10 Most Common Senior Year Mistakes

Every high school senior encounters some of these problems. Find out how to avoid common mistakes for a more successful year.

A bit of restlessness during your senior year is to be expected, but don’t let yourself lose motivation.
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Your senior year of high school is a busy time. Between taking tests like the SAT and ACT, worrying about your GPA and transcript, doing your college search, sending out your applications and waiting to find out about admissions at your colleges and universities, it’s understandable that you would be tempted to put all that school stuff aside and have fun with your friends.

But keep your eyes on the education prize. Balance is key: Take breaks to recharge and have fun, but don’t let senioritis overtake you and make your college options slip away.

When you feel less motivated to study, remind yourself that every good grade gets you closer to finding a college that offers a great program in the major you want.


Finding a balance between having fun, studying for your courses and planning for your next life step is a great way to start preparing for college, since you will be called upon to do this during your college years.

To help you stay focused, we’ve compiled 10 of the top mistakes students make during their senior year so you can make sure you don’t make them.

1. Skipping Classes

Choosing to skip classes could mean missing valuable information for upcoming tests. And don’t forget to think ahead to university classes: Information you’ll need for your major in your college program may be covered during a high school lecture you miss.

2. Thinking Second Semester Grades Don't Count

Many universities look at your second semester grades, so keep that GPA up and keep taking those AP/IB and honors classes. Admissions departments at many colleges and universities have been known to rescind the acceptance letters of students who drop their tough classes or let their GPA sink dramatically due to senior slump.

3. Falling for “Senioritis”

A bit of restlessness during your senior year is to be expected, but don’t let yourself lose motivation, procrastinate or slack off completely. Letting yourself get physically or emotionally run down can ruin your senior year and make you less prepared for getting a college degree.

4. Getting Too Overwhelmed

Senior year means juggling everything from the prom and parties to college essays and AP tests. You’ll get through it all if you take a step back and prioritize your time: Make lists and timelines to keep track of all of your deadlines and make sure you get it all done.

5. Confusing Your Priorities

Planning for college doesn’t mean you can forget about your current obligations. In class, that means making sure your transcript is full of good grades in all of your subjects, not just the ones you think are easier or more relevant to your intended degree. Outside of class, that means not dropping your extracurricular activities or work if those activities will benefit you financially or personally.

6. Forgetting to Study

Keep up on your assignments, even after a tough week. While you’re taking time off, there’s another student going for your spot at the schools you’re applying to who isn’t. When you feel less motivated to study, remind yourself that every good grade gets you closer to finding a college that offers a great program in the major you want. Keep your eyes on the prize!

7. Mismanaging Your Time

Be realistic about your current workload. While you know how long it takes you to write a paper or study for a test under normal conditions, all the pressures of senior year could make you work more slowly or give you more distractions. To stay on top of your assignments, calculate how long you think something will take you, and then double it. Triple it, if time allows. That way you’ll have ample time to get your work done even if something comes up for the colleges you’re applying to.

8. Daydreaming About Your Future Too Much

Your mind now might be wandering, thinking around about degrees, majors, MBA programs, possible careers, study abroad and many other things. These are all exciting future possibilities, but don't forget the here and now. Devoting too much time daydreaming when you have homework and reading to do could seriously curtail those future plans.

9. Blowing Off “Less Important” Work

Don’t be fooled by the idea that a second paper or a midterm quiz doesn't make that much of a difference. Everything counts. Even if something is only worth ten percent of your grade, take it seriously. That extra ten percent might be what pushes you into a college slot over the next applicant.

10. Failing to Use Available Resources

Teachers know about all the challenges you’re facing during this busy time, and many of them are nice enough to offer extra help during the second half of senior year. This help can be in the form of extra office hours, a review of topics covered, study guides, sample exams, or other tools to help you improve your grade. Take advantage of them.

Quick Tips

  • Your teachers are great resources not only for course help but also for college advice. They’ve seen countless students make the same leap and can help you find a college, choose a major or balance all of your obligations.
  • You can’t take care of your responsibilities unless you take care of yourself: That means sleeping well, eating right and exercising regularly.
  • Don’t turn senior year mistakes into summer mistakes. Of course you want to spend the summer with your high school friends, making the most of your time together before you head off to college. But give yourself some time to rest and recharge your batteries before you leave for school – you will be expected to work hard when you get there.
  • Too late to save yourself from the slump? Don’t worry; you do have options. If slacking is making it hard for you to get in to your dream college, look into community college, distance learning programs and online degrees. Not only will a program like this keep you on the right academic track, you can transfer after a year or when you get your associates degree.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

High School Senior Timeline and Checklist
College Planning in Senior Year: Is It Too Late?
Senior Year College Prep Schedule
College Planning: When Should I Start?

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