The Stages of Senior Year: Essays, Acceptances, Celebrations

For those of you who anticipate what senior year will be like, allow me to share the three chapters I have observed and experienced from August to the present.

During my son’s senior year, I have thought of these months as being part of three chapters. (Shutterstock: Round Picture)

Three chapters of high school senior year  

CHAPTER ONE is essays and deadlines.

It is layered on top of AP classes and juggling the resume builders (sports, work, civic opportunities, clubs, band, etc.). Let me tell you, it’s a tornado of a season and I don’t think I fully understood the process and how hard it would be to watch. I nurtured a lot more, I made my son’s bed, I made sure he had his favorite foods. It was stressful for him and everyone under the roof. But as in all seasons of life, deadlines allowed this season to end. 

CHAPTER TWO is wait for answers.

This chapter has been the fun one…this is the season where you sit back and WAIT for emails and letters that determine the future path of your senior kiddo. This is where smiles return. For us, it was calm yet full of anticipation for his future.

The parent brain has a million questions every day wondering if the senior has received any updates, been accepted, need to follow up on something and then you realize your child is reading emails and actually following up without telling you every detail. It is when you see they are preparing to be a college student and “forget” to tell you things, because they don’t need to tell you every detail. 

CHAPTER THREE is celebration!

This can also have its ups and downs, but you celebrate the wins! Your child gets accepted and has to take the next steps in the admissions process. 

After your teen gets accepted to college

My son’s first acceptance packet was happy and perfectly branded. Utilizing the college mascot, this giant Tiger face with instructions on the back provided bullet points of what HE needed to do next.

During chapter one, your senior – not the parent – sets up the logins and passwords for the admissions process. This is intentional and hopefully they remember the login information (which he didn’t) so expect a lot of passwords resetting in chapter three of this season. 

Once he logged in, he stumbled on bullet point one of the instructions, he quickly said, “can you help?” and I was left holding a Tiger head letting him know “actually, I cannot.” There is a reason the university requires the senior to set up the password. It is their responsibility, the first responsibility of many tasks that each young person needs to accomplish to set them up to be successful once they leave the nest.

I am certain that universities have figured out how to word the information so a future freshman can make it to bullet point number two on the Tiger face I am left holding. 

Seniors navigate college decisions while their brain is not yet fully developed

BUT…while the senior high school brain isn’t developed, universities hand them the keys to the adult kingdom. And thank goodness they do, because it is time, and I am not sure some parents would do that unless the universities did it for us.

For context, the brain fully develops around 25 years of age so young people will navigate college and major life decisions without a fully developed brain (which if fun, exciting and will drive you crazy on the bad days!). 

I have learned so much about myself and my amazing son in the last few months and I also have realized the undercurrent in the three chapters is simply the TRANSITION SEASON of life. The transition of who owns the metaphorical and literal login and password of their life. 

Everything has a beginning and end. But the transition season is often overlooked. This process or period of changing from high school senior to college freshman, what is the role of parents during this transition? As I hold my big Tiger head piece of paper, I am excited for transition season, and I hope all senior parents will embrace it! 

Three suggestions on how to embrace this transition 

  1. My new “login” is a post it note. Or a note pad. Or a poster board with post it notes. Or notes on your phone. Yep, I have tried all of them…laugh at me if you want to. I have used these systems mostly so I can keep track of what might be going on behind the logins. It is just the reminders that I can work into our college discussions or over a conversation in the car.
  2. We have been answering our children’s questions for years and it gives us parenting purpose. They ask for our help; we fix the problem, and we get a hug. That is the spiral of parenting but now we – the parents – need to change the direction of the spiral. “Hey mom, can you help?” should not translate into fixing everything, it translates into us helping them or teaching them how to take steps to the solution. My son needed help with a medical form recently and thanks to HIPPA (HIPAA Home |, when he asked me for help, I said I “no” because of the federal law. He figured it out, with some coaching. 
  3. If you are a senior parent reading this and you know the login to the university websites for your child (and you are checking the portals and doing the work intended for the prospective student) then you might be missing the lesson of what I am saying. Do yourself a favor and “unremember” (that’s not a real word) that information. It is a small step, but it is the needed step in the season of transition. 

The transition season has one goal…to prepare yourself and your senior to get them ready to live on their own next year. During the transition there is time and opportunities for this, and this will allow them to not just attend college next fall but THRIVE in college next fall. 

And, full disclosure, I wash my son’s clothes. My mom did it for me until I walked out the door for college and I will likely do it for him. I own it, I’m not changing. So, own the things you aren’t ready to transition but embrace new your role in the season of transition, guide them, coach them, love them, but be the coach, teacher and mentor in this season! 

More Great Reading:

College Senior: These May Not Be the Best Years of Your Life

About Lori Hart, Ph.D.

Lori Hart, Ph.D. is a sorority woman, a parent, a college speaker and likes to call it like she sees it. She has tremendous hope in college students and their abilities to figure things out and becoming thriving citizens in the world!       

Read more posts by Lori

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates about parenting teens and young adults straight to your inbox.