Senior year is a time fraught with college applications, finals, and desperate attempts to socialize and make the most out of your last year in high school. In coming-of-age movies, it’s portrayed as the year where everything falls into place; finally, things make sense, everyone knows their purpose in life and all is well.

While reality may differ a lot from movies, senior year is still an important year. It’s your last year in high school, for one, and for many people, it’s the last year that they spend in their hometown for a while. That’s why it is important to set yourself up for success early on so that you can enjoy the milestone without clouding the experience with extra stress.

Generations of high school graduates have told rising seniors the same thing to no avail, but I promise it’s important: Give yourself a head start when you can. Take it from someone who didn’t listen as closely as she should have to the seniors who told her the same things.

Try to start your college essays as soon as possible, preferably the summer after junior year. It doesn’t have to be perfect and Harvard-worthy just yet, but having something to work with, however messy and filled with grammatical errors, will save you lots of stress when senior year begins. If you can, also try to get a head start on other parts of your application — whether it's the supplemental essays, making a list or résumé of your most important extracurriculars and awards, or applying for scholarships.

Become familiar navigating the Coalition and Common Application websites, and look at individual requirements for each college. Ask for letters of recommendation in advance and look at any special majors or programs you might be interested in.

Finally, try to make your senior year special — let your friends and loved ones know that they’re appreciated and try to spend time with them. Chances are, you won’t be able to see them as often after high school, so remember to love the little things about the people and places around you!

Niveditha Bala is a senior at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainternationalschool.us.

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