27 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Senior Year of High School
Your senior year of high school is one of fun and excitement. You’re the big dog on campus, and virtually every other student in the lower grades looks up to you. But it is also a time of uncertainty and apprehension, particularly if you’re getting close to the end of it and not asking the right questions.
(And trust me—it will move much faster than you think.)
To make sure that you’re prepared as you cross the stage and collect your diploma, here is a list of the 27 questions that every student in your position should be asking. Let’s get started.
Senior Year Question 1. What is my top college choice?
Determining your top college choice is essential if you plan to make college your choice. Many don’t, and that’s okay. But if you want to go the college route, then it’s time to determine placement. There is something to be said for having a “top three”—and there will be more on that in a moment—but by your senior year of high school, you need to turn your focus to “the one.” How do you do that?
Money Crashers contributor Casey Slide has a list of 33 important factors that should go into picking your college of choice. Admission rate, graduation rate, student to faculty ratio, are a few of the options, but there are a lot more, and I highly recommend checking that piece out.
2. Do I even want to go to college?
College, it is too often said, is a place for people to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Wrong. It’s actually the exact opposite. Students must go to college only when they’ve already figured that out. This may fly in the face of what has typically been looked upon as the conventional wisdom, but it’s true nonetheless.
Part of that may be due to the fact that education has changed so significantly—especially in cost—that it is no longer reasonable to use it as an incubator of ideas. Bottom line: if you want to control costs, get to know yourself, and improve your marketability, then you will need to hold yourself to this standard. Otherwise, you could be at a six-figure student loan before ever getting your four-year degree.
For some help with the decision to go to college—and for a good laugh—check out Cracked’s analysis of this very question.
3. If not college, then what?
Do you have a marketable skill that businesses will find useful? Are there career paths where the proof is in your results rather than how much you “know”? If so, then you may be better served furthering your education at a technical school.
Technical schools as well as online education programs that teach marketable skills—usually having to do with technology—are picking up lots of steam as the world increasingly becomes a skills-based economy. In fact, this trajectory could very well fracture the college system in the next two decades.
The key is to know who you are, what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing.
4. What are some things that I like to do to have fun?
This may sound counterproductive to what you’ve thought of the education process, but fun really is a good indicator of where you should be focusing your talents. People who enjoy what they do in life tend to make more money and find greater personal fulfillment than those who don’t, and it does not take a degree in rocket science to figure out why.
When you are engaged
You take pride in what you do and you are more plugged into the experience of getting things right. The commitment to results that arises from that will keep customers and employers happy no matter which path you choose, and your reputation will grow from there.
Before you blindly follow a career path because it sounds “marketable,” make sure that you can connect it to the fun, passionate aspects of your life. As the old adage says, what would you be doing if money was no longer a concern?
Senior Year Question 5. How are people monetizing that skill right now?
Piggybacking onto No. 4, it’s important that you understand all the ways that people are currently monetizing the things that they enjoy doing. A look at the rapidly growing podcast community is one example of how you can turn passion projects and hobbies into viable forms of income through premium subscriptions, advertising, or a mix of both.
‘Fun’ isn’t stupid
Don’t just assume that because something is fun, there isn’t a market for it or a way to turn it into dollars. If you do scroll through the iTunes podcast selections, you’ll find hundreds that have landed in a viable niche that are now converting their ideas to revenue. Podcasts on movies, politics, comedy, education—I’m not saying to go start a podcast, I’m just saying that it’s a great example of how people have turned seemingly non-revenue generating ideas into money.
You can do the same with the things you are passionate about with some research and effort.
6. Will there be a need for what I like to do 10 years from now?
Every industry faces disruption at some point, and the only way that you can either be the disrupter or profit from the disruption is to have your eyes on the future and try to think of ways that what you are good at today could go the way of the dodo tomorrow.
For help with anticipating and leading disruption, I strongly recommend checking out Tony Seba’s excellent blog post on the topic here.
7. Do I have a good reason for going out-of-state for school?
Many students in their senior year of high school have daydreams about breaking free of their hometowns and seeing the world. College isn’t the best place to explore this idea, though, if you don’t have sound financial reasoning to back it up.
The costs of college
Of course, you want to expand your experiences, but going out-of-state with no scholarships or non-loan financial aid to help will only drag you further into debt. Think about this. The average cost of a year at an in-state university or college is $9,410. The cost for out-of-state students is $23,893, or more than two and a half times higher. It’s literally the difference between owing $37,640 and $95,572 before you ever get to graduate school (which is increasingly becoming a necessity in fields that require a college education).
8. Why not community college?
Community college may not seem like a very sexy idea to students in their senior year of high school, but it is much cheaper than a four-year school and allows its students to finish general education requirements before ever stepping up to the more expensive institutions. Some states have even gone to free community college for in-state residents, essentially cutting the overall price of a four-year degree in half.
If you are approaching college for the right reasons, then you need to consider whether it makes sense to enroll in community college first. The only way it wouldn’t—if you already have financials taken care of at the four-year school of your choice.
9. Is my college decision socially driven?
If you are going to college to be with your friends or to make new friends and have fun adventures, then you’re already behind the proverbial eight-ball. While all of that sounds nice on paper, it is the wrong motivation for something as expensive and demanding as college. Kill the social impulses right away. It’s okay for a healthy social life to arise from your college experiences, but you must-must-must adopt an education-first mindset.
Senior Year Question 10. Am I taking the courses I need to take to graduate and prepare for the future?
There is a greater push throughout the U.S. to get college-aspiring students on board with the appropriate coursework in high school. A somewhat impressive number of high schools throughout the U.S. have even gone to offering free college courses to actively enrolled high school students to the point that many are able to graduate high school with an associate’s degree or some form of technical certification at the same time. This is great news, but don’t wait until it’s too late to get a head start if it’s available to you. Meet with your counselor to ensure that you’re on the right pathway.
11. Would I be studying my major or career path if it wasn’t required of me?
Don’t mistake the message here. There is something to be said for pursuing a major or career path that is sensible while not necessarily being aligned with your dreams and expectations. In other words, just because a major isn’t particularly sexy or exciting, that doesn’t mean you should immediately alter course and enroll in something that is less appealing but makes you happy.
The world runs on dollars and sense, and you need to find the right balance between passion and marketability. That said, some things are so far out of your skill sets and desires that they are a complete waste of time to even pursue no matter how marketable or high-paying that they are.
Essentially, if you cannot muster the enthusiasm that it takes to become good at what you’re pursuing, then you should probably not be in that major.
12. Am I exercising my right to vote?
The right to vote is an important one that many of you will be getting for the first time during your senior year of high school. While there is a great deal more attention on it in presidential election years, it is also important to be aware of the local and midterm elections. Why? Because no country’s fate is dictated by the decisions of one man or woman. It is dictated by the views and the platforms of politicians across the local, state and federal spectrum.
In fact, local elections often have more importance to your daily lives than anything else, because it’s here where sales taxes, zoning, and other important factors are decided that dictate the type of community that you live in.
13. What are some podcasts that could be making me smarter about what I hope to study?
I have a firm belief that podcasts—even ones you vehemently disagree with—make you smarter because they expose you to different viewpoints and possibilities. This overarching understanding of your areas of interest and passion are vital to becoming a great college student.
Put together some keywords that fall into your wheelhouse and then jump on the podcast network of your choosing and see what is out there. Give people a listen when you’re working on your car, pushing a broom, or simply relaxing. The more you listen, the better equipped you will be for the next chapter of life beyond your senior year of high school.
14. Am I learning or just making good grades?
You may be the type of student who breezes through the “tough” classes in high school with your senior year being no exception. But before lulling yourself into that false sense of security that often comes with straight-A’s, you need to ask yourself whether the grades are the only reward you’re receiving. Are you acing classes or learning the information?
A better course
It’s much better to make B’s and C’s in your journey to developing a clearcut understanding of a topic than to simply go through the motions and “get credit” for all the work required of you.
You know how it is, sitting in class all year, getting 100s on everything, and moving onto the next grade without being able to remember one thing you learned. Take the time to explore what you’re learning even at the expense of grades. Figure out how it works and how it will help you in life, and college (and life) will be a breeze.
Senior Year Question 15. Who are some people in my life that could help me in the future?
Already you may know some adults from church or school or work that have a leg up in the industry you’d like to be in. Take some time to get to know these people, what they do, and what their journey was like to get there. The more face-to-face—rather than Facebook-to-Facebook—connections that you can make now, the better equipped you’ll be to land a job after high school and college are over.
16. How can I be of service to them now?
Again piggybacking onto a previous entry, it’s important to not just learn who the people are in your life that can help you get ahead, but also to figure out ways that you can be useful to them. This can be intimidating because you may feel like you need to reach a certain benchmark of knowledge before approaching them—not the case.
Ways to be helpful
You can be helpful in ways that are completely different from what their strengths are. Everyone needs administrative help—by “administrative,” I mean necessary activities that get in the way of a person focusing on the core of their job. Be the person willing to step in and work for free. Often times merely offering will get you an “in” with that person and maybe even a paycheck if they’re not comfortable stealing free labor. Additionally, they can help you get started on your own career path whenever you’re ready to forge ahead.
17. Do I have the right friends?
Just like making the right connections with those older than you is essential to smoothing out your career path, keeping negative influences out of your life is highly important. Look at your friends. Are there any that enable you to become a better student or better pursue your dreams and goals?
If not, then you may need to find new ones. You will be anyway as you graduate from high school and make the move to college or to further your education at a trade school where you shame the same ambitions as your classmates.
Superficial at best
While the relationships you make in high school are superficial at best, the ones in college are more meaningful and substantive—and that’s not to say that you can’t stay friends with your fellow high school graduates. It’s just to say that if those relationships stand the test of time, it will be based on something more substantive than what drew you to most of your high school friends.
Regardless, it’s so important that you surround yourself with people that help you become a better you—and people to whom you can easily return the favor.
18. How would I fare in a job interview situation?
Have you ever sat down for a job interview that you didn’t get? What went wrong? Are you able to look back on the experience and see where the road forked? For that matter, of the jobs you’ve received offers on, what was it about your performance that aided you in getting accepted?
If you’re in your senior year of high school, you need to be, at the very least, studying up on job interview etiquette. The Muse has a great example of interview etiquette examples you should brush up on.
19. What resources—online or otherwise—are absolutely necessary to my productivity?
By the time your senior year of high school rolls around, you should know how you work best and not just how you think you work best. Therefore, it is a good time to assess the tools and resources that help you do research and complete your work. While doing this, you should also be open to new tools and always be experimenting with how you can become a more effective student.
I recommend making a list of your must-have apps, software programs, books, and other items that make it possible for you to accomplish what you’re hoping to accomplish. LifeHack has a list of 15 great online resources for college students.
20. What is my game plan if my first school choice doesn’t accept me?
Everyone always tells you to make a list of three top choices for where to attend college after high school is finished. This is good advice because you cannot know for sure that option one will accept you or if it will be “doable” from a financial standpoint should certain monies not come in.
By having more than one college picked out, you put yourself through the necessary drill of planning alternative scenarios. Not only will this move you forward in your educational journey, but it will also teach you how to think on your feet and make adjustments when things don’t work out. (Highly valuable life skill!)
Senior Year Question 21. What is my financial game plan if no one offers a scholarship?
Unfortunately there is less and less money in education, making scholarships more competitive than ever before. As a student in your senior year of high school, you need to be thinking about the money that you have in place and the possibility that your education will need to be paid for by loan and other government assistance than through a meaningful scholarship opportunity.
There is also the possibility that you won’t have enough scholarship opportunities to foot the full tuition, fees and books bill for each semester.
Worried about affordability? Here’s your next step.
If you are concerned that you cannot afford college, consider cutting some of those costs by attending community college for your first two years, going to a publicly funded in-state university for the last two, and digging a little deeper for other scholarship opportunities. It also goes without saying that you should be taking the ACT and/or SAT every time it is offered your senior year until you can gain some measure of eligibility.
Last but not least, if you would like to know about what scholarship opportunities are out there for high school seniors, check out USA Today’s look at the 10 best sites to look for scholarships.
22. What are some ways that I am wasting time each day?
When you get to college—especially as you move past general education requirements and into those upper level, major-based courses, you’re going to need a productive schedule. Therefore, now is a good time to pinpoint the ways that you are wasting time each day and to take steps to try and improve.
For help there, Living Waters Wellness Resources has a pretty extensive list of suggestions—30 in all—to ensure you are wasting less of that most precious commodity each day.
23. Who will get the graduation invites?
The graduation invitations have some pretty costly implications. While you definitely don’t want to exclude people on the basis of what you might be able to give you, you should be mindful of the more affluent people in your contacts list. Don’t leave anyone off and order more invitations if you have to because most people understand the excitement of graduating high school and the milestone that it represents. If they think of you and your family at all in a positive light, then they will be only too happy to contribute something towards your next chapter of life.
24. How do you write a thank-you card?
Just like you want to be sure to invite anyone who comes to mind that would make sense—church attendees, co-workers, family members, friends of family, etc.—you want to make sure that you are showing gratitude whenever someone does care enough to give you something. Learn the art of the thank-you card, and be as quick as you can about getting those cards out to the people who deserve them for helping you to celebrate your accomplishments through cash or some other useful gift.
If uncertain about how to write a thank you note that delivers, Hallmark has some suggestions.
25. What is the best way to take a compliment?
Thank you. Learn those two words, and say them immediately after anyone gives you a compliment. Then, move on with your life.
Too often, students and young people in general take one of two directions with their response to a compliment. They either try to make excuses that explain why the complimenter is wrong for giving them the compliment to begin with, or they start to believe their own hype and take themselves too seriously thus becoming insufferable.
A simple thank you is all that anyone wants to hear when they give you a compliment, so say those words and leave it at that.
26. What is my attitude when someone tells me, ‘This isn’t good enough’?
Rejection is hard to take, especially when we’ve poured heart and soul into something that we really care about. Nevertheless, there are going to be times in life when something that you’re proud of is shot down and eviscerated by someone who doesn’t understand (or doesn’t care) how hard you worked to get the material in shipshape.
Don’t be defensive whenever someone gives you criticisms, good and/or bad. Take a moment to internalize their comments and find meaning in them before responding. If you have to say something right away, merely go with a “thank you for the feedback, I’ll give this a look.” Then, look at it and see if the person has a point in what they’re saying. Be open to criticism, but also be able to justify your work.
And if that doesn’t help, WikiHow has a piece entitled “How to Handle Rejection: 14 Steps,” that you should give a look.
Senior Year Question 27. Is my career choice viable?
The final question that any student in his or her senior year of high school should be asking is also the most important. This is where you weigh the differences between passion and probability. Are you backing the right horse in your search for a job that pays and fulfills you? As you can see from other entries on this list, I’m all for following your passions provided there is a compelling reason to do so, but I’m also aware that sometimes passions just aren’t that valuable to the world at large and that you are better off being passionate about whatever it is that you do.
There is a clear difference between the two.
Some passions make great hobbies but poor careers, while some careers may not be what you want to do but their rewards are great enough to encourage you to take pride in your work. The Muse once again has an excellent piece—this time by Nathaniel Koloc—that explains in no uncertain terms why “follow your passion” is pretty bad advice.
Senior Year In Summary
So there you have it, readers. As you gear up for your senior year of high school, make sure that you are aware of and are asking the right questions before forging ahead with whatever you plan to do next.
College is a major decision, an expensive one, and not always the best course to follow.
By spending some time in thought about each of these, you can have a better understanding of where to take your life once that diploma is in hand. What are some challenges that you’re fearing or are concerned about regarding the upcoming senior year? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via Infinity Institute Newspaper]