Even before the snow melts, crocus pop through the frozen ground, and temperatures rise, two simple words — senior spring — illicit a great big sigh of relief from high school seniors across the country. Some have already been accepted to colleges of their choice. While others are still waiting to hear, their college applications are long gone and grades to date have already been submitted. Whatever happens now, well, happens now.
Instead of living for the future, senior spring is all about living in the moment. As I write this blog post, my high school senior is on her way to West Palm Beach along with four girl friends to one of the girl’s grandparent’s winter home. No, it’s not school vacation for these friends. They will miss three days of classes. But, hey, it’s senior spring and tickets were cheap and relatives had not already booked the grandparent’s home.
In addition to the Florida get-away, my daughter is now cheering on classmates at their championship basketball games during the school week. She is getting together with friends both Friday and Saturday nights. Going out for brunch Sunday morning. She is getting a good night’s sleep, at least most nights. Enjoying dinner conversations with the family. Reading a book for pleasure. She is laughing more.
In April, spring will be even springier for her. Instead of attending all of her classes, she will forgo all non-AP courses to complete a “senior project” with her best friend since nursery school. They will sew blankets for babies and toddlers whose mothers have been victims of domestic abuse and are living in temporary shelter. A worthy cause for sure, and far less stressful than writing papers, taking tests, and attending early-morning labs.
Bring on Senior Spring Earlier
I wish I could figure out how to inject a little more of the senior spring spirit into the three and one-half previous years of high school, especially the dreaded junior year. Could my daughter have earned the grades, scored as high on standardized testing, participated in two seasons of varsity sports, and volunteered at a non-profit one day a month if she had lived according to the senior spring guidelines? The answer is likely, no. Would she have been accepted into her Early Decision II college choice, the answer is maybe. Could she be happy and get a good education at many colleges? The answer is definitely, yes.
Let me be perfectly clear. My daughter was a serious student and achievement oriented, but not one of the super-driven students. She took honors level and a couple of AP classes when many of her friends chose more APs. She took the ACT twice. Good enough was good enough. While she still was overworked and stressed much of the year, she was eating well, sleeping soundly, and generally health — both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, that was not the case for many of her high-achieving peers.
[College Counselors can ease the college admission process!]
Aim for Happiness and Success
Getting into college is more stressful and more difficult for our kids than it was in our day. On top of that, we live in a connected world, which only intensifies the “Keep up with the Jones” pressures. The best perspective I can think of to offer our teens is to share advice Malcolm Gladwell gives in his recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell proposes the idea that students should not necessarily strive to get accepted at a major, prestigious university, and instead, aim for a college at which they are likely to truly and notably excel. He cites data that shows what we all know from experience. Succeeding in college and a career is more about what you do with your education than where you get it. It’s about passion and grit and determination. Heeding this advice, high school students could start senior spring a few years earlier.