By Greta Brechnitz, a senior at Providence Day School
On the first day of senior year, I felt much like I did when my dad handed me a bat and a baseball on a miniature stand at the age of four. Overwhelmed with instruction on how to achieve the perfect swing and wanting to impress, all I could do was worry. Would I hit it out of the park and succeed? Or would it tumble a few feet from our makeshift home plate and fall below expectation?
With college on the horizon, the bittersweetness of the final year at home, and the tight-rope walk that is balancing a social life with the demands of school, I worried if my senior year would be the fun and triumphant home run I wanted or not. For parents, I imagine that navigating how to support seniors in this stage is a tight-rope walk of its own.
I’m no expert, but I believe the year has taught me what is truly important to consider when supporting a child through senior year.
1. Your senior is not out of the woods…yet.
Junior year is tough, but the first semester of senior year can be a shock to those who expect a cakewalk. On top of harder classes and newly assumed leadership positions, college applications are time consuming.
Encourage your senior to get through this final push. First semester grades and the quality of those essays matter, and a successful first semester ensures a more relaxed second one.
2. College is a priority. But it’s not the ONLY priority.
Senior year is about so much more. Spending the last year with friends before parting ways, accomplishing goals in sports and clubs, and enjoying the perks of seniority is also important.
Overly emphasizing college can cause excess stress and rob seniors of experiencing other essential aspects of the year. All work and no play isn’t how it should be, so allowing for a good balance is key.
3. Now about applying to college…be a “helpful passenger.”
As difficult as it may be, your senior should be the captain of this ship. Of course, your input will be needed in various aspects, but it’s important to remember that you are not the one who will be spending the next four years attending college. Finding the perfect fit is daunting, but know that your senior contemplates this more than you can imagine.
Allow them to pilot this operation, help when requested, avoid micromanaging, and have confidence that they can handle the process on their own and make the right decisions. Think of yourself as a passenger on this ship. You have a front row seat, so observe carefully, but it’s not your job to steer.
4. Don’t be offended if you’re not allowed to read essays.
College essays can be very personal. With prompts that encourage applicants to reflect on themselves and past experiences, the essays that result are not always pieces that seniors readily allow Mom and Dad to read. That’s okay.
Students often feel more comfortable if those who don’t know them as well read their essays. A trusted teacher or guidance counselor will not let your son or daughter submit something self-incriminating or worse — rest assured.
5. Follow their lead.
This can apply to a multitude of things. If your child doesn’t want a soul to know where they’re applying or what their dream college is until they get that decision letter, respect that. Many students feel that keeping the process private is important, so telling every detail to your friends, the neighbors, or the cashier at Harris Teeter may not be the best idea.
The same goes for rejection letters. If your child shuts the laptop or crumples up the paper and decides to never speak of it again, forget it happened and get out the ice cream. Following their lead will put you on the same page, and your support in the way they approach the year and handle the ups and downs will mean everything to them.
6. Finally, take some time and enjoy it with them.
Although senior year can wreak havoc at times, take the time to slow down and enjoy your last “normal” year with them. It’s a stressful time, but it’s also a very special time.
Do the corny family photo shoot in the park, put up the senior sign in the yard, attend their final games and performances, and savor those hilarious dinner conversations on Sunday evenings.
Soak it all in, because in the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Greta Brechnitz is a senior at Providence Day School, graduating in the Class of 2016 as a “Lifer” along with her fraternal twin sister, Mimi. She will continue her studies in the fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she plans to study Economics and be an avid Tar Heel fan. Sea Salt Caramel is her favorite ice cream flavor.