My senior year of college started with a mix of excitement, sadness, and fear. I lived in an on-campus apartment with my best friend and the girls who would over the course of the year become my other best friends. I planned two major music recitals, one because it was required for my degree, the other because said best friend and I apparently decided we didn’t have enough work to do. And over the course of the year I developed the skills and strength to step off of campus and into a mature, adult life.
Who am I kidding with the last one?
Looking back, senior year really was one of the biggest years of my life. While I learned a ton over the course of college, it is the lessons I learned at the end of my time at Westfield State that really stuck with me.
1. The seniors really aren’t so big and bad
New seniors, think about how you saw the seniors during your freshman year. Weren’t they all so smart? They had beards, they could talk about the subjects you were just starting to study with such depth and wisdom, and they could legally buy alcohol. They were already basically real adults. Especially if they had an off-campus internship.
Then something happens. You make your way through your program. And then before you know it, you’re a senior. And the freshmen are gazing at your friend with looks of fearful adoration, even though you know he’s the most awkward man alive.
And you suddenly realize that was how the seniors felt when you were that freshman.
2. There is life off campus
I guess more accurately, I relearned this my senior year. The first three years were spent in such a campus bubble. Which was fantastic and led to an amazing college experience. Then that bubble began to burst a little senior year in both good and bad ways.
First, I needed to take a class at a different campus three days a week. This was definitely a positive thing, despite the frustration of having to battle morning traffic. I got to know the area around my school a little better and spent significant time at a different school with different people after three years of the same faces.
Then one day on the way to my off campus course, I got in a car accident. It wasn’t a major one, but it was more significant than I first thought and it led to months of frustration. How I handled it was one of the first tests of how I would handle situations like this in the real world. I’m sure I messed a few things up, but overall I managed to handle it like a responsible adult.
Working at home on the weekends was another thing that broke the bubble a little. I lived a couple hours away from campus, so there was a distinct separation between home and school life. But when I decided I was miserable enough at my nearby job that I’d rather make the trip back to the job I worked during breaks, those worlds bled together more.
I was spending half the week working in my hometown and half the week at school. And what felt like an additional half of the week traveling back and forth on the Mass Pike. Suddenly school was just another part of my life, not the entire thing.
3. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should
This applies for a lot of things. Alcohol, takeout, sitting in front of the computer. It was also the last days of Megaupload, so there was still a lot of file sharing going on despite the campus’s attempts at shutting it down. A few too many hangovers, tightened grocery budgets, and computer viruses taught me that maybe some moderation wouldn’t lead me wrong.
4. Flexibility is still essential
I talked about this in my 10 Tips for an Amazing First Semester. You need to be open minded during college and that doesn’t change senior year. I had all sorts of plans for after college and they began to change before I even graduated.
Sometimes you have to go with the flow and accept that maybe the unexpected or disappointing thing that is happening will lead you somewhere better than you expected.
5. Savor these last months
Even if you’re ready to be done. Especially if you’re ready to be done. You’ve worked so hard to get your degree and start your “real” life. But don’t forget that the start of your real life means the end of your college life. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is a little sad. Take some time to really enjoy these last months when all your friends will be living right there. Because getting together gets way harder after graduation.
Ending that on a little bit of a somber note, I guess. But this is your senior year! So grab a beer and soak in these moments with your friends. Because it’s going to be a hell of year.