The Balancing Act of Senior Year: A Checklist For Keeping on Track

John Carpenter is the author of  Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College Admissions and a monthly guest blogger for us here at College Admission. Today, John looks at the balancing, juggling, ring of fire, joyous act that is senior year. Read on to learn how students can enjoy the beginning of senior year and, with a checklist in hand, seize the day.


Classes are going full steam ahead, you’re getting used to your new schedule, you’re discovering ideas and people you hadn’t noticed before--yep, you’re a senior.  You’re in your last year of high school.  Very cool.


The thing about this first month of school is that suddenly you’re balancing about a million different things and you might not even realize it.  I’m always amazed by how well kids juggle everything that’s going on at this time of year, and how eager you are to get things right.  OK, there may be some procrastinators out there--I know because I happen to be the champion of putting things off--but for most of the things going on in your life right now, you’re sailing through just fine.


It’s like you’re in the middle of a circus with a dozen different acts going on all around you, but you’re still in charge of what you’re doing.  And as the time gets closer to submitting college applications, you’re becoming even better at spinning, balancing, and jumping through rings of fire. 


So for now, just a check list to help you keep things on track:


-You’re registered for any additional SAT or ACT that you might need.

-You’ve at least started the applications.

-You’ve THOUGHT about an essay; maybe you’ve even written a rough draft or opening paragraph.

-You’ve asked for teacher recommendations.

-You’ve sat down with your counselor and have made progress on the list of schools you’re interested in even though the list will probably change again (and that’s ok.)


And if you’re looking at some very competitive state schools or highly selective scholarship programs, maybe you’ve even got the application very close to being finished.  But this will only be a few of you, so no worries if you’re not there yet. 


September is a great time to think about what you’ve started and what you have left to do.  Everything is still loose in September; everything is still tentative.  But the really smart kids out there (and that would be you since you’re reading this blog) know that it’s a good idea to assess the situation now and then make decisions according to what you need to do next.


Enjoy this month.  Lots of cool things going on in the fall, so lean into all that activity and really go for it.  This time of year should be about enjoying yourself, but remember that it’s easier to have fun when you’re also paying attention to what things need to be organized now, things related to your college application.


Remember to be nice to your parents, too--they’re trying not to show it, but inside they’re freaking out a little bit because it’s your last year.  We’ll talk more about this in a few weeks.  Anyway, take advantage of this time.  Seize the day.  Enjoy what’s in front of you.  And let me know how it’s all going.


John Carpenter is Director of Admissions and University Counseling at UWC Costa Rica. He also works as an independent college counselor and is the author of Going Geek: What Every Smart Kid (and Every Smart Parent) Should Know About College AdmissionsYou can find John's blog at






Thanks so much for this post. Your tone of support, your focus on balance in life, and your helpful set of guidelines prove you are one of the pros who knows. Hope all is well in your lovely part of the world.


Thanks, Parke.
I think we are really lucky to work in this area with adolescents, so it's easy to focus on balance when every day I see dozens of kids who are doing their best to find balance. To me, it's just really obvious that high school kids want to be the best they can be--even troubled kids bring forth a desire to get it all right somehow, sometimes behind attitudes or bad behavior, but even those kids never cease to amaze me. Hope I don't come across as ridiculously optimistic or as minimizing real adolescent problems; I simply continue to be impressed by the energy most kids bring to this process.
All the best,

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