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Commentary: Senior year proves to be more stressful than expected

The onset of the senior year of high school comes with some big expectations. We grow up watching movies and TV shows that don’t accurately depict what senior year, or high school in general, is really like.

I went into my senior year fully expecting to just coast through my final year, but I was completely wrong. This year is actually the most stressful year of all and only one marking period has passed.

My stress began before the summer was even over. I was told that it’s better to get your college applications in early, before a wave of them start pouring in around Thanksgiving break.

I listened to my guidance counselor’s advice and got started on my Common Application and college essay. Most people waited until the fall to start, which made me wish I had, too, seeing as I did everything on my own and I didn’t receive any help from my counselor like other seniors in my class did.

On the other hand, I made it a lot easier on myself for the first quarter. Most of those kids scrambled to send their applications in and get their college essays done in between piles of homework and after-school activities, but I was able to focus on raising my GPA before my transcript got sent out.

Trying to raise my GPA was an entirely different form of stress. My college applications were stressful because I chose to get them done as soon as possible without any help. Raising my GPA, on the other hand, was stressful because I waited too long to start caring about my grades. Caring is the wrong word, I guess. I always cared about my grades and they were never really bad. I just never pushed myself to do better, and as a result, my GPA wasn’t as high as I wanted it to be. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not at all what I wanted to achieve.

I pushed myself more than ever first quarter, which proved to be more difficult than I had hoped between sports, clubs, illnesses and out-of-town college visits.

However, despite a few obstacles, I did manage to raise my average and make honor roll this marking period. Truthfully, I’m convinced that all the extra studying is what helped me raise my SAT score by 200 points.

The most stressful thing I have had to endure this year, though, is figuring out what I want to do with my life. I only have one more year of unlimited guidance, a guaranteed roof over my head, food, money and everything else my family currently provides me with. That’s it, just one year.

High school may have seemed to drag along, but I still don’t feel ready to be on my own. Once I graduate, I’ll be moving out, providing for myself, making all of my own choices. It’s a stressful thought, a scary thought even, but only because for once the course I have to take isn’t laid out for me. My entire life, the path was set: listen to my parents, go to school, graduate.

After graduation, everything becomes my choice. I choose where to go to college, how I spend my free time, where I work, where I live and what I spend my money on. I still don’t know about a lot of those things and I’m positive it will stress me out until I know for sure, if that time ever comes at all.

There’s a lot of room for failure when you’re on your own, but I’m going to do my best to avoid the same mistakes I made in high school. Once my time in high school is over, I refuse to put the same amount of stress on myself as what I forced myself to endure during a year that should have been relatively stress-free. I will remind myself that it’s OK to plan far ahead, to ask for help, to try things over again, and take advantage of every moment before it’s too late. If there’s anything thing my senior year has taught me so far, it’s at least that.

Sarah Kazmierczak is a senior at Frederick Law Olmsted School.