THE BLOG
08/27/2014 05:48 pm ET | Updated Oct 27, 2014

The Truth About Senior Year of High School: What to Expect and How to Deal

As the college Class of 2019 gears up for their last year of high school, there are a lot of emotions and uncertainties about what the next year -- and the four years after that -- will bring. High school seniors are on the brink of making some of the biggest decisions of their lives, and for many students and their parents, it will feel as if this moment came sooner than they anticipated.

The previous three years of high school went by in the blink of an eye, and senior year will be no different. Navigating the final year of high school can be eerily similar to the first, with a lot of nerves and high expectations for the "best year ever."

Senior year of high school lends a lot of "lasts," but for the first time students will be navigating the college admissions process while trying to make the most of what's left of high school. Students: Start senior year focused and prepared by knowing what to expect and how to resolve any challenges you may face.

Here's what to expect senior year, and how to handle it:

Your grades STILL matter.
Just because colleges may initially only see your first semester grades doesn't mean that the rest of the year doesn't matter. Colleges look at grades from all four years of high school, even if colleges don't see senior year grades right away. Colleges will require you to submit a final grade report, and poor grades senior year can keep you out of your dream college. Some colleges have even been known to rescind acceptances if your final transcript shows a sharp drop in grades.

Stay focused on finishing out the year strong and keep your grades up! If you already have an A average, maintain it. If you're somewhere between a B and A, work hard to bring it up! Colleges will notice that you're working hard and that you have the maturity to handle a college course load.

Senioritis will hit -- fight it.
Whether it strikes mid-fall semester at the height of application season, or next semester when school seems to be winding down, the plague known as "senioritis" -- a slide in motivation and classroom performance -- will affect you. It's important to know that senioritis, while playfully named, is no joke. As I said before, colleges can rescind your offer of admission if your performance drops. Also, succumbing to senioritis can leave you ill prepared for a college course load, as you can get used to putting in the bare minimum to get by -- which won't fly next year.

So what's the cure? Set realistic goals throughout the school year and work to attain them! Whether it's an A in a challenging course, preparing for a competition or volunteering more often, working toward simple goals will keep you on track for a great finish to senior year.

You will be busy, so stay organized!
Balancing a tough course load, college applications, extracurriculars and all the final activities that come with senior year will be an enormous challenge. Time management is essential to your success, especially as you dive deep into those college applications.

Keep a detailed agenda with important deadlines, test dates and other obligations you'll have throughout the school year. Set aside blocks of time for studying, extracurriculars and college applications. Putting it in writing will hold you accountable and keep your schedule organized.

College applications will be due sooner than you thought.
Jan. 1 application deadlines -- and even November Early Decision deadlines -- may seem too far off to worry about now, but they're really only a few weeks away. It's important to get started on your applications as soon as possible, as you'll need plenty of time to refine your essays, gather letters of recommendation and finalize your activity list and resume.

Don't take these lightly! While it may not seem like a lot of work now, if you're scrambling the day before your apps are due, you're bound to make careless mistakes and forget to include certain details or materials.

It'll be exciting -- and emotional.
There will be a lot of lasts this year. Last first day of school, last homecoming, last football game, etc. It's easy to get caught up in the nostalgia, especially as the reality of the end of high school begins to set in. It will be an emotional year as you prepare for college and begin to say goodbye to your school, teachers and friends, but it's going to be fun!

Just as you make time for schoolwork, make time for friends and fun. Senior year is important as it's the stepping-stone to college, but it's also an important time to spend with family and friends, making memories before you head off in different directions. Stay focused on academics but also embrace opportunities you have to make the most of your last year.

During your senior year, you'll make some great memories. You'll stress over college applications, exams and graduation. You'll experience disappointment -- whether it's a college rejection or losing a big game for the last time. Senior year requires students to do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time, but with support from your parents, friends and teachers, you'll make it through ready to tackle the next chapter of your life.