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Senior Year Balancing Act

The school year is beginning, and I’m the advisor for a group of twelve seniors.  With a few changes in composition, this group has been together since the beginning of 9th grade.  We call ourselves the “B Team–We’re second to none!”.  “B” was initially for Bessias, though several of the students also have surnames beginning with “B.”  As I think about their senior year, “Balance” strikes me as a good watchword.

Seniors have to engage in two balancing acts.  One is between present and future.  In the present, they are “top dogs” on campus, they have minimal responsibilities, they have the protection of adults and systems.  (They don’t always want the protection, of course, but deep down, they know their lives would be scarier without it).  There’s much to enjoy about the senior year in high school.  Questions about the future loom large, however. These young people have to make their first big set of decisions, they have to submit to a new and consequential form of judgment, and they have to navigate tricky social currents among peers.  It’s not easy to relish the present while the future bears down inexorably.

Seniors also have to work hard on questions of identity while responding to a barrage of What Colleges Want.  Be your best true self, they hear, but make sure you’re exhibiting leadership, volunteering, doing well in classes, cultivating strong recommendations, and taking lots of standardized tests.  And be sure to do well on the those tests.

In the end, I don’t know how consequential the decisions are.  I don’t particularly believe in the quest for the “perfect fit” of student to college.  Students adapt wherever they end up going.  A few transfer.  Different choices surely lead to different futures, but we can never know whether one is really better than another.  The balancing acts will change with age, but resolution…  It will be temporary at most.   I do know this: it’s a pleasure to be part of young people’s lives at this moment of confidence, vulnerability, and possibility.


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