09/02/2013 05:20 pm ET Updated Sep 03, 2013

HuffPost Teen's Ultimate Senior Year Survival Guide


School has officially started for the graduating class of 2014. This means that, despite any skepticism you may have had, you and your friends managed to survive freshman, sophomore and junior years. Now, all you have to do is get through the final year of your high school existence with your sanity (mostly) intact.

Don't worry. The HuffPost Teen blogging team is here to help.

Over the past year, our teen writers have been sharing thoughtful, personal blogs about what navigating senior year is actually like, which was often totally different from what school advisors, movies or guidebooks told them to expect.

Read 15 of our favorite pieces of advice from HuffPost Teen bloggers, below, and keep in mind the one lesson ALL our bloggers learned: There's no such thing as the perfect high school experience. So, stop putting so much pressure on yourself. You got this.

1. Find your people.

"Don't spend every waking moment of your life trying to be the popular one. If you're likeable and someone people want to be around, they'll naturally gravitate towards you for being you. Have good, trustworthy friends with the same values as you who aren't going to create trouble or unnecessary drama. This can be a huge factor as to whether or not you'll have a great year."

- Isabel Song, "How to Survive High School"

2. You don't need to know what you want to be when you grow up.

"If you were to describe who am now to the person I was three years ago, I would think you're absolutely off your rocker; so why should I trust my foresight into 20, 10, even five years from now? Maybe it's naive of me to think that the universe is a kind place, but it is my firmest hope that if I work hard at whatever it is I am doing at the moment and always watch for when opportunity knocks, I will end up somewhere awesome, regardless of whether I'm a nuclear physicist or starving artist. So to answer my mother, father, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and random family friends I run into at the supermarket, I paraphrase John Lennon: when I grow up, I want to be happy."

- Lana Gorlinski, "In Defense of the Uncertain"

3. Remember that the "best college in America" doesn't exist.

"Forbes doesn't know the best college for you. Google doesn't know. U.S. News & World Report (is that even a real thing?) doesn't know. When you come across articles with titles like this one, remember that you're a person, and that I'm a different person, and that the answer lies only with you. And, yes, I do realize that that makes the process hard, and complicated, and maybe even annoying. But it also makes it interesting."

- Danny Licht, "What Is the Best College in America?"

4. Get to know at least one teacher beyond the classroom.

"Towards the end of junior year you will have to consider which teacher is going to write your recommendation. This rec is not to be taken lightly. If someone is going to speak on your behalf, make sure that they are going to fight for you to the death. 'Hardworking' and 'good input' is not going to make you stand out from 20,000 other applicants. Schedule a lunch to discuss what is important to you outside of the classroom so that the teacher can speak holistically. It is OK to be direct about what you want colleges to learn."

- Riley Griffin, "10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Senior Year Of High School"

5. Take college admissions counselors' advice, but don't treat it as law.

"College admissions counselors as well as seasoned application veterans of the previous year impart with us the simple, yet worn-out advice: Just be yourself. And be honest, but don't be too honest. 'Write about your interests,' they say. 'Write about the programs you've attended,' they say. But it's not that simple. It's never that simple [...] Here's what we can do: Write our hearts out and hope for the best."

- Theodore Li, "Oh! Just be Yourself"

6. You may not get graded for the creative thing you love, but you should still do it.

"Students obsess over grades. For what? For success? In the end, it is not this modern 'education' that will get you success -- because anyone can memorize more than you and beat you. Instead you need something to set yourself apart from this crowd. The ability to memorize won't help you in real world workforce. The ability to think for yourself, and to create your own ideas and visions, will."

- Andrea Vale, "Easy A"

7. Make an effort to get to know your parents. (Yes, really.)

"I've never been particularly close with my parents and while I know they work hard and care a lot, I've spent my entire high school years wishing I could just be away from them, free to be myself, unrestricted, the way I want myself to be ... When you are away from your parents for the first time, you will discover exactly what and how much they have done for you, no matter what you think about them now."

- Karielle Stephanie Gam, "The Things You Discover When You Are Away from Your Parents for the First Time"

8. Even in the thick of college application season, make time to see your friends.

"Being with my family is great, but I need time away from them too. That's where my friends come in. At times during the college app process, we've all been so busy that we haven't been able to hang out. But now we have more time, so we've been catching up. Usually we go to the movies, or go bowling, or go out to eat (or sometimes all three!)."

- Alberto Rangel, "The Wait"

9. Not everything will happen "according to plan."

"You love planning each step, but keep an open heart and think over all of your options. Sometimes things won't work out. You will be disappointed. Being bitter or regretful is a waste of energy. Snuggle in bed and drink some tea, then go to sleep. Tomorrow, believe everything is possible again."

- Katy Ma, "17 Things I Want Myself to Remember Senior Year"

10. The best way to tackle huge, intimidating projects is to start with baby steps.

"'Argh!' I say when I read one of University of Chicago's supplement essay prompts. 'Argh!' I say again when I see the number of words I have written so far: zero. 'It will all be worth it,' I remind myself, closing my eyes and imagining myself as one of those happy, smiling, frighteningly perfect people in the college brochures. 'It will,' I promise myself, reluctantly opening my eyes and starting to type. I smile when I look at the new word count: two."

- Emily Truong, "Mission: Sanity"

11. Whenever you can, start early.

"I want to keep calm and carry on. I want to rock it. It is going to be a lot of work, but it's nothing I can't handle, because I've been preparing for this since the day I entered high school. As Malcolm X once said, 'Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.' Now he knows what he's talking about."

- Anangie Martinez, "Keep Calm and Apply On"

12. Don't let your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend control your life.

"You have to turn your world upside down (unless you're chill with it as it is. I don't know your life). You have to seek out adventure and make your own opportunities. Yes, sometimes good things can and will just happen to you. But, you can't just expect things to happen. You have to make things happen. This all goes back to the truth that we so often forget: You don't need someone else to complete you."

- Alexis Jane Torre, "Where Your Story Starts"

13. Create your own definition of "success."

"Students need to realize that it's okay not to take an advanced class and instead, enroll in one you truly passionate about. It's okay to do something because you truly love it and want to go into the field you're interested in. It's okay to go to community college; it's cheaper than a UC, has smaller class sizes, and has a two-year UC transfer program! We need to remember that the meaning of success does not lie in how many points you can accumulate or the prestige of the school stamped on your diploma, but what you actually do with the knowledge you attain."

- Reema Kakaday, "'Success' Renders Education Meaningless"

14. Focus on learning, not memorizing.

"I find myself more caught up in getting and maintaining good grades than wanting to learn the subjects I was getting them for. I still have the same interest in going to school, but the need to keep good grades dominates over everything. But with the future weighing down on us, we don't necessarily have to give in to these pressures. Whether this is going to be your first year of high school or your last year, there's still time to make a change and open your eyes to knowledge around you."

- Vanessa Petion, "Making the Grade"

15. Take a deep breath.

"Step back. Relax. Forget it all, even just for an instant -- forget the workload, the exams, the intensive four-year high school plan from your counselor, the classes you're planning to take next semester. Join a club, go outside, take a nap. Take a break. Call a ceasefire in a war that won't be won by surrendering to pressure... but by taking the reins of your own life into your own hands."

- Madelyn Chen, "The Pressure of Pressure"

Share your own senior year tips with us in the comments or by tweeting @HuffPostTeen!



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