The Senior Year Checklist

You’re a senior! Be prepared for mixed emotions, because the last year in college is bittersweet. Part of you is probably ready to move on and try new things, while the other part of you may be wondering how senior year got here so quickly. Luckily, you still have a whole year left. What are you going to do with it?

Here are six things to do during the last stretch of college:

1.) What should I do with my life?

That question isn’t intimidating at all, is it? Chances are, you’ve thought about the uncertainty of the future already. And if you haven’t, you certainly will at some point in the next year. It’s easy to focus is on the question “What should I do?” The problem is most seniors haven’t done the groundwork to answer this question well.

sb780First, you need to develop a deep understanding of your personal strengths, interests, and goals. Before you can answer the “What should I do?” question, you have to ask yourself the “Who am I?” questions:

  • What energizes you?
  • What are you really good at doing?
  • What are your core values?
  • How do you spend your free time?
  • How do you learn best?
  • What do you like learning about?
  • What are your personal strengths?
  • What makes you happy?

Can you definitively answer all of these questions? If not, take the time to really think about how you would answer them. Before you begin to ponder what you should do post-graduation, have a keen understanding of your strengths and interests, as well as your short- and long- term goals. Self-understanding will help guide you in the right direction as you explore potential post-graduate options.

2.) Pursue job shadowing and informational interview opportunities

sb5437Even if you’ve already had several internships, there is always more to explore. Once you do a bit of self-reflection and hone in on the industries you’d like to potentially pursue a career in (or graduate school opportunities in), learn more!

Get in contact with alums, family friends, and any professional contacts you may already have. Use LinkedIn to see if the people you are connected to know anyone who has a job or works in an industry that interests you. During the weekends and winter break, go on informational interviews. Use these interviews not to ask for a job, but simply to gain a better understanding of the career paths you are interested in.

In addition, contact your friends who have recently graduated and ask them what their experiences have been like during the first year or two out of college. If you would like to pursue a fellowship opportunity, get in contact with someone who did a similar fellowship. If you want to go to grad school, look for a recent grad who is pursuing studies at a similar program.

And, say you want to work in the advertising industry after college. Ask a recent graduate who works at an ad agency if he or she would be willing to let you job shadow for half a day. This will provide you with direct exposure to the kind of work you would be doing if you took a similar job post-graduation.

3.) Don’t get lazy

Senioritis. It is a real, true phenomenon. Avoiding senioritis may prove especially difficult when your roommates are asking you to watch a movie with them but you know you should study for a test. Or, when a group of your friends wants you to go out in the middle of the week, but you were planning to work on your resume and cover letter for a job you are interested in.

Do whatever you can to fight it off, because senior year matters and it’s important to go full speed ahead when it comes to your academic work and the job search. Remember what a privilege it is to attend college, and don’t take a moment of the experience for granted. Keep looking for opportunities to grow as a student, a leader, and an individual.

4.) …but don’t live in the library, either

sb12That being said, senior year should be a blast! I’m not advising that you stop striving to do great in all of your classes and extracurricular activities. But, if it comes down to you studying a little bit longer or taking a long walk on campus with one of your best friends, choose the latter. If you’ve already done a majority of your reading assignment for tomorrow’s class and your friends want you to go to trivia night with them, go to trivia night.

When you look back on it, you’ll realize it was the friendships, great conversations and fun times you had that really made the college experience memorable. Make as many great memories as you can during your last year. No perfect grade is worth more than getting to spend time with friends and enjoying where you are in your life right now. Have fun!

5.) Say thank you

College is, if nothing else, a time of growth. Over the last three years, you have probably changed a great deal. You’ve made a whole new set of friends, learned about topics you didn’t even know existed, discovered some of your strengths and interests, recognized some of your weaknesses, made mistakes, and learned your fair share of both academic and life lessons.

As you look ahead to graduation, reflect on the people who helped you get to where you are today. Take time to thank anyone who has made a positive impact on you- such as your parents, siblings, roommates, professors, alums, mentors, employers, and career counselors. Send hand-written thank you notes whenever you can to express your gratitude and share how your life has been impacted by each of them.

Expressing thanks is so important, and it isn’t done nearly enough. Remember to say thank you to those who helped you grow along the way.

6.) Dare to change the world

When you put on that cap and gown, realize that it’s you who will one day be:

- The doctor that saves hundreds of lives

sb65840- The politician who makes important policy changes

- The teacher who helps other students develop their interests and knowledge

- The writer who tells beautiful stories that will inform and entertain others

- The investment banker who fosters financial stability for dozens of companies and people.

- The scientist who develops groundbreaking cures

- The venture capitalist who helps turn someone’s business dream into a reality

- The non-profit director who gives underserved kids the resources they need to survive and thrive

As you prepare to graduate, remember everything you have learned and just how far you’ve come. Pursue your interests with fervor. Never stop caring about other people. Always stay true to yourself.

And do not doubt for a minute that you are capable of changing the world and turning your wildest dreams into realities. You are. And you will.

Happy graduation!


Melissa is the Editor-in-Chief of She is also an Assistant Brand Manager at Time Inc. Home Entertainment, where she manages brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, and Entertainment Weekly. Melissa majored in Psychology at Hamilton College and currently resides in New York City. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

Related posts:

  1. The Freshman Year Checklist
  2. The Sophomore Year Checklist
  3. The Junior Year Checklist

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