For many college-bound students, the spring semester and the summer following it will be their last months living at home as a child with their parents. This marks the beginning of your entrance into adulthood. Many students in the fall semester are focused on completing applications, taking the SAT or ACT, and making good grades for the first semester report card. However, the time for all of those things has now come to an end. Never again will you take the SAT, likely you will never again fill out an application to an undergraduate institution. And you will never again have to answer relatives’ questions about where you want to go to college!
Yet, the end of this season means the beginning of another. It is the beginning of the time in which you become an adult. It is the beginning of the time in which you choose a career path and start to follow it. You will have to become financially independent in the coming months and years. You may be taking on student loans, which you will be responsible for paying back when you graduate from college. Now begins the time that you live apart from your family, travel independently, make more decisions by yourself without any influence from your parents. Now begins the time you choose your partner will be in life, how much money you want to try to make, what impact you want to have in the world.
Last year, I met one of my students at a coffee shop in her neighborhood. In addition to maintaining a very difficult course load, this student had been working since the summer prior on application essays. She had put great effort in and had done an excellent job with everything involved — she was almost finished! However, she has a few more applications to go, and the fatigue and stress were beginning to show. This student really just wanted it all to be over so that she could know where she would be going to college and could finally move on with her life.
For my student and many others like her, December represents the final stretch. They are almost finished with endless editing of college application essays that are often tedious to write. They are almost finished with the waiting game of knowing what sweatshirt they will be wearing on college football Saturdays. They are almost finished answering questions about the future from teachers, family and friends. However this season marks not only the end, it is also the beginning. And that is important to keep in mind.
Don’t Give Up the Ship
I think it is important to acknowledge that for college applicants, the next six months really include both an end and the beginning. It is important to celebrate the results of the end of high school, the end of applications, the end of deciding where to spend the next chapter of your life. However, many students and families forget to take time and make space for the transition that is to come because it is easy for college applications in school work in senior senior year to overwhelm everything. This next semester might be your last chance to take a spontaneous weekend trip as a family, learn to do laundry, or spend time at your favorite restaurant for awhile.
I reassured my student from the coffee shop that the end is indeed near. One final push to January deadlines and she will be finished, and she will be very thankful. I’m proud of the work she has done, and I know that she is too. However I took a moment to talk with her about the beginning that is coming ahead. The beginning of her adult life and all that that means, and while it is a relief to end the process of applying to college, I counseled her not to wish away the time available to her in the next available to her in the next few months to appreciate what she has now before she moves onto the next season of life.
For all students and parents out there who are feeling the fatigue and strain of the fall semester of 12th grade, I encourage you to take a breath and finish up the work that December holds. Then, step foot into the season that follows — transitions, last-times, and preparing for your future.
Nicole has dedicated the entirety of her 20 year career to encouraging higher education opportunities. After graduating from Vanderbilt, she worked in her alma mater’s admissions office. The, she completed her PhD in Counseling so she could bring that expertise into college counseling. Nicole partnered with her former Vanderbilt colleague, Fitz Totten, to form Find The Right College and support their mission to make trustworthy advising more accessible.