Senior year of college, like the senior year of high school, can be an amazingly exciting but also frighteningly nervous time. Unlike the previous three years of college or high school, you are in a completely different mindset. Instead of looking up to students older than you for guidance, you are those wise, maybe even intimidating, seniors who you once admired. Instead of panicking about switching into the classes you want, you revel in all the tricks you have learned over the years – emailing professors weeks in advance and playing the “I need this class for my major” card. Instead of worrying about getting an internship for the summer ahead, you are madly studying for the GRE or MCAT or LSAT, or of course, looking for that elusive offer of employment.
This prelude to the transition into the next phase of our lives means that we have a whole lot more things to balance on our plate during the next nine months, more so than any other time in our college career. Perhaps you are finally leading the club you’ve been a part of since your first year here. Perhaps you are writing a monstrous 100-page thesis. Perhaps you are walking around campus in a suit and tie three days a week, networking and attending interviews. If you are a high school senior reading this, you will certainly relate with this everything-is-happening-at-once feeling. Leading clubs. Planning events. AP exams. Volunteering. And of course, applying to college.
So how do we keep sane? How will you keep sane? Well, first there’s sleep, that precious thing we’ve all learned to treasure here at Middlebury. You can’t possibly expect to balance what’s on your place without the rest and energy your body and your mind need to function. Sure, caffeine helps, but it can’t substitute for the time you spend in bed.
After getting the rest I need and climbing out of bed ready to tackle my day, I like to use a calendar and to-do lists to organize my time. I like to visualize my time so I can plan out my day in my head – what dining hall is closest to my class before lunch, how long I have in the afternoon to do homework before going to that lecture at 4:30, when I can sneak a hitting session in on the tennis courts with my friends. My dad told me an old Chinese proverb once, “the best memory cannot beat the blunt point of a broken pencil.” In other words, if you are feeling overwhelmed, it helps to write things down so you can use your brainpower to do other things.
But my favorite way of finding balance amidst the craziness that is senior year is taking stock of the little things that happen over the course of a day and going out and doing something spontaneous once in a while. This time of year, it’s enjoying the fiery reds, yellows, and oranges of the fall foliage, or taking an afternoon off to go apple picking. In the winter, it might be going sledding at midnight with your friends, or extending dinner into a two-hour conversation with your friends. In the spring, it might be finally asking your crush out on a date, or going for a late night drive with the windows down and the radio blasting. There is value in the spontaneous, especially when going between classes, the dining hall, and the library begins to feel a little too routine. There is value in the things that we overlook because we are going too fast. Who knows? Along the way, you might just find the perfect inspiration for that Common App essay, or find a new argument for your thesis, and if nothing else, you will come back with a new dose of energy to tackle the challenges of senior year.