Preparing for your student's senior year
Tips and information for your student's transition and challenges faced during their final year at Elon
Senior Year. As your student begins to wrap up their junior year, the looming nature of their final year as an Elon student will begin to be realized as they hear their graduating peers discuss graduation, graduate school, and the job search. At this point in their college career, they have just begun to really feel as though they have college “figured out”—they have become the revered upper classmen and leaders in organizations, they have established strong friendships, and they are doing well in their classes for their major. However, as they head into the summer and look toward their senior year, they begin to realize how much more there is to “figure out” about themselves, their dreams, their careers, and the steps they must take in order to secure their place in the proverbial “real world” post-college. Awareness about the nuances your student may be experiencing at this time, may give you an advantage in navigating the twists and turns:
Competition. Some students will have their post-college plan in order early on; with social media, your student will likely see others’ posts about their fully ironed out post-college plans and be tempted to compare, contrast, and be self-critical about their own timeline, or in some cases their plan. In these cases, it is important to encourage your student to stay focused on their own plan, devoting their time and energy to developing their resume and submitting applications rather than worrying about what their peers are doing (or not doing). Also, recommend that they make an appointment with a career services specialist in the Student Professional Development Center.
Uncertainty. Since the majority of students’ lives have been relatively structured and organized for them (i.e. course requirements, support services, activities designed to acclimate them to social communities), they may begin to feel as though they are having to make bigger, harder decisions with more consequences than they have experienced in the past. They will wonder: have I made the right choices? Have I done everything I can and need to do? Am I going to get a job? Am I going to make my family proud?
As a parent or family member, it will be tempting in these times to seek to “fix” the situation and/or make the decisions for your student. Instead, though difficult it may be, reinforce for your student that these are their decisions and ultimately their life, empowering them to see life post-college as exciting rather than daunting.
The Lasts. Rising seniors quickly begin taking more sentimental note of the special traditions of their college experience. You will likely hear things such as, “This is my last college summer!” or “This is my last first day of college classes” which is them externally processing how much their experience has meant to them and how much they are going to miss it. The feelings of all these “lasts” can have a tendency to encourage rising seniors/seniors to make more emotionally-fueled decisions in the “YOLO” (“You only live once”) mentality. While normal, some of these decisions may not have the best implications; in these moments, encourage your student to soak in these “lasts” in a way that helps them process and remember them (journaling, taking pictures, making a scrapbook, making a photo collage).
Senioritis. As a rising senior, your student may begin to slip into the burn-out phase where they feel as though they have already done and learned so much, that their bodies and brains are exhausted. Consequently, they may begin to look for opportunities to get the most out of the social aspects of the college experience and feel tempted to slack in the academic and leadership departments. Encourage your student to take breaks as needed, carve out weekly “me time” to take a break and rejuvenate, and to “finish the race” strongly—they have not worked this hard for the past three years just to coast in the end.
Overall, the senior year is a truly special, meaningful experience for students—some of the memories they will most cherish in their lives are likely to be made here. While at times, the journey may seem challenging, with a keen focus on their dreams and goals as well as support and encouragement from family, your student will have a wonderful experience.
Written by Kasey Harvill, Director of New Student and Transition Programs.