I am just finishing up my second rodeo and I STILL don’t have this down right. Sigh! Senior year is such a big and exciting year for seniors AND parents. So many things to remember and tie up and enjoy.
I often hear of parents cataloging all of the ‘LASTS’ (Last first day of school, last spring break, etc.) but that’s such a hard way to spend a year. I prefer to look ahead to all of the amazing experiences coming up and enjoy being in the moment. (Yup, easier said than done.)
I thought it might be handy to have a list of things to be on the lookout for during senior year. The order may be different for you and your school, but generally the experience will be similar.
Senior Pictures – Of COURSE I would mention this one. Ha! High Schools around here usually allow seniors to submit their own senior pictures for inclusion in the yearbook. Those due dates are typically in the fall because the pictures must be checked and inserted into the yearbook before it is sent for printing. That means you really need to have the pictures done by no later than mid September. Plan for your photographer to be busy at that time so book early! I also implore you to consider doing family pictures at the same time. I always include a family mini session at the start of my senior sessions because senior year is busy and this may be the last time you have a chance to get your crew together before your senior is off at college. I’m not kidding. Senior year goes fast!
College Applications – It’s a good idea to go into the fall knowing which schools your senior will apply to. If possible have the testing done and a good start on any essays those school require. There is more time in the summer to work on essays (and get help with them) than during the school year. There are more than a few types of application deadlines (regular, early action, early decision, rolling) so be aware of your options and have the dates marked in your calendars. My girls both applied for schools that had rolling decision deadlines. They were so excited about these schools that they applied before their senior year even started. (And my middle daughter knew she was accepted before her senior year started!) It was nice to have that off our plates! Here is a good article that explains the difference between application types. It’s a bit on the old side the the info is good!
Financial Aid – Even if your child does not qualify for need based scholarships you will want to apply to FAFSA to qualify and receive merit based scholarships. The application process opens October 1 the year BEFORE your senior will be going off to college and is open until June 30th the year your child is a freshman. State deadlines are all over the place so be sure to check on that early! Here is a good article on this year’s deadlines.
Intent to Enroll – While the national signing day is May 1st, as soon as your senior knows where they want to attend it is a good idea for them to notify the school and pay their deposit. Sometimes housing is based on this date so this can be important!
Housing Deposit – Check with the school your senior will be attending. The deadlines for housing deposits can be different. More and more I am hearing about housing shortages on college campuses. Even for freshman! Sometimes housing priority is based on the date they apply to the school, sometimes it is based on the date they commit to enrolling in the school and sometimes it’s the date they pay their housing deposit. If your senior has an opinion about what dorm they want to live in they will want to get the highest priority possible!
Plan Travel – This probably sounds silly…but it’s not! There are plenty of things to plan for, especially if your senior is going to college out of town. Orientation, Move In, Parents Weekend, even Thanksgiving. Usually the dates for these things are available the spring before your child’s senior year. You will probably need at least a hotel room, if not transportation (depending on how far the college is from home) and things get BOOKED UP! If you know the dates then book the hotel and transportation.
Senior Celebrations – June will be a crazy month. Just accept it and go with it. (And have plenty of kleenex handy!) During this month you should think about Cap and Gown pictures. It is too crazy during actual graduation to get good cap and gown pictures. AND, graduation is sometimes not even held at the high school so you don’t get that as a lovely background. (Not to mention the hundreds of people who will be in the background of any picture taken on that day. Just saying!) Check with your photographer to see if they offer this.
Graduation Announcement – It takes a few weeks for these to be designed and printed so be sure to plan ahead. These announcements can be used as party invitations or just a general ‘atta girl’ or ‘atta boy’ for your senior to your family and friends. Plus, it’s fun to show off those great senior pictures you had taken!
Party Planning – So many things to consider! Will you do a party? Will it include just family or will it have friends too? What is your timing for the party? One of my daughters didn’t leave for school until late September. We had her party just after Labor Day when things weren’t as crazy and more people could attend. My other daughter is leaving in August so we are having her party the weekend after graduation. JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE! Since she wants to attend her friends’ parties we are doing hers as a breakfast. That way people can stop by our house first and then make the rounds to all the other parties in the afternoon/evening. This works out perfectly because she LOVES breakfast food and we can have all her favorites. Have you thought about decorations? We loved going through all our old pictures to pick just the right ones to hang around the deck and house so our friends and family could be reminded just how much she has changed!
School Shopping – It’s so much fun to shop for all of the dorm goodies but if your child is going out of town then it may be easier to wait. It may be hard to transport all of these new things! Check to see if there is a Bed Bath and Beyond near your child’s school. If there is then you can shop here at home and pick it all up at the college store. So handy! It is great if your senior can coordinate with their roommate(s) on things that are easily shared (fridge, tv if they even use one, stereo, etc.). Many things can be bought at stores nearby campus too once you really see the space and what they need. Maybe they do need extra light or maybe it’s built into their desk. Maybe they do need risers for under bed storage or maybe they have taller legs available to swap out.) Also, cleaning supplies and things don’t need to be transported when they easily purchased nearby.
Write a letter – This was the best advice I got before we dropped off our oldest daughter. It is such a momentous occasion and we did not want to leave it up to our bumbling, crying selves to impart wisdom and share sentiments. So we (meaning my husband because I’ve always been the one to write the things throughout the years.) wrote a letter that we gave her as we were leaving. I’m so happy we did this because everything took longer than we thought and we had no time for long meaningful conversation at the end. And she was distracted too! By writing this letter we could say exactly what we wanted/needed to and she could read it when she had the time and emotional space. And she could read it again and again if she needed a pick me up!
Care Packages – Did you know you can mail all sorts of random things through the mail without packaging it? You can! I’ve mailed a rubber ball, frisbee and even a plastic piggy bank filled with gummy worms. (I sent ‘SPAM’ to her mailbox. Ha!) It’s fun to plan out some care packages to send off to your newly minted college student. For sure plan on sending something so it arrives week 3 or 4…just when their homesickness starts to kick in. Take note of when their finals week is and plan on sending some study treats. Same thing for mid=terms. If you have Amazon Prime chances are good they will deliver right to the dorms and shipping is free. There are PLENTY of fun things to send from Amazon! Another good way to do it is the priority mail boxes. ‘If it fits it ships’ is the tag line so you can stuff those puppies as full as you want of goodies for your student. Here are some sites with other fun ideas. Here and here.
I think that is it for my list. No doubt I’ve missed plenty of important things. (The last few aren’t even for senior year but I thought you might like some bonus ideas!) If you ‘d like to share those with me I would LOVE to hear them. I’m not done with sending kids off to college yet!