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9 pieces of advice you wish you knew before your senior year of high school

From taking a gap year to the realness of senioritis, redditors offer their pre-college words of wisdom.


Amrita Khalid


Published Aug 22, 2016   Updated May 26, 2021, 5:20 am CDT

Your senior year of high school is rarely a breeze—unless you’re Spicoli

But for most of the nation’s 3.3 million high school students hoping to graduate in 2017, it’ll be a stressful and nerve-wracking year ahead. Seniors will face a tougher college admission process than ever before. Meanwhile, technology will rule their lives in a way no other generation has experienced: Smartphones allow the high school rumor mill to function long past the last school bell. Rumors and threats may surface on Snapchat and Instagram on the regular. The distractions that Myspace and even Facebook were for students in the early-aughts will seem minor in comparison.  

In a thread on /askreddit, redditors shared tips and life advice for teens about to embark on their last year of high school. Stuff like this real talk from user derpblah

The first 18 years of your life can be pretty misleading. The structure that you’ve had in your life up until this point will disappear. Whether you go to college or enter the work force now, there is NO plan for you. Other than family if you’re lucky enough to have one, you will likely have no support network. You have to make your own plan.

We picked out some other great back-to-school insights from the /askreddit board over the years. Perhaps these will make you rethink your past and future decisions, too. 

On the SAT

Redditor Waxpapers wrote

Take the SAT multiple times. Seriously, that test is worth more than any other test you’ll take in your life, and they let you do it over again. There’s absolutely no drawback to taking it multiple times, either—colleges can ask for the best composite score or the best single score, but they’ll never see your bad tests. Also, get a review book and read through it a couple times, especially after the first time you take the SAT. You’ll see a dramatic improvement—I went from having a decent score to a perfect 1600/1600.

On scholarships

Redditor RedCaiman wrote: 

If you can get scholarship money, do it. Biggest mistake I did last year was letting myself get burnt out and not applying for the thousands of dollars in scholarship money I could have easily gotten because I was too weary by March.

Redditor othertimelines, who claims to have won over $100,000 dollars in scholarships, wrote an entire Reddit post with helpful scholarship tips

Here are some the most notable ones: 

Focus on small local scholarships that won’t have many applications—these are the scholarships people always say don’t even get claimed because nobody applies to them.

If you’re in/near a major city, there is probably a specific community foundation that indexes and manages many of them. Check this website to find one for your neighborhood. You can also try just googling “[My City/State] Scholarships” and looking through the first 5–10 pages to see what comes up. 

On expenses

Redditor thatswhatpamsaid wrote:

Senior year is more expensive than you think. My school is fairly new and in an affluent area, but I’m not particularly affluent, so that could be another reason why it was so expensive. Between getting senior pictures done (we were required to use a professional photographer from a specific studio), as well as homecoming (I didn’t go, my friends did), prom tickets and costs associated with it, grad bash, and cap and gown, my parents spent about $400.

Now it would be more expensive if I had gone to homecoming and grad bash, but I also thrifted my prom dress and reused my prom shoes from junior year. Then there are extracurricular trips as well. I went to DisneyWorld twice this year on class trips so that was another $160, bringing us to $560. At my school they also offered another trip to DisneyWorld for Art History 3 students, as well as a Halloween Horror Nights trip for theater students, as well as a tour of Europe for spring break that was 3k. All that plus any extracurricular events you attend like sports games or costs for teams you’re on add up quickly.

On senioritis

Redditor runninger wrote:

Be forewarned, senioritis is real and it will hit you. But try to refrain from completely giving up on school; every year people get rescinded from colleges because they screw around instead of doing well in school the last semester. You don’t have to put in 110% second semester, but don’t skip too many days.

On moving on from adolescence

Redditor kcgnarly wrote:

Some of the best advice I can give you is to make a list of things that matter to you, and then cross off half of them. I just finished my masters, and its funny to look back at the things I found important. The girlfriend I had who I thought would be with me forever? Broke up first semester. The way I dressed? Start my first full-time position tomorrow and am in business attire every day. Don’t be afraid to care about the future more than now. And if and when you go to college, take minimum course hours your freshman year, and jump into every club and group you can early. I grew up more in one semester in a school across the country than I did in the 18 years prior.

On taking a gap year

Redditor garmachi wrote: 

Take a year off. Many people call this a gap year. I wish I’d known about it when I was graduating high school. I eventually got around to taking a gap year, but I was 44 when I started it. I’m almost 3 years in, that’s how good it is. But I digress.

Take some time off and travel. Hike a long trail. Work a shit job for six months, save every penny and then go have an unforgettable experience somewhere. Bike around Iceland. Build houses with a church somewhere far way. Do something. Playing video games, getting high and eating Cheetos does not count as a gap year. While you’re doing this, you might figure out what you want to go to college for, or you might figure out that you don’t need to go to college. Start a business perhaps. Or become a pro full-time traveler, aka “dirtbag it” for a few years. I can offer advice on this. Whatever you do, make sure you have money for later. I mean like way later.

Finally, on  knowing what to do with your life

Redditor hogonalog wrote:

You’ll have friends who know exactly what they want to do. You may look at them and think, “Damn, how do they know?” Some people just know. Some people were raised to know….some kids will think they know, and 10-15 years into their career they were wrong. And then there’s people like me who are late 20s and still don’t fucking know

Truth is: You don’t have to know when you’re 18, and the implication that you need to know at a certain point in life is terrifying, sure. Remember that everyone has their own journey. High school is full of comparisons, but once you are out of school, those comparisons are on a much different scale and you have to remind yourself that each person has their own path. Life has its own way of reaming you (and it will), but everyone is only human and you will find your way, whether at 18 or 28. I will too. But don’t force it (especially when you are about to throw down large amounts of money).

So take heart, seniors! Your world is both ending and beginning.

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*First Published: Aug 22, 2016, 9:30 am CDT