4 Things You Shouldn't Worry About Your Last Semester In High School

After finding your way through the past four years and persevering through the past six months, you’ve finally made it. You’re a second semester senior - the dream position. Seniors are the oldest kids in the school, the presidents and leaders of all of the clubs. Worries about college applications and homework have, for the most part, subsided in favor of excitement about how to make the last six months of high school count. But while some of these worries have subsided, many may still remain. Here are a few things you shouldn’t worry about in your last semester in high school (and if we’re being honest, these apply to most other situations too).

1. Losing your friends

When you and your friends are in the same classes, clubs and maybe even the same neighborhood, it’s natural for these friendships to be very close-knit. Nobody understands you the way that your friends do and it may seem like you’ll be #goals forever. But you’ve probably heard that as you head off to college, it’s normal to drift apart and change.

It’s totally understandable not to want to lose your friends, but worrying about this isn’t the answer. “I was so worried about losing touch with my best friends that I closed myself off,” says Megan Mann, a recent graduate from Purdue University.

As a second semester senior, you understand that friendships may change. But it’s important to remember that these last five or six months might hold some of your favorite memories, from prom to graduation. “I encourage everyone worried about it to soak up as much time as possible with their friends and really solidify that friendship,” Megan says. “If the friendship is strong and you both want to make it a priority, it’s going to last.”

There are ways to spend time with besties even if you’re far apart, whether it’s via texting, FaceTime, or “open when” letters. Megan’s advice holds true: “If you both go your separate ways over time, then at least you have all those amazing memories together!”

2. Change

Though college application season is finally over, practicing self care is still equally applicable and important as a second semester senior.

Sarah Touey, a senior at Le Moyne College, would recommend not stressing. “Don’t stress about the future. People will always ask you questions and give advice but just trust your judgment. You don’t need to have it all figured out.” After all, college is a time of exploration.

“Second semester seniors also face a lot of stress ahead of what is likely one of the first big life transitions they'll experience,” Julie Zeilinger, founder of feminist blog The F Bomb, says. “This involves moving away from home, entering an entirely new social and academic environment, and coming that much closer to adulthood.”

It’s normal to feel a little intimidated about all the change that’s going on around you and the apparent expectation that you need to get it figured ASAP. The truth is, getting used to college before you even step onto campus isn’t possible.

“Any time there is a time of transition in someone's life, we often experience stress,” says Vince Walsh-Rock, president of the Illinois School Counselor Association.

There are some things you can do to reduce your stress, though. You can begin looking through course catalogues and academic departments to see which classes you’re interested in. You can reach out to students on your campus, via Facebook groups or alumni from your high school who went to the same college you’re going to, and ask them for the run-down.

Alison Stroh*, a junior at The Ohio State University, was surprised when she went to college—in a good way. “There’s so much your school offers that you didn’t know about in high school.” And no matter where you go to college, there a lot of ways you can continue exploring your high school interests. For instance, activities such as student government, volunteering, and sports are present in most college campuses too.

Related: Why You Should Forgive High School Bullies

3. Not doing enough

Dr. Noelle Leonard, who has a dual degree in school psychology and counseling psychology, conducted a research study with students in highly competitive private schools in the Northeast about student stress and coping mechanisms. She’s found that her study resonates with all types of students and schools. “Most students are taking ever more challenging classes to improve their portfolios for college admissions, even taking college classes, and being encouraged or required to participate in extracurricular activities for this same purpose,” she says. “Yet students still need to find a way to stand out, to do even more. Their social lives take time and can relieve as well as cause stress. This environment of chronic stress - year after year - can cause some youth to feel burned out by the time they reach college.”

Because of the huge number of amazing experiences available to you, it’s okay if you don’t participate in every single one. “We always encourage students to stay focused on the positive aspects of their high school experience and make the most out of the opportunities they have in front of them,” says Walsh-Rock.

Give your second semester of senior year all that you’ve got. You don’t have to slide your way out of high school —you should continue to strive for excellence. “While the competitiveness of the admissions process may have dictated how you chose to spend your time throughout high school so far,” Julie Zeilinger says, “this semester can be a time to try to follow academic and/or extra-curricular activities you always wanted to try but weren't previously able.” Always wanted to go hiking? Want to get more involved in social work and community service now that you have the time?

At the same time, it’s important not to overload your plate. “Give yourself time to ‘unplug’ so your mind can clear,” suggests Walsh-Rock. “Stay connected with friends and plan outings. Take time during the school day to appreciate your favorite teacher, class, coach, and have a conversation about how much the experience meant to you.”

Who knows what you might learn?

4. The perfect college experience

Think outside the box when you’re looking at the two or four years ahead of you. After all, that’s what’s allowed you to become the person you are today.

Rebecca Dedmond**, Assistant Professor and Director of the Master of Arts in School Counseling Program at The George Washington University, believes that seniors are understandably concerned about their futures. She says you might consider questions like: “What if I’m not truly prepared academically? Who will help if I have academic issues? What will happen if I am not accepted into the ‘in crowd’?”

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in these worries and concerns. There are thousands of students going through the same process as you —plus, there are millions of people who have gone through it already, whether they are upperclassmen or graduates, who survived and thrived. There have millions of students, and because of this, we can assume that there’s diversity within them. From this, we can conclude that there really isn’t and shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter perfect college experience - only one that’s perfect for you.

Julie Zeilinger understands the pressure around admissions. “Seniors worry about which schools they'll get into, if they'll get into any of the schools they want to go to most, what other people will think about their options and their choices — and, ultimately, what message all of these things will send about who they are and their future opportunities,” she says.

“I stayed home when all of my friends went away [to college] and I was worried that my college experience wasn't going to be the same because I was still living at home,” Meghan says. “But I still went to other schools and visited my friends, and also managed to have a job and save money for the future. I may not have lived with roommates or had a cute little on campus apartment, but I didn't feel like I missed out.”

Alison recommends that you don’t worry about the prestige of your school. “I was constantly worried that I could have done better,” she says. However, looking back on the past few years, her worries have vanished. “It’s really what you make of your experience when you get to college. If you take initiative and seek out resources, you will be just fine!”

“It is important that students, families and schools try not to think about high school as a means to an end – the ‘end’ being admission to top college,” says Dr. Leonard. “There are many excellent colleges and they will find the one for them. They should focus on character, effort, and finding their passion.”

Chances are, you’ll love your college and you’ll love it like you love home.

“Use the last semester to assess your body of work as a student,” recommends Mr. Walsh-Rock.

“[Consider] what behaviors would you like to build on in college and which ones would you like to change. Choose one thing you know you want to do better and start practicing when the stakes are not as high. Knowing that you do not have to take care of everything all at once could be helpful. Even if high school has not been a positive experience, seek out support, start planning for a new beginning, and embrace the possibility of making more of your own decisions.”

Whether you’re so over high school or never want to leave, you shouldn’t spend your last semester worrying. These are truly some of the best memories of your life. “Most importantly, if they are seeing increased levels of stress, get support. Reach out to a friend, parent, school counselors, or teacher,” says Walsh-Rock. You should remember them - your friends, your family, and your home -, not stressing.

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*Name has been changed.

**Counseling Office interns Frangca Paek and Anne Catherine Lenahan also contributed.