journey may have seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, but they are ready to step into the world.
When your college student starts their first semester, it’s not just a big deal for them. It’s a big deal for you, too.