Expectations vs. reality

Student faces the struggles of senior year


Reghan Scott / Legacy Media

Senior Marae Narvaez understands that colleges pay attention to grades senior year, so she spends her time studying and working hard to keep up with her grades and to stay focused.

Senior year: A stress-free time for students to relax, hang out with friends and spend their last few moments of high school reflecting on their journey over the last few years.

Not. Although I wish senior year was as cliché and happy as it sounds, the sad reality creeps in when students sit at their desk staring blankly at an open textbook and three approaching scholarship application deadlines.

For years, I have been fed the lie that senior year would be a time full of joy, laughter and enjoying my view from the top of the food chain. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all the underclassmen anxiously awaiting their time at the top, but the view is not as pretty as promised. It is not a beautiful field of flowers, or a house made of candy or even an ice-cream shop. It is a valley flooded with college applications, last-minute grades and decisions that I am not ready to make.

As If balancing grades, a social life and sleep did not already feel like a struggle, senior year brings tedious college applications with broad essay topics like, “Using 500 words, tell me your whole life story starting at birth without leaving out any details, so I can judge you and tell you if you are a good fit.” Sounds fair, right? And if filling out applications sounds like the worst part, then the student obviously has not reached the part where they have to pay for their application fees, their transcripts and their SAT scores. The expenses are never-ending.

Whoever said ‘grades do not matter as much during senior year’ obviously did not take in the fact that although colleges have already received admission transcripts, class ranks and GPA are still in the works and still count toward graduation. Students are tearing out their hair from the stress. Balancing everything without the occasional nervous breakdown starts to seem impossible. And while some seniors are able to avoid AP classes, most colleges carry high standards, expecting students to walk in knowing basic calculus skills. Trust me when I say that there is nothing basic about calculus.

Worst of all are the questions. I do not know where I want to apply yet. I do not know what I want to major in. I do not even know what I want for breakfast tomorrow. Senior year brings a heavy dose of reality that I doubt anyone is ever ready for. I understand that most of the time these questions are asked out of love, guidance and support, but truth is, I have no idea yet. And that is okay. With all the decisions seniors are expected to make in a six-month period, some ‘what-if’s,’ “maybes’ and ‘I don’t know’s’ should be acceptable.

Don’t get me wrong—senior year is not all about miserable nights, college applications and tough decisions. There are so many fun nights, experiences and exciting emotions especially reserved for seniors. Senior year is the first of many lasts, and these last moments will be some of the most thrilling, exciting and memorable students will ever have the opportunity to experience.

The ups and downs, the tears and laughter and the joy and pain are all a part of the experience. And although it is not the mental vacation many students were promised, it is a journey that helps shape, develop and strengthen students. No matter how bumpy, stressful or downright exhausting the ride may feel at times, it’s an unforgettable one, and I would not trade it for anything.