Senior year is an exciting time for a high school student, but the year can be so packed with activities and responsibilities that it’s difficult to slow down and enjoy yourself while keeping all your bases covered. You have seniority at school, you’re on the brink of adulthood, your time is overbooked with studying and extracurricular activities -- plus you’re weighed down with decisions about your future. Get a handle on it all for a great senior year.

Consider Options

Heading off to a top college or university may be the expected option for a high school graduate, but it’s by no means the only one. Consider expanding your horizons with a summer, semester or a entire year overseas with a study abroad program before going to college. You might even consider forgoing the traditional four-year college in favor of training in culinary arts, technology, fashion, mechanical or other fields that get you into the job market faster.

Explore Interests

The inevitable question seniors hear is, “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?” Students who’ve taken time to explore their interests are best equipped to have an appropriate answer. Those students try new experiences regardless of what their friends and family might say. So, whether you’ve a passion for acting, photography, nature, teaching or video games, senior year is a great time to try things that might help decide your future.

Apply to Colleges

So you’re on the traditional college track and you’ve already scouted your top picks. Once you have applications out to those universities, don’t forget to apply to a few “safety” schools. While you might be certain of your college choices when the applications are due -- almost a year in advance -- you might change your mind by the time you’re ready to make your final selection.

Extracurricular Activities

Speaking of applying to college, you can increase your chances of getting accepted to your top school by submitting a well-rounded application. Besides maintaining high grades and participating in school organizations such as sports and clubs, broaden your horizons by engaging in extracurricular activities outside of school. College admission boards look favorably on volunteering, meaningful part-time jobs and participating in community events.

Research Scholarships

College is expensive enough without taking out student loans to cover the entire tuition for four years. The time and effort it takes to apply for scholarships can go a long way in easing your financial future. Don't just apply for scholarships offered by your chosen institution; there are hundreds of opportunities offered by nonprofit organizations, corporations and even the government that you might qualify for. While writing essays and filling out applications for dozens of scholarships can seem daunting, it’s a smart decision in the long run.

Learn Life Skills

Leaving for college means you’ll soon be taking care of yourself, so senior year is the time to prepare yourself for those responsibilities. Have your parents teach you how to balance your bank statement, pay bills, do laundry, contact emergency services for yourself or your car, and any other task your parents do for you. Better to learn these life skills before you leave home than fumbling through them on your own.

Check Your Records

Getting a failing grade on a final exam isn’t the only thing that can come between you and your high school diploma. High schools can keep you from graduating for a number of reasons, including unpaid fines or missing credits. As you begin your senior year, check with the registrar’s office to ensure you take all the classes you need to earn your diploma, then check again just before graduation to wrap up any loose ends. Also check in with your college admissions officer to make sure you’ve taken any entrance exams, college prep courses or college boards your chosen institution requires.

Spend Time with Friends

With all the requirements and obligations that come with graduating and getting into college, it’s easy to neglect your friends. But after senior year, most of you will be heading to different colleges, which means you have limited time to make memories with your high school chums. Carve out time for sleepovers, road trips, parties and nights out to make fun memories with your friends.

Preserve the Memories

When you’re in the middle of it all, it might seem like you’ll never forget all the wonderful experiences you have throughout your senior year, but even the most vivid memories fade. Take plenty of photos and tag those images not only with the names of friends, but also with notes on what fun you and your friends are up to. Pick up keepsakes such as ticket stubs, corsages, notes passed in class and other memorabilia to help you recall these times long after they’re gone.

Prepare to Celebrate

Graduating from high school offers up plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your potential to take on adult responsibility. Helping plan your graduation celebration is one of the earliest occasions to do so. Instead of waiting for your parents to nag you about what you want, take the initiative to jot down a menu, make up a guest list of classmates and teachers and find out all you can about ordering invitations through the school and getting tickets to the ceremony.

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