Dear Senior…

August 24, 2016

Dear Senior,

Well, you made it. This is it. One more year and you’re done with high school foreverYou’ve come so far in the past three years, and you’re finally in the home stretch! This will likely be the most exciting year you’ve ever experienced, so let’s make the most of it. Here are a few tips to make sure your have an incredible final year as a high school student.

  1. Lead well.

    You have had three years to practice leading, but now is when it counts most. Your senior year will likely be the greatest platform you have had in life so far.

    You are now part of the oldest class on campus, which means you have a greater voice based on your age than you ever have before. Your senior year by far beats the impact you had as an 8th grader when the younger mid schoolers looked up to you then. You now have three grades watching your every move to know what it is to be at the top.

    After you graduate, you will likely have more opportunities to lead, but you will never have the same potential for impacting high school students than you do right now. Do not miss this opportunity. Lead well.

  2. Be future minded.

    You have to be thinking about what comes after high school. You might feel overwhelmed due to the fact that you don’t yet have the full picture, but you don’t need the full picture just yet. Trust that God will provide the needs you have as they come, but at the same time be proactive in planning for your future. Both are biblical concepts.

    The common mistake high school seniors often make is a lack of planning for the future. Because your next step can be so stressful, seniors oftentimes get analysis paralysis and simply get stuck because they don’t know which direction after high school is the best. It’s good to weigh your pros and cons and try to make your choice as to which of all your good options after high school is best for you. What is bad is to wait until you’re about to walk the line at graduation and then try to figure out what you’re going to do.

    Be thinking about the future and finishing any steps you didn’t wrap up from your junior year in the college application process. If you didn’t get a head start during your junior year searching for colleges, then go back and read the tips for juniors and get started asap.

  3. Fight senioritis.

    If you’re unfamiliar with “senioritis“, it is a supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance. 

    While your classes senior year may not prove to be as difficult as your classes in your junior year, it doesn’t meant that you have a free pass to check out of high school altogether.

    It’s a tragedy when a senior who has so much leadership and legacy potential chooses to have one foot in high school and one foot out. You have the rest of your life to be an adult. You only have one year of your life to enjoy being a senior. Enjoy living at the top for this year.

    This isn’t to suggest you should look down on other people, but you don’t want to get to the end of your senior year and say to yourself, “I missed it.” Be present and enjoy this year. You’ll thank yourself years down the road when you’re adulting for the rest of your life.

  4. Understand that your final grades DO matter.

    Many students begin the college search process during their junior year in high school. In fact, you might have already been accepted into a college or you may find that out later this year that you’re accepted.

    Oftentimes when a senior gets accepted into college, they have the misconception that the rest of their high school grades no longer matter because they’re already been accepted. However, if you read the admissions fine print for the college that accepted you, there is likely a contingency that you must submit a transcript including your final grades from your senior year. Don’t check out and think the rest of your grades no longer matter. They do.

  5. Take a money class.

    Most public schools don’t teach money skills very well. There are a few private schools that make more of an effort, but if you ask some adults how prepared they felt with money schools leaving high school, most will tell you that they didn’t feel prepared with money at all. Take a crash course on money if you can. If will benefit you for the rest of your life.

  6. Learn the dangers of credit cards and debt.

    It’s almost like clockwork. Credid card companies have already acquired your name and address, and as soon as you turn 18, you’ll begin to receive credit card offers in the mail.

    Some financial advisors will tell you that credit cards are evil. Others will tell you they are crucial to build credit. Neither is true.

    It is possible to build credit without the use of a credit card, but on the other hand, credit cards aren’t evil. The main reason most people get into trouble with credit cards is due to a lack of self-control. They spend money that they don’t have on a credit card, and they go into debt. Once they’re in debt, it’s easy to go further into debt, and it’s like trying to pull themselves out of quicksand.

    If you do choose to use a credit card, my best advice is to have just one card. You may receive hundreds of offers in the mail, but select one that has a low 0% intro APR and no annual fee. Once you’re at college, you will likely see dozens of tents set up on campus with credit card reps offering shirts and water bottles that they will give you for free for applying for their card. They will say things like, “If you don’t get accepted, you still keep the gift.” Or “You can cut up the card once it arrives.”

    They’re not lying. Those things are true. They just know that the likelihood of you actually getting accepted is pretty high, and they also know that likelihood of you cutting up your shiny new card once it arrives is pretty slim. In fact, research shows that you create an actual sentimental bond with the first credit card you get. Some people have their original credit card still in their wallet decades after they first got it. They can’t get rid of it because it represents more than just a credit card, but it brings back sentimental memories.

    If you do get a credit card, make an agreement with yourself that you will NEVER EVER EVER spend money with it unless you already have the money in the bank. If you pay off your credit card in full each month, you will be good to go. But if you spend money you don’t have, you likely won’t pay your card off at the end of the month, and then you wind up paying interest for as long as it takes until you pay off your card in full.

    A credit card isn’t evil, but millions of people are simply irresponsible. Nobody ever warned me about this, and I remember the day clearly when I bought a pair of Doc Martens that I “had to have” that I couldn’t afford. I didn’t have the money at the time, but a friend convinced me to buy those “sick new boots” and pay them off later that month when I had the money. I thought I would pay them off, but it was over 2 years later before I finally paid them off.

    Some people will argue that you need a credit card in case of emergencies. However, you still should never spend money that you don’t have, even in the case of an emergency. You should begin creating an emergency fund, but you can put money in a savings account in a bank for that. You don’t need a credit card for emergencies.

    The bottom line for credit cards is this. You don’t need a credit card at all, but if you must get one, ONLY SPEND MONEY THAT YOU ALREADY HAVE.

  7. Take advantage of compound interest.

    Compound interest can literally change your life. Albert Einstein has a reputation for being one smart dude, and here’s what he said about compound interest:

    albert-einstein-compound-interest-8th-wonder-of-the-world

    The basic concept is that when you save money, the money you saved earns interest. Then you earn more interest on the interest, and a snowball effect begins to take place. As that interest snowball works for you for a long time, you can literally become a millionaire with relatively little upfront cash. The sooner you get started saving, the more money your interest snowball will make for you.

    My suggestion: save $150 per month starting when you’re 18. I know it sounds like a lot, but it comes out to about $5 per day. It might feel like a stretch, but it’s definitely achievable. If you save $5 a day for just 10 years in a ROTH IRA, you will have saved a total of $18,000 by the time you turn 28. If you never touch it or add to it again until you retire, that initial $18,000 investment will likely make you a multi-millionaire. So don’t just learn about compound interest. Start saving some of the money you make and invest it.

  8. Don’t check out of youth ministry.

    Not only is this year your greatest potential to lead other students, but this is also an important year to solidify the answer for “Why do I believe in what I believe?”  Your faith should not be your parents’ faith–it should be yours. Do you know why you believe what you believe? Do you believe in God? In Jesus? Do you know why?

    The Bible says we should always be prepared to tell others why we have the hope that we have, but a lot of graduating seniors simply cannot articulate what hope they have or why they have it.

    Once you get to college, you will face many people with different viewpoints. Use your final year of high school to build a solid foundation for establishing answers for what your faith means to you. If you don’t know why you believe what you believe, you will be tossed around like a sailboat in a hurricane not knowing which way is up and which way is down.

    It is estimated that 85% of students who graduate from high school also graduate from their faith. This is likely because they viewed their youth ministry as a fun and social environment, but did not allow God’s Word to truly become a roadmap to their life. Don’t become part of the 85%.

    If you have questions about your faith, God, or the Bible, submit a comment below or send me an email and I’d be happy to help you along in your journey.

  9. Don’t burn bridges.

    Whatever job you may have during high school, do it with all your heart. More than likely, you don’t want to work at Get Air or In ‘N Out for the rest of your life. One of the biggest mistakes I see high school students make is not taking their job seriously, regardless of how “small” that job may feel.

    If you take your job seriously and do it really well, you can use a reference from that job to help you get a job you like a little bit better. Then use a reference from that job as another stepping stone to another job. After you have done well with each role by giving it your all, one day you will find yourself in your dream career.

    If you burn bridges along the way, you significantly limit the benefits of having your supervisors help you along in your journey.

  10. Finish well.

    Life is often compared to a race. You may have moments when you’re running fast. You may have moments when you get tripped up and fall. In this race of life however, it is important to finish well. The end of your high school career is not the end of your life, but it is the end of a chapter of your life. Reach that milestone by finishing well.

    Choose to live a life of no regrets. This doesn’t mean you should be careless and reckless and get YOLO tattooed on your lower back.

    Choosing a life of no regrets means taking healthy risks that challenge you to be a better version of yourself. Choosing a life of no regrets means avoiding mistakes because you have listened to advice from others who have gone before you who DO have regrets. Choosing a life of no regrets means you won’t be content if you aren’t growing.

    Choosing a life of regrets does not mean that you won’t have heartache and problems in life. Bad things happen to good people. But you have the power to take control of your senior year and make it your best year yet. You can do this. Nobody said it would be easy, but when you live this year with intentionality, I promise you won’t regret it.

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