So, it’s the second semester of senior year. Students can see the finish line, but it still seems “so far away”. They are stuck in this weird holding pattern. Most of their college apps are finished and submitted. They are now forced to do something that they just aren’t used to: hurry up and wait.
My students are used to constantly doing something geared towards the earth shattering goal of “getting in”. Releasing the control that they never really had in the first place is terrifying. In the next few months, effort and attention will wane and schedules will be dumped as they prepare to move on to the next chapter of their lives. Of course, students will speak of that forbidden temptress: senioritis. The existential crisis of junior years asks, “What is the point of all this?” The senior says, “Okay, I get the point. Can we please just get to it?” But, in the next few months, the counseling opportunities will be plentiful.
John Wooden said, “Reputation is what people think you are and character is who you really are.” The application process asks students to craft and present their reputation. The second semester of senior year is when their character is revealed. Colleges will eventually want their final grades and, if the bottom falls out, they could really make a difference. I would argue that this time period gives students ample opportunities to quietly quit in ways that colleges may or may not notice. I view this last semester as the closing argument of a really long case. A fantastic closing argument doesn’t change the facts of the case, but it’s the last thing that a jury hears–and that is powerful.
The way students finish is critical. There are no medals for being the first to finish three laps of a race that lasts a mile. I witness plenty of extraordinarily entitled behavior under the auspices of being worn down. Though I am perfectly willing to admit that students very well may be tired, I refuse to be complicit in the advancement of this half-assery. I ask students to think of their legacies in this way: Will your high school community think of you and your richly nuanced back-story, often reminiscing about the impact you made and the traditions you started? Or will your legacy simply be an expositional flashback, as in, “I can confirm that this student attended this institution and graduated. No more, no less”? Encourage your students to savor this time, invest in your community, and finish this race.
While I’m on a soapbox, can we talk about APs for a second? I promise that this will only take a second. We have a policy at my school that requires every student enrolled in an AP class to take the corresponding AP test. I recognize the pragmatic shortcoming of this policy, as well as its potential to hurt my fellow faculty members and their pass rates. However, I was so sick of hearing the senior argument, “The school that I’m attending doesn’t accept AP credit and I’ve already been admitted, so why should I try?” My response: you take the AP test because it’s the right thing to do. You should finish what you started and the schools that offered you admission did so with a certain understanding of your curriculum. To allow a school to consider you for admission based on one curriculum only to alter that curriculum when the decision has been made is lying at worst and disingenuous at best. I understand that our school policy could be shaped in ways that might improve stats. However, I’m proud of this stance because I feel that it shapes culture and maybe, in turn, shapes character. The opportunities in life to shape culture are few, and I hope that we reach out and grab them when we can. Anyway, its 3:30pm at a high school on the Friday before a three-day weekend, and I think a tumble weed just blew past my office. What am I doing burning the midnight oil? Until next time….
By Jeff Morrow