Senior year: Time to prepare for life after high school

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Published: October 30,2009

The senior year in high school is time to enjoy senior privileges and special activities like your last high school homecoming while the future after high school beckons with wide-open possibilities.

Thomas Johnson, a senior who is drum major for the band and on track to become valedictorian of Greenville High School, enjoys the perks of being a senior.

“You have more freedom, but you have to be responsible with it,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of things to be doing during the year, like the whole process of writing essays and applying to different colleges.”

Johnson is planning to major in music and minor in sociology at college. His eventual goal is to become a pediatrician, but he is also interested in being a music sociologist. He is applying to both in-state (University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi) and out-of-state colleges (Davidson College, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff).

Dr. Leeson Taylor, deputy superintendent, Greenville Public Schools, who is a former high school principal, said the best part of being a senior is reaching the culmination of your high school scholastic career. 

“The social status of being a senior is good, but it is just one side of it,” Taylor said. “The side that has the biggest impact is academics. You have been in school 12 and sometimes 13 years. Now you are at the point of matriculating. You are poised. You are about to leave high school and enter the adult world. You have a year to make that transition. “

The first thing you should do is make sure you are getting all the academic experience necessary to prepare for college or subsequent employment. You need to develop a plan that should include short-term as well as long-term goals.

Are your goals college? A vocational trade? Immediate employment?

“You should start seeing what resources you need to achieve those goals,” Taylor said. “And then you need to pursue those resources. I think lots of times seniors don’t take advantage of the time they have to put their plans into motion.”

But he doesn’t recommend waiting until the senior year to make decisions. If you are on a college track, Taylor recommends starting to look at colleges at the end of the ninth grade. 

“That is when you need to start thinking of the major you are interested in, the best college for your major and requirements for scholarships,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to say the senior year is too late, but it is burdensome to wait until that late.”

One of the most important and difficult decisions to make is what career to pursue. Taylor recommends starting with what you would like to do, not what will pay a lot of money. 

“Once you go into an area of employment, you are going to spend more hours there than anywhere else for the next 20 years,” he said. “Start with what you like to do, and then figure out how to get paid to do it.”

As a high school student and athlete, he vividly remembers homecoming being the best part not only because of the social side of things in terms of dances, but it was also a time when a lot of kids from college came back. You would hear what college life was like, and how to prepare for school. 

Of course, graduation is another really big highlight of the senior year. It still has a powerful impact for Taylor seeing students cross the stage to obtain their diploma. 

“It is wonderful seeing the impact of the educational process for them,” Taylor said. “It is an emotional time. For students, it means, ‘I’m grown. I’m part of the adult world’.”

Unfortunately, many students in the state don’t make it to graduation as only about 63 percent of students graduate in Mississippi. To prevent dropping out, keep your eye on the goal.

“If your goal is to have a better life for yourself, look at the roadblocks as obstacles to a better life,” Taylor said. “It is not about piece of paper, but a diploma that unlocks certain doors that won’t be unlocked if you don’t have it. Stay around and get as many keys to a better life as you can.”

So you are a big senior one year, and the next start off as a lowly freshman in college or as the newest hire on the job. Don’t worry. It is all part of the process.

 “Life is all about cycles,” Taylor said. “It all starts over. You graduate as a senior in high school only to start over as a freshman in college. You don’t start out at work as president of the company. Keep in mind the cycle that starts over and over again.”

By BECKY GILLETTE I CONTRIBUTOR

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