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How to get the most out of your senior year

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

This article was originally written for freshu.io by Alicia Sforza

As senior year is starting to come to a close, grad invites are being sent out, caps and gowns are being measured and ordered, and college orientation dates are being set up. It’s hard to suppress the feeling of nostalgia that keeps creeping up on you. Between being excited for the next chapter of your life — whatever that might be — and being sad knowing you may never see some of the people you’ve been seeing every day ever again, this can be a very confusing time. Every graduating senior though is looking back and wishing they had done these things.

1. Applied for more scholarships

Although it’s everyday knowledge that college is expensive, I still cringe when I think about my first year tuition. I hate to even think it but my mom’s constant nagging of “Have you been applying for scholarships?” may have actually been beneficial. I mean there are people out there giving away free money! If only there was a scholarship for watching hours of Netflix while questioning every life decision you’ve made, am I right?

2. Bought a senior parking pass

If you went to a high school anything like the one I attended you have two options your senior year: buy a senior parking pass (hopefully early enough so that there are still some left) or walk at least four blocks every morning. Living in Minnesota — when the weather seems to only be decent once a year for about an hour — that four blocks can make or break your day. So it doesn’t surprise me that when I asked some of my classmates what they wish they had done their senior year, buying a senior parking pass was one of the most popular answers.

3. Go out more

The number one thing that I’ve heard people say they wish they had done their senior year was go out more. The saying is true “you’re only young once,” and your senior year is supposed to be filled with adventures with friends and nights you won’t be able to forget. No matter if you go out every weekend or are more comfortable staying home curled up on the couch watching Netflix, it’s inevitable that as senior year comes to a close you’ll wish you took all the opportunities given to you and then some to go out.

4. Stayed at that one party a little longer

Either the few times you’ve gone out or the few hundreds of times you’ve gone out, it always seems as if the most exciting things happen after you leave. The next morning you’re constantly trying to play catch-up as your friends recap the craziness that was the night before.

5. Spend more time with family

The sad fact is no matter how much we prepare ourselves for moving out next year, we’re bound to feel that bitter sting of loneliness. Knowing that some of us will be possibly hundreds of miles away from our family next year really makes me wish I would’ve taken my mom up on those offers to go to a movie with her on a Friday night.

6. Visited more college campuses

If you’re anything like me, you had one set college in your mind and once you got accepted that was it. I didn’t bother to look at any other colleges or visit any other colleges than just the one I had my heart set on. Now that I’m nearing the end of my senior year though — and I’m hearing about all of the diverse and far away colleges some of my classmates are going to — I can’t help but wonder if my decision was a good one.

7. Tried something new

Maybe it was a new sport, a new club, or even a challenging class that you may have considered for a day and then never signed up. Unfortunately, now there won’t be another chance to sign up for these. At least I learned this lesson before college and will take full advantage of all of the extracurricular activities that will be offered to me there.

8. Participated more in school activities

That homecoming week when I thought I was too cool for pajama day or that time when I didn’t feel like going out to buy Hawaiian themed accessories for the basketball game are really coming back to haunt me. Those were the few times when it was completely okay, even encouraged, to look ridiculous and I completely took it for granted. Participating in fun school activities should’ve been a highlight of my high school career.

9. Taken easier classes

Being on the cusp of finals week, as well as receiving transcripts to send out for scholarships and colleges, it becomes quite apparent that many of the classes I’ve been stressing over this past year were completely unnecessary. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about challenging myself but your senior year is supposed to be filled with last-minute memories, not last-minute breakdowns before class.

10. Spent more time with your friends

When I think of leaving for college I think about how hard it’ll be to leave my family, but I rarely remember that the friends that I’ve made will also be leaving and could possibly be further away from me than my family is. With goodbyes in the very near future, I’m realizing how much I’ll miss these people and how much I wish I had spent more time with them.

11. Worked on developing better study habits

When you think about it, high school is like practice and college is the big game. If only I took advantage of this “practice time” when I could. What are Cornell Notes again? Oh, and planners, uh you write in those, right?

12. Have more fun

I realize this is sort of a broad point, but this is our last year without having the added stress of college finances, internships, and other stresses that come with college. This is the last year we have to truly be a kid and let go for a whole weekend if we want. Though it’s important to get good grades, I wish I had found a way to balance this last year of high school and the last year of not having multiple responsibilities.

13. Thank the influential people in my life

I’m entitled to one sappy post, right? The one thing I ultimately wish I would’ve done my senior year is recognize and thank all of the people who have helped me get through my high school career. Whether it’s my mother, whose constant nagging ensured that I had all of my homework done in time; my sixth grade homeroom teacher, who would always compliment my writing; or even my friends, who kept me sane through some of the worst times. Before you know it, it gets too late and you can’t thank these people for the role they had in making you the person you are.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Not sure which schools to consider for your list?

When you’re ready to apply, you’ll want 8-12 schools varying from safety to reach schools. Start looking for schools now that best fit your needs and achievements.

Senioritis: it’s an affliction that befalls nearly every 12th grader (or 11th or 10th grader, depending on your high school experience). We’ve all heard the term before, and that’s probably because it’s extremely common. After all, you’ve been working hard and waking up early every morning for 4 years now—it’s no wonder you’d be chomping at the bit to get out of there!

With graduation, college, and an entirely new future on the horizon, it can be easy to daydream and slack off of instead of focusing on your classes. While it’s definitely ok to be psyched about your future, high school isn’t over just yet for you second semester seniors—and there’s still a lot that you can get out of these last few months. Read this post for tips and tricks on staying in the moment during your last (!!) semester of high school.

Maximize these last few months of senior year

Obviously, you’re going to be excited about your future — and why wouldn’t you be? In just a few short months you’ll be at college, living on your own, starting a new life. If you’ve made it to second semester of your senior year, chances are there are barely any applications, tests, or essays to worry about. Maybe you’re feeling burnt out from all the work you did throughout high school, or maybe you’re focused on other things: prom, graduation, the last summer before you go to college, what types of dorm decorations to buy…

These are all wonderful things to be thinking about! Just make sure you’re also taking the time to think about high school. After all, these are last few months where you get to see your teachers and classmates, and you can gain a lot by doing your best and making connections during this valuable time period that you’ll never get again.

Keep yourself challenged

Senior spring is a great time to keep yourself sharp so that by the time college rolls around, you’ll be ready to go! You don’t want to start your first semester of college having slacked off for several months beforehand.

Try focusing on subjects that you didn’t like so much before — since you’re likely done applying for college, the stakes are much lower and you can begin to let your curiosity guide you. You really don’t have all that much to lose (unless, of course, your GPA drops sharply, in which case your acceptances could be rescinded, so be sure to keep your grades up).

Let your curiosity guide you in these last few months. Try to use this time to think about what academic subjects you’re good at, what subjects you’d like to improve in, and what course of study you might like to pursue in college.

You can also use your senior spring to apply for scholarships, many of which have deadlines in February, March, April and May! Check out these CollegeVine posts on scholarships for more information about the application process:

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

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Senior year of college will be the most fun, most stressful, most memorable year of school for some. It certainly felt like that way for me (aka a very recent, overly sentimental college grad). And if there’s any advice I’d give to new college seniors, it would be to make the most out your senior year because you only get to do it once!

Here’s 10 things you should do to ensure you’ll leave senior year with “no regrets.”

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

1. Include people.

You want to make your senior year memorable? Do so by making it memorable for someone else. Hit up more people when making weekend plans, heading to a football game or getting together for wine night. Spending more time with more people will have you looking back a year from now and saying, “I’m glad I did it.”

Make plans as often as you can as well – Whether grabbing coffee off campus, a night dedicated to the last seasons of Lost, or a themed party to kick off the month of October – whatever it may be, make plans. A night well-planned will be a night well-remembered.

2. Network, network, network.

You know what will also make the most out of your senior year? Having a job once it ends. Applying for jobs all summer is not what I’d call the cherry on top of an awesome college experience. Start networking early on and come May, finding a job (if you don’t have one already) will be a whole lot easier. Trust me!

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

You don’t want to look back on the last year of your undergraduate career having spent so much time worrying about who did and didn’t text you back or who still owes you for pizza 4 months ago. Those things aren’t going to matter after senior year is through, so don’t let them matter while senior year still is.

4. Work hard.

When senior year rolls around, the majority of minds are usually calculating how many nights a week they can manage to go out and what’s the lowest possible grade they can receive on a test and still pass the class. Don’t fall into this trap! It’s certainly easy to, but if you work hard senior year, it’ll pay off and you’ll leave knowing you finished strong.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

5. Hang out with different crowds.

Another thing I was glad I did my senior year. Go to a bar with kids from lecture, trivia night with friends from your intramural team, or study with your neighbors on a Sunday afternoon. Though you want to enjoy senior year with your closest friends, and you certainly will, there’s always time to make for those people you spend the other half of your student life with. Who knows, they could become some of your closest friends, too.

6. Get to know your professors more.

At the end of my senior year, I met with a professor for coffee. A saw her in a completely different light. Not that I didn’t love her in class, but here she was off-the-record and simply glowing. If you’re on a comfortable, casual level with a professor, get to know them outside of class. They may surprise you like mine did and you’ll eventually be glad you built up a sort of friendship with them. (You do also owe them for having graduated!)

7. Help out the little guy.

Yes, all junior and sophomore year, the last thing you wanted to do was be seen with freshmen. But now you’re a senior, and you’re a mentor to those naive youngsters. So help them out like you wish someone had helped you out. If you have classes with mixed grades, went to high school with some new frosh or are a peer adviser at school, go out of your way and be that cool senior to a couple of freshmen.

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8. Sit down and just talk.

Having already graduated, I realize now how little I learned about some of the people I spent every week with. Not to say I didn’t know them. But I would have never known how a friend of mine started one of the most well-known charities in the U.S. if I hadn’t just sat down and talked with him for a bit. You’ll only build a stronger friendship by doing so.

9. Don’t forget to appreciate.

Friends, professors, advisers, classmates. Some of these people you may never see again (and I apologize if I’m igniting the water works here, but it’s true!!). Take a minute to sit down with them and tell them, “Thanks.” It may sound corny, but it could make a huge difference in the relationship you have with them after graduating.

10. Celebrate.

Celebrate everything that is college and senior year. The friends, the lessons, the forgotten nights and the ones that will always stick with you. Raise your glass, make a cheers to senior year, and celebrate having loved the most “amazing 4 years of your life.”

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

If you’ve invested in your education by going to college, I bet you’re feeling some pressure to have the career-defining results you hoped for. After all, you’re probably wondering how to make the most of your senior year at college?

As a senior, it’s likely that you are anxious to graduate. You are probably also questioning whether or not you’ve done everything you could to be ready for what comes next. Did you choose the right major? Is this the right career path? So many questions only you have answers to!

College is truly what you make of it. Sure you studied, but what you do with that knowledge and experience is what carves your path different from everyone else. This is true especially during senior year when you start to feel the slide. You know what I’m talking about, the feeling when you are so close that you feel SO DONE.

Here are a few things you can focus your energy on to keep that momentum. It’s important to make the most of this final year and close out your days as a student, strong! Take matters into your own hands and stay motivated instead of hoping that motivation comes to you!

Intern

Ever get caught up in that chicken versus egg conundrum where you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to gain experience? Internships are the GAME CHANGER. This experience counts! Internships offer the win-win of trying out a job for a few months or a year to see if it is a fit with you and always learning something along the way. Whether that be an understanding of the field, confirmation that you do or don’t want to pursue the career, or results in your work and what professionalism is expected in the work world.

If you’re looking for some information on what to look for in an internship? Read this blog post!

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Take advantage of leadership opportunities

If you have joined student groups that align with your interest throughout college, take opportunities to lead others in that group! More responsibilities and chances for you to problem solve, work on a team and manage only grows you in ways your older self will thank you for.

Network with people in your prospective field

Admit it, sometimes our understanding of jobs comes from what we’ve seen on TV or what mom and dad do for work. Anyone become curious about surgeons because of Grey’s Anatomy? Me too. The best way to gauge what a day in the life is actually like is to talk to someone who does the work. Make it a habit to reach out to people in your sphere of influence or using (LinkedIn, see article?) so you can learn more about yourself and the work you’re pursuing.

Build or update your LinkedIn profile

If you haven’t used this a lot in your college career, start now. LinkedIn is a way for you to show your experience and interest in your field. LinkedIn also allows you to create a network of people you strive to be like. As a daughter of a machinist and a homemaker, LinkedIn was where I was able to draw a network I wouldn’t otherwise have. Start shaking hands with people because as the saying goes ‘ it’s more about who you know than what you know’. This day and age, you CAN reach out to know as many people as you can.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Utilize your school’s Career Services

Every college campus has a career development office. If you’re feeling lost, and you might be, career concepts aren’t always a part of courses in all majors. Maximize on their expertise to coach and support you through this otherwise really stressful and foreign arena! Remember: You do not have to do it alone!

Give yourself permission to stumble

Face it, you’ve been in school for about 17 years, you’re not going to be great at the job search and career part of your journey just yet. We all like to do things, and it well. Chances are that you’ve mastered a rhythm to how you approach school, assignments, and schedules. It will take some time to find your career groove as well, and the sooner you embrace that, the less painful this change will be.

Hire a career or life coach ( up to you guys!)

You’re new to this arena and feeling lost is more so the standard than the rule. It can be stressful and you don’t have to do it alone. All great athletes have coaches, and you’ll want one for career and life as well! Coaches are in your corner to support you, challenge you, and help you focus on what it is that makes your life fulfilling and successful.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Lastly, just remember. This path is yours and success is relative. Imagine the life you want to live and let that guide your actions, not a commercial or an Instagram account. YEP. I SAID IT.

And as convenient and straight shot we would like life to work, it rarely happens this way. It’s pretty messy and never free of curveballs. Take all of them in stride.

Don’t forget: this is the youngest you’ll ever be, note the mistakes you make and let the things you go through lay the foundation on which your success story will stand. There really isn’t only one right way to navigate all of this. I’m giving you some steps to start with, but most of all, add your flair, and have as much fun in all of this as you can!

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

If you’ve invested in your education by going to college, I bet you’re feeling some pressure by your senior year to have the career-defining results you hoped for.

As a senior, it’s likely that you are anxious to graduate and you’re questioning whether or not you’ve done everything you could to be ready for what comes next. Did you choose the right major? Is this the right career path? So many questions only you have the answers to!

College is truly what you make of it. Sure you studied, but what you do with that knowledge? We all know experience is what carves your path and makes you different from everyone else. This is true especially during senior year when you start to feel the slide. You know what I’m talking about, the feeling when you are so close that you feel SO DONE.

Here are a few things you can focus your energy on to keep that momentum, make the most of your senior year and close out your days as a student, strong! I urge you to take matters into your own hands and stay motivated instead of hoping that motivation comes to you!

Intern

Have you ever gotten caught up in that chicken versus egg conundrum? You know the one where you need some experience to get a job, but you need a job to gain experience? Internships are the GAME CHANGER. This experience counts! Internships offer the win-win of trying out a job for a few months or a year to see if it is a fit with you and they allow you to learn something along the way. Whether that be an understanding of the field, confirmation that you do or don’t want to pursue the career, or improved results in your work, and a better understanding of what professionalism is.

Take advantage of leadership opportunities

If you have joined student groups that align with your interest throughout college, take opportunities to lead others in that group! More responsibilities and chances for you to problem solve, work on a team and manage only grow you in ways your older self will thank you for.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Network with people in your prospective field

Admit it, sometimes our understanding of jobs comes from what we’ve seen on TV, or what your parents/family members do for work. Has anyone else become curious about surgeons because of Grey’s Anatomy? Me too. The best way to gauge what a day in the life is actually like is to talk to someone who does the work. I suggest, making it a habit to reach out to people in your sphere of influence or using LinkedIn. The pro here is that you can learn more about yourself and the work you’re pursuing.

Build or update your LinkedIn profile

If you haven’t used this platform a lot in your college career, my suggestion is to start now. LinkedIn is a way for you to show your experience and interest in your field. It allows you to create a network of people you strive to be like. As a daughter of a machinist and a homemaker, LinkedIn was where I created a network I wouldn’t have otherwise had. During your senior year it’s important to start shaking hands with people. As the saying goes, “it’s more about who you know than what you know. This day and age, you CAN reach out to know as many people as you can.

Utilize your school’s Career Services

Every college campus has a career development office. If you’re feeling lost, and you might be, career concepts aren’t always a part of courses in all majors. There is no shame in leveraging the expertise of the career services team to coach and support you through this otherwise really stressful and foreign arena! Remember: You do not have to do it alone!

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Above all, give yourself permission to stumble

Face it, you’ve been in school for about 17 years, you’re not going to be great at the job search and career part of your journey just yet. We all like to do things and do them well. Chances are that you’ve mastered a rhythm that allows you to approach school, assignments, and schedules with excellence. It will take some time to find your career groove as well, and the sooner you embrace that, the less painful this change will be.

Hire a career or life coach

You are new to this arena and feeling lost is more so the standard than the rule. It can be stressful and you don’t have to do it alone. All great athletes have coaches, and you’ll want one for career and life as well! Coaches are in your corner to support, challenge you while helping you focus on what it is that makes your life fulfilling and successful.

Lastly, just remember. This path is yours and success is relative. Imagine the life you want to live and let that guide your actions, not a commercial or an Instagram account. YEP. I SAID IT.

While I’m sure we all hope that our senior year will be convenient or a straight shot, please know it rarely happens this way. It’s pretty messy and never free of curveballs. Take all of them in stride.

Remember, this is the youngest you’ll ever be, note the mistakes you make and let the things you go through lay the foundation on which your success story will stand. There really isn’t only one right way to navigate all of this. I’m giving you some steps to start with, but most of all, add your flair, and have as much fun as you can!

I f you are reading this, chances are you are in your last and final year of high school. After three years of hard work, fun and difficult all-nighters, the final and most important year of high school has just begun. With exams, tests, graduation, university and college applications, it can all start to get a little bit overwhelming. If you want this to be the best year of your high school career, here are a few helpful tips to make the most of your senior year!

  • WORK HARD

Work hard! Work hard! Work hard! I’m sure you’ve all heard it, but this is the year where grades matter the most. Set goals and work hard to reach them! Whether it has to do with getting a scholarship or getting an A on your next test, work hard and work effectively to accomplish the goals you’ve set out for yourself. Make sure you don’t catch a little case of senioritis – you’re still in school, so try not to slack off too much. Try not to throw yourself into an endless spiral of worrying – grades are important, but not to the point where they’re consuming your life.

  • STRIKE A BALANCE

Too much of anything is never good, so it’s important to strike a balance in your life. It is important to learn how to manage your social and academic life with your personal life and to enjoy everything in moderation. Organize yourself; make a schedule and maybe even allocate some time every day to yourself for your social life. Do what works for you. Leading a balanced lifestyle is bound to reap more success!

  • GIVE BACK

Often we can get caught up with the business of our lives, but volunteering and giving back to the community helps us all remain grounded. We all should want to do something meaningful considering it’s our last year in high school. Volunteering could be a great opportunity to do something worthwhile. This could range from hosting a large-scale charity event to even tutoring a younger student. Not only would we be giving back to the community but, as individuals, it’ll allow us to get out of our own bubble and have the opportunity to meet new people and make a difference at the same time.

Hopefully these few tips gave you a little insight on how to make the most of your senior year. Remember to enjoy your last months of high school.

The summer after junior year is absolute bliss. You’ve made it! You’re finally at the top of your high school. You weathered what everyone told you would be the most difficult year. You survived being an underclassman. Life is good.

But as senior year beckons, so do college applications. As you begin to fall prey to the stress of applying to college and planning your next steps in life, senior year becomes just another hoop to jump through. And, it becomes too easy to start living in the future instead focusing on all of the glorious opportunities afforded by senior year. The temptation is to act as if senior year doesn’t even matter, that college is much more important. Maybe I’m suffering from an early case of “senioritis,” but it seems hard to focus on the present when there’s such an amazing future out there.

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I need to slow down and appreciate senior year. This is the year I’ve been looking forward to since I started high school, the year when I can use all of the knowledge and perspective to truly come into my own. So, I hereby resolve to live in the moment and make the most of my senior year, before I am thrust into the all-too-real world of college. I urge you to do the same. Here are five things I plan to keep in mind to make the most of my senior year of high school.

1. Start Something
Throughout high school, you have had the chance to develop and hone your interests. As you prepare to start the next chapter of your life, what better way to make the most of your senior year than by starting something that encompasses and reflects your passions. If you love music, start a club at school for fellow music lovers. Passionate about running, put on a running training camp for aspiring young runners. Enjoy community service? Start a non-profit that benefits a cause meaningful to you. The opportunities are endless, but if you identify your passion, and launch something around it, you are sure to be using your energy thinking about the present instead of getting caught-up in the future!

2. Take a class that challenges you in a new way
You’ve completed all of the required courses, why not take a class in something completely different? If you’re a History/English person, consider taking a class in evolutionary biology. If you’re a math geek, try a drawing class. Placing yourself in a slightly uncomfortable environment will help keep you focused on the present while you learn something new. and different. If you don’t have room in your school schedule for another class, try taking up something new outside of school, like rock-climbing, the guitar, or auto repairs.

3. Make space from college
In order to ensure that college talk doesn’t dominate your life, create a designated space for it! Agree with your friends and family that you’ll only talk about college on certain days of the week (or at certain times of day). If you’re hanging out with friends and notice the conversation drifting back to the all-too-familiar discussion of test scores, applications, and “the future,” try to re-direct it to something more present focused. There’s a time and a place for college discussions, but give yourself (and your family) a break!

4. Be a leader and a mentor
You’ve paid your dues, been a follower. Freshman year you joined clubs and activities, excited about the opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. Now that you’re a senior, embrace leadership opportunities with open arms and use your experience to help groom the next generation of leaders. Find a couple of freshman to mentor. Do your best to help ease their transition into high school. By doing this, you’ll have a positive impact on someone else’s life and make a sound investment in your high school community.

5. Reconnect with your friends and family
With the unrelenting stress of the high school years, it’s easy to get caught up in work and extra-curricular activities and forget to make time for the people who truly matter, your friends and family. Before college comes around, make an effort to reconnect with those from whom you have drifted apart. Reconnecting will help appreciate everything you have in the present and ensure that when you go off to college you’ll have a robust support network of friends and family.

Use these five tips, or find your own unique ways, but do your best to get excited about senior year, not only because it means the end of high school but because you still have so much more to learn. Senior year isn’t just about transition, it gives you the opportunity to put the finishing touches on the “you” of today before you tackle a brave new world.

    by LANG Development Group – August 24, 2018 Comments Off on How To Make The Most Of Your Senior Year Of College

How To Make The Most Of Your Senior Year Of College

School is starting back up any day now and you want to make the most out of your senior year. When you’re in college, it might feel like these are the last official days of your youth before adulthood slaps you with reality.

If you want to have the best senior year of college ever follow these tips.

Opt for off campus student housing

When you live on campus in student housing, you have to worry about RAs, dorm housing, and never being able to find a parking spot. Sure, you’re living on your own, but you’re not really autonomous.

If you really want to make the most of your senior year, opt for off campus student housing options. There are great options for apartments for rent in Newark DE and the Lang Development Group. If you’re worried you won’t be able to find student rental units off campus, keep in mind that nearly 2,654 renters enter the market each day looking for new rental units. When you’re looking for apartments for students, you’ll have no trouble finding a great option near campus to live independently. Not only will you get a better idea of what it’s like to live on your own, you’ll be able to get out from under the thumb of your college.

Find professional references

Senior year isn’t all play, as much as we hate to admit it. To find a good job after college, it’s time to start lining up your professional references. These might be mentors you’ve met throughout your college career, or they might be trusted professors. If you’ve completed any internships or research throughout your college career, there are other great options for professional references. Even though you think you can write their name down, you must talk to them first to get their permission and be sure to let them know when you apply for a job. There’s nothing worse than getting a phone call about someone else when you least expect it.

Take advantage of every opportunity

Your senior year may be the last time you attend college. As such, it’s important to take advantage of all the opportunities you are presented with (as long as they’re safe!). While you shouldn’t go BASE jumping with a friend, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask that cute person in the library on a date. That class you always wanted to take but it wasn’t in your major? As long as it fits in your schedule, take it! You never know when you’ll be able to take classes like these again.

Graduating college can be a scary and exciting time. To make the most out of your senior year, don’t hesitate to follow these tips. Call Lang Development Group today if you’re looking for off campus student housing to make your senior year successful.

How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

Even in the best of economic times, there are compelling reasons for college seniors to begin their job search as early as possible.

In fact, ideally, college students should take steps to lay the foundation for an effective search as early as the second semester of their freshman year. If you aren’t in the minority who got such an early start, don’t dismay since most of the proper steps can still be taken.

Even if you’re a senior who hasn’t done much yet, don’t panic, semester break is an excellent time to work on job hunting. It’s never too late to get a job search started.

Here are some of the best ways to get a head start on finding postgraduate employment:

12 Tips for Starting a College Senior Job Search

1. Figure Out What You Want To Do

Most college students are uncertain about their career aspirations. Employers are wary of unfocused candidates and fearful that they will invest resources in training only to find that the recent hire has discovered that they would prefer another field. The process of deciding on a career can be quite time-consuming and often involves extensive research.

Meeting with career counselors prior to senior year for assessment will be a critical step for most college students.

Effective career decision-making will involve career research through online resources, counseling sessions, informational interviews, and experimentation through volunteer and work experiences.

Ideally, these activities will begin early in a student’s college career.

2. Utilize Your Career Services Office

Most college career offices are open during the summer and will be less busy at that time. If you can find time for a call or meeting prior to your senior year, you’ll have a head start. If not, make an appointment as soon as you can. Here’s how your career office can help you search for a job, internship, or other post-grad planning.

3. Get Help From Faculty and Staff

College faculty often play an influential role in the hiring process by introducing current students to former students and other professional contacts. Ideally, students will deliberately nurture relationships with faculty over the four years of college so that faculty referrals will be a natural outgrowth of a close personal bond.

4. Refine Your Resume and Cover Letters

Incorporate senior year honors and experiences to keep your documents up to date. Make sure your communications have been reviewed by career staff and other trusted contacts.

5. Create a Robust LinkedIn Profile

Employers and networking partners will expect you to have a profile on LinkedIn and will review it for cues about your qualifications. Incorporate recommendations, endorsements of your skills, samples of your work, and descriptions of your experiences that emphasize your accomplishments and value added.

Join LinkedIn groups for your college and interest areas and reach out to professionals for information and advice.

6. Start Building Your Career Network

Career experts universally agree that networking is one of the most effective strategies for college students to secure employment. It is highly recommended that students reach out to family friends, college alumni, and local professionals for informational interviews well in advance of their senior year.

These meetings will enable them to gain clarity about their goals, practice responding to questions about their background, impress contacts with the viability of their credentials, and form personal relationships with employees who can influence hiring decisions. It will be difficult to arrange and participate in the optimal number of these consultations while on campus, and it often takes time for these connections to yield interviews.

7. Tap Into Campus Recruiting Programs

Campus recruiting for many fields—including finance, accounting, banking, consulting, engineering, computer technology, and various management training programs—begins early in the senior year.

It will be challenging for students to compose resumes and cover letters, practice interviewing, and learn effective job-search techniques while they attend class, complete assignments, and participate in sporting and club activities. I recommend that students begin work on these tasks the summer before their senior year or during their junior year.

8. Take Advantage of Off-Campus Job Searching

Most college students will not find jobs through campus recruiting since these programs tend to serve the needs of the most competitive students in disciplines that are in high demand. The typical graduate will need to target jobs and employers in locations of their choice and travel to those sites for interviews. Targeting these employers and preparing materials with the help of college career offices in advance of senior year is likely to prove quite beneficial.

9. Consider an Internship as a Path to a Job

More and more employers are utilizing their internship programs as a mechanism for evaluating talent through firsthand exposure. Even those employers who do not recruit heavily from their own internship programs look for candidates with related experience since internships will confirm student interest in the field, provide the opportunity for skill development, and yield concrete evidence of the candidate’s ability to excel in a work setting.

If you haven’t taken on any internships prior to senior year, consider doing an internship during your senior year or the summer following your graduation. Current involvement in an internship will provide you with additional talking points as you make your case with employers during or after your senior year.

10. Find Time To Job Shadow

Job shadowing experiences whereby students observe the work of professionals in fields of interest, sample work environments, and vicariously try on various work roles are an excellent way to make contacts, impress employers, and explore a broad range of occupations if begun early on. Colleges often target underclass students for these programs and use them as a device to spur involvement with the office.

11. Maintain Close Contact with Past Employers and References

Make sure that those who can vouch for your skills and character are well informed about your latest interests and accomplishments. Stop by in person whenever possible to refresh relationships.

Share your resume and LinkedIn profile so these contacts can see how you are representing yourself. Ask for referrals to other professionals in areas of interest. Your past employers, coaches, and faculty can provide your most powerful introductions based on firsthand knowledge of your assets.

12. Establish a Positive Social Media Presence

Make sure that the image that you convey through online resources like Facebook and Instagram doesn’t cast doubts about your professionalism. Eliminate any content that represents excessive indulgence in drugs or alcohol on your part.

By Bert Gervais, founder, Success Mentor Education.

So you finally mustered the nerve to ask a mentor for a cup of coffee. You’re sweating. You can feel pressure mounting. She strolls through the Starbucks door holding an Americano with two pumps of hazelnut in one hand and years of experience in the other.

Here are 10 questions you can ask her to take the pressure off you and make the most of your meeting:

  1. How do you spend most of your time? Ask this question for one reason only — digging. Does your mentor have children, a favorite charity she supports, or an addiction to a particular Mediterranean cuisine? Most people who ask for advice never take the time to build an authentic connection. Gathering these answers will allow you to follow up with relevant articles, magazine clippings for passion projects, or recipes for your mentor, who will appreciate hearing from you. Givers gain.
  2. What would you do if you were me? Don’t waste your time looking to impress your mentor with how smart you are. Tell them about your specific challenges, and ask for their recommendations.

  • How can I help you? This is a killer question that catches most mentors off guard. Most mentees are only concerned about what they can take from a mentor. When you communicate that you are genuinely willing to give, you will set yourself miles apart from everyone else. Who doesn’t like a win/win relationship?
  • Is this where you thought you would end up? This question usually draws out a hearty laugh, as few people shoot from point A to point B. Most experienced professionals take the scenic route in their career. How they got there is usually an interesting tale with mistakes and revelations. Learn from them.
  • What used to be your biggest weaknesses? This whopper of a question will tell you right away if someone will make a good mentor. A good answer reveals the number one trait of a great mentor — self-awareness. If you feel this question is too intense, try softening it by asking, “What did you learn about yourself in the last six months?”
  • Who else would you recommend I connect with? This question might be better served for later meetings when there is more trust. It can exponentially expand your network. Sometimes the best source for other mentors is your existing one.
  • What are you most proud of? Give your mentor a chance to shine. He/she will love you for it.
  • What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways? No one becomes a rising star in any industry without going to the right conferences and trade associations. A good mentor can help you filter out the best ones, and if you’re lucky, get you access to coveted “invite only” insider groups.
  • Anything FORM. Form is an acronym for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation, and it represents four universal rapport-builders. For example, you might find out that you have a location-based connection with your mentor after asking about his family or birthplace. Connection made!
  • If a specific question comes up, can I follow up with you? This is your Holy Grail question. Have you ever met someone who has mastered the dating scene? You’ll notice they never leave the first date without the promise of a second one — ever. Never leave a mentor meeting without the promise of a future encounter. You are also communicating that you will only reach out with a relevant and specific question. Most people will agree to that. When the time does come up, simply refer back to the email chain.
  • Bert Gervais, a.k.a. “The Mentor Guy”, is the founder of Success Mentor Education. He is a national best selling author, speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. You can follow him @BertGervais

    The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

    Every high school senior encounters some of these problems. Find out how to avoid common mistakes for a more successful year.

    Your senior year of high school is a busy time. Between taking tests like the SAT and ACT, worrying about your GPA and transcript, doing your college search, sending out your applications and waiting to find out about admissions at your colleges and universities, it’s understandable that you would be tempted to put all that school stuff aside and have fun with your friends.

    But keep your eyes on the education prize. Balance is key: Take breaks to recharge and have fun, but don’t let senioritis overtake you and make your college options slip away.

    When you feel less motivated to study, remind yourself that every good grade gets you closer to finding a college that offers a great program in the major you want.

    Finding a balance between having fun, studying for your courses and planning for your next life step is a great way to start preparing for college, since you will be called upon to do this during your college years.

    To help you stay focused, we’ve compiled 10 of the top mistakes students make during their senior year so you can make sure you don’t make them.

    1. Skipping Classes

    Choosing to skip classes could mean missing valuable information for upcoming tests. And don’t forget to think ahead to university classes: Information you’ll need for your major in your college program may be covered during a high school lecture you miss.

    2. Thinking Second Semester Grades Don’t Count

    Many universities look at your second semester grades, so keep that GPA up and keep taking those AP/IB and honors classes. Admissions departments at many colleges and universities have been known to rescind the acceptance letters of students who drop their tough classes or let their GPA sink dramatically due to senior slump.

    3. Falling for “Senioritis”

    A bit of restlessness during your senior year is to be expected, but don’t let yourself lose motivation, procrastinate or slack off completely. Letting yourself get physically or emotionally run down can ruin your senior year and make you less prepared for getting a college degree.

    4. Getting Too Overwhelmed

    Senior year means juggling everything from the prom and parties to college essays and AP tests. You’ll get through it all if you take a step back and prioritize your time: Make lists and timelines to keep track of all of your deadlines and make sure you get it all done.

    5. Confusing Your Priorities

    Planning for college doesn’t mean you can forget about your current obligations. In class, that means making sure your transcript is full of good grades in all of your subjects, not just the ones you think are easier or more relevant to your intended degree. Outside of class, that means not dropping your extracurricular activities or work if those activities will benefit you financially or personally.

    6. Forgetting to Study

    Keep up on your assignments, even after a tough week. While you’re taking time off, there’s another student going for your spot at the schools you’re applying to who isn’t. When you feel less motivated to study, remind yourself that every good grade gets you closer to finding a college that offers a great program in the major you want. Keep your eyes on the prize!

    7. Mismanaging Your Time

    Be realistic about your current workload. While you know how long it takes you to write a paper or study for a test under normal conditions, all the pressures of senior year could make you work more slowly or give you more distractions. To stay on top of your assignments, calculate how long you think something will take you, and then double it. Triple it, if time allows. That way you’ll have ample time to get your work done even if something comes up for the colleges you’re applying to.

    8. Daydreaming About Your Future Too Much

    Your mind now might be wandering, thinking around about degrees, majors, MBA programs, possible careers, study abroad and many other things. These are all exciting future possibilities, but don’t forget the here and now. Devoting too much time daydreaming when you have homework and reading to do could seriously curtail those future plans.

    9. Blowing Off “Less Important” Work

    Don’t be fooled by the idea that a second paper or a midterm quiz doesn’t make that much of a difference. Everything counts. Even if something is only worth ten percent of your grade, take it seriously. That extra ten percent might be what pushes you into a college slot over the next applicant.

    10. Failing to Use Available Resources

    Teachers know about all the challenges you’re facing during this busy time, and many of them are nice enough to offer extra help during the second half of senior year. This help can be in the form of extra office hours, a review of topics covered, study guides, sample exams, or other tools to help you improve your grade. Take advantage of them.

    With a rapidly growing aging population, securing Social Security funds is now more crucial than ever. But how did we get here in the first place? USA TODAY

    There’s no shortage of life hacks. You can find, for instance, efficient ways to slice frozen butter or clean grout or fix flip-flops. The list goes on and on.

    But what about Social Security? Are there ways for you to optimize your lifetime or monthly Social Security benefits? Are there hacks for what represents roughly 33% of a retiree’s total income, and even more for lower-income beneficiaries?

    There sure are, say experts.

    Earn income

    Social Security calculates what’s called your average indexed monthly earnings for the 35 years in which you earned the most. Social Security applies a formula to those earnings and arrives at your basic benefit, or primary insurance amount (PIA). Your PIA is how much you would receive at your full retirement age — 65 or older, depending on your date of birth.

    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    Social Security calculates what’s called your average indexed monthly earnings for the 35 years in which you earned the most. (Photo: Getty Images)

    So, the key to increasing your monthly benefit is to replace the low-income years that are included in the 35-year calculation with higher-income years.

    “Social Security rewards higher lifetime average earnings,” says Andy Landis, author of “Social Security: The Inside Story.”

    “Increase your earnings per year or increase the years you work,” he says.

    Delay, delay, delay

    Social Security retirement benefits are increased by a certain percentage (depending on date of birth) if you delay your retirement beyond full retirement age or FRA. The benefit increase no longer applies when you reach age 70, even if you continue to delay taking benefits.

    “The later you start your Social Security, up to age 70, the more you’ll get per month, says Landis. “And if you live to at least average life expectancy, you’ll get a higher lifetime payout too.”

    Social Security refers to this as delayed retirement credits or DRC.

    Use an online calculator

    Consider using any number of software programs and online calculators to model how best to maximize your Social Security benefit.

    “There are so many moving parts in the Social Security filing process that it can be very confusing,” David Freitag, a financial planning consultant and Social Security expert with MassMutual.

    “For example, a married couple both turning 62, has 81 different age combinations to consider. Software can show which key variables drive the payout numbers.”

    For his part, Joe Elsasser, president of Covisum, which developed a software program called Social Security Timing, recommends making your decision when to claim based on the lifetime value of Social Security benefits, not just the monthly benefit amount.

    According to Elsasser, the lifetime benefit considers how much you will receive from Social Security based on when you elect, coupled with how long you will receive benefits based on a reasonable estimate of your longevity, paired with the longevity of other members of the household.

    Social Security offers a number of calculators on its website , some of which can help you estimate your lifetime benefits.

    Determine your life expectancy?

    Longevity is the true wild card in calculating when to claim Social Security, says Freitag. “Those with a history of longevity in their family, and who have a healthy lifestyle, should consider waiting to file for benefits. Those with a history of low longevity in their family should consider filing early.”

    Undo Social Security benefits

    Social Security will let you “withdraw” your original application for retirement benefits within the 12 months of the date you first claimed your benefits, according to Landis.

    You have to repay all the money you received but then you can restart your Social Security, right then or later, and get more per month. This is great if you come into some money, like a new job, after your Social Security starts.”

    You would start the process by completing Social Security form SSA-521.

    Note too that if you miss a filing date window, everyone is allowed a six-month look back.

    “Using this six-month retroactive look back takes some of the pressure off on making a filing mistake,” says Freitag.

    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    Social Security will let you “withdraw” your original application for retirement benefits within the 12 months of the date you first claimed your benefits, according to Landis. (Photo: Getty Images)

    Suspend payments

    Anyone from FRA to 70 can voluntarily suspend their own Social Security payments for any number of months, up to age 70, says Landis. “When payments restart they’ll be higher,” he says.

    One caution: Stopping your own payments could also stop any spousal or child payments on your record.

    Restrict your Social Security application

    A little-known trick to optimize your Social Security benefits is called restricted application, says Lloyd Sacks, a certified financial planner with Sacks & Associates Wealth Management.

    If you or your spouse were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, you may be able to use this strategy wherein you or your spouse collect a spousal benefit based on the other’s earnings record, thereby delaying the individual benefit and allowing it to continue to grow.

    Coordinate your benefits

    According to Landis, you might be eligible for two or more kinds of Social Security payments, your own, spousal, survivors, widow’s, or more.

    “By properly coordinating and timing your various benefits you can substantially increase your lifetime payout,” he says. “It’s complicated, but online services will guide you.”

    Others share this point of view. “When married couples file, they need to look at their combined benefits and make decisions as a couple and not as individuals, says Freitag. “Spousal and survivor benefits can play a big role in the Social Security maximization process. When and how each person files can impact the total payout for both husband and wife. This should be a coordinated decision.”

    Experts also recommend not making your decision in a vacuum.

    “The impact of one decision on the household can be significant on spousal benefits, dependent benefits, and widow(er) benefits,” Elsasser says.

    What’s more, consider other assets such as IRAs and other sources of income, and the tax implications, when deciding when to claim Social Security.

    Learn how Social Security works

    Knowledge is power and knowledge of your actual Social Security earnings history and benefit estimates are essential to increasing your benefit.

    And learn how the Social Security works. “Do some fact-finding, gain an understanding about how the system works, and make your choices that best support your unique situation,” says Freitag.

    The summer is drawing to a close and school is here once again. Instead of dreading your return, start preparing now for your most productive semester yet. Here are 10 tricks for doing just that.

    10. Start Off on the Right Foot

    Transitioning your brain from “summer fun” mode to “productive work” mode can seem like a daunting task. If you want to set the stage for a good semester, though, you need to start off on the right foot: hit the ground running on day one (or even before). Get good rest, eat right, but most importantly, get to your classes early and plan your week before the year kicks off. The more organized you are on day one, the better off you’ll be the rest of the semester. Photo by Micah Sittig .

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    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    9. Stock Up on (Quality) Supplies

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    8. Use Your Student Discounts

    As you stock up for the year, whether it be on tech, school supplies, or software, remember to use those student discounts. Often, the best discounts come straight from your student union , but you can get a ton of things cheaply with a .EDU email address too (including some web services ).

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    7. Prepare for Dorm Life

    If you’re headed off to college or boarding school, you’ve got more than just school to worry about: you’ve got the dorms as well. Luckily, living in the dorms isn’t bad as long as you know how to manage it. Make sure you’re using your space well , especially when it comes to your cramped desk . Learn the art of being a good roommate (and, if you have a horrible roommate, learn how to deal with them effectively ). Make good use of your RA (seriously, you hear it a lot but it’s totally true) and—perhaps most importantly of all— master the art of low-effort cooking for those late-night study sessions. Photo by Daniel Borman .

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    6. Master the Art of Speed Reading

    You’re going to have a lot of reading to do this year, and the faster you can absorb that information, the more efficiently you can study. If you want to read faster, stop saying the words in your head as you read and focus on the words in the middle of sentences . (Some prefer using the third word rule or clustering words together —find what works for you). If you want a bit of extra practice, try using an app like Speed Reader Enhanced or ZAP Reader . Photo by Katerha .

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    5. Perfect Your Note-Taking Techniques

    Now that you’ve sped up your reading, it’s time to brush up on some of those must-have productivity skills. In school, it all comes down to note taking. You may have worked out a perfect system over the past few years, or your notes may have slowly gotten more convoluted, disorganized, or (in worst cases) non-existent. Check out our back to basics guide on how to take effective notes before the school year starts and be ready for any lecture. Photo by Tim Regan .

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    4. Create a To-Do List That Actually Works

    Is your to-do list a collection of scribbled notes on Post-Its, notebooks, and three different smartphone apps? Start with a clean slate this semester and make your to-do list doable . Pick the right medium and stick with it, make your tasks simple but actionable, and make sure you actually get stuff done every day. If you follow one method and stick to it, it matters less what that method is—if you deviate too often, no method will be useful to you. Photo by Juhan Sonin .

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    The to-do list is the crux of your daily productivity, but between all the task management apps out

    3. Kick Distractions to the Curb

    When you’re trying to study, anything can be a distraction—from your friends playing foosball down the hall to Facebook beckoning you to waste time. If you struggle with distractions when you work, it’s time to take some more drastic measures. Audit your time and see where you’re wasting it, and tackle the problem at the source. Friends constantly bugging you? Put on some big headphones and tell them not to distract you. Facebook calling your name? Block time-wasting web sites during study hours. I’ve also found that it helps to program my day with breaks in them—that way, those breaks (and the studying) become habit over time. Photo by Nina Matthews Photography .

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    Even though you’re still busy working, the year before retirement is a key time to review your finances and make decisions that will affect the rest of your life.

    You need to take specific financial steps to ensure the comfortable and worry-free retirement you’ve always imagined. Make sure to address each of the tasks below before you savor your retirement cake in the break room and collect your last paycheck.

    Key Takeaways

    • The last year before retirement is a crucial time to set yourself up financially for the transition.
    • Be sure to prep a budget, set up your portfolio to produce enough income, understand Medicare, and decide when to claim Social Security.
    • It’s also a good time to refinance your mortgage, if this is the right move for you.
    • Finally, to prepare emotionally, figure out what you plan to do with your time in retirement.

    Create or Update Your Retirement Budget

    Put together a detailed monthly budget estimating your expenses during your first year of retirement. Then do the math to make sure you can afford to withdraw from your retirement accounts the amount you’ll need to fund your spending after accounting for any other sources of retirement income you might have, such as Social Security or a pension. Plan to withdraw enough to meet minimum distribution requirements and avoid tax penalties but not more than you need.

    You don’t want to have money sitting in a checking account that you can afford to keep investing in a tax-advantaged retirement account. And unless your account is a Roth IRA, with no taxes due on withdrawals, you don’t want to pay more in taxes on distributions each year than you have to.  

    If your estimated budget comes up short, better to find out while you’re still working. You might be able to postpone retirement if you need to save more⁠—if not, at least you have time to rework your budget before you start spending.

    Adjust Your Portfolio for Income

    Which retirement withdrawal rate will you use to make sure you don’t outlive your assets? Three percent? Four percent? Which investments will you sell each year to achieve that withdrawal rate? And are your assets allocated so that you won’t have to sell investments at a loss for retirement income in a down market?

    If you need help answering these questions, don’t be afraid to spend money getting a few hours of advice from a professional financial planner. You don’t have to hire someone indefinitely, and you don’t have to turn over your assets for an advisor to manage.

    While your portfolio needs a margin of safety, beware of playing it too safe.

    Your retirement portfolio needs to sustain you for perhaps three decades, which means there’s no need to sell all your stocks the day you retire. And if you think average returns during your retirement years will be lower than historical returns, you definitely don’t want to have too much of your retirement portfolio allocated to cash or bonds. Your returns won’t be high enough to sustain your portfolio long term.

    Learn How Medicare Works

    Without employer-provided health insurance, if you’re 65 or older you’ll be relying on Medicare in retirement.   Educate yourself about Medicare’s four parts, what each covers, when to sign up, and how much you’ll pay in premiums. Learn which coverage gaps you might face and whether your existing providers accept Medicare. Prepare to have the best coverage for you at a price you can afford and start learning about your new insurance before you have to use it, so you understand how it works and are less likely to face unpleasant surprises.

    Depending on how Medicare compares with the coverage you have now, you may want to time elective procedures strategically for while you’re still working to save money. And for things you need that Medicare doesn’t cover but your employer might—such as dental procedures, glasses, and contact lenses—take care of them now.  

    Refinance Your Mortgage (Maybe)

    If you were thinking about refinancing your mortgage, you may want to do it now, as getting approved may be easier when you’re still employed. It’s not that you can’t be approved once you’re retired, but it’s a different process. Lenders calculate what you can afford based on your retirement assets using an asset drawdown or asset depletion method.

    If you have ample retirement assets, qualifying may be a snap. If you don’t, you may need to get a loan now. If you fall somewhere in between, be aware that while you might qualify to refinance after retirement based on your assets (plus any income from Social Security or a pension), you might not qualify to borrow as much as you will while you still have income from work.

    Don’t feel pressured to follow the conventional advice to pay off your mortgage before you retire. Dumping extra cash into your home means that money isn’t available for other purposes. If you later need to borrow against your home because you need that money back, you might pay a rate that’s higher than what you’re currently paying.

    Decide When to Claim Social Security Benefits

    If you haven’t started collecting Social Security benefits already, figure out when you’ll do so. Do you need the money as soon as you retire, or would you rather wait? The government bases your monthly check amount on whether you’ve reached full retirement age (or are past it, up to age 70, when you get maximum payments).   Think about your health and your family history; you won’t necessarily come out ahead overall by waiting for that bigger check.

    And read up on how your other sources of retirement income can affect the taxability of your Social Security benefits. Taxes on taxes? Yup. That’s Uncle Sam for you.

    Figure out How You’ll Spend Your Time

    To avoid the depression that might accompany not being around coworkers and not having a sense of purpose from going to work every day, make detailed plans for how you’ll structure your days. Think about what will give you feelings of accomplishment and pleasure once you’re retired.

    At first, you might not be able to get enough of sleeping in and catching up on all those movies you never had time to watch. However, after a while, you might feel restless or unmoored unless you do things. Think about joining meetup groups to socialize and do interesting activities, volunteering with charities whose work is meaningful to you, pursuing hobbies to the level of real mastery and expertise, even going into business for yourself.

    Also, know that retirement has stages. Plan ahead for how you want to spend the first years after you leave work and what you think you may want to do later.

    The Bottom Line

    The last year before you retire can be a busy time and an emotional one. You might be trying to wrap up projects at work and hand off responsibilities to others. You might also be cementing relationships with coworkers that you hope to continue once you leave the workplace.

    But be sure to use your free time now to do the required research and, if you need help, meet with a financial planner to set yourself up financially. Handling these tasks upfront will set you up to enjoy the worry-free retirement you deserve.

    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    Most parents expect their child’s college education to be full of major expenses. However, senior year of high school can also run up quite a tab for families.

    Continue Reading Below

    From prom to SAT tests to graduation, parents can budget to help make sure their child has a reasonable, but memorable final year in high school.

    To get an idea of what costs will be incurred during senior year, Patricia Seaman, senior director of marketing and communications at the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), said to check with the school before the year begins.

    “I am just through my oldest child’s senior year, and as a parent you’ve got your eye on college as the big expense,” Seaman said. “There are a lot of expenses senior year that I hadn’t thought about.”

    This year of costs can also present parents with the opportunity to teach their child about budgeting, she said.

    “You can bring your senior student into discussions and start teaching them how to make choices in a budget,” Seaman said. “You can’t have all of the things you want, and that mimics real life.”

    Here are some of the things parents can expect to take out their checkbooks for during their child’s senior year:

    Senior pictures. While some schools allow students to have standard photos taken that parents can choose to purchase or not, others opt for more expensive portraits during students’ final year.

    “For professional photographers, it can be like wedding pictures,” Seaman said. “I saw packages for between $200 and $500 in our district and comparable offers throughout the country.”

    Depending on what type of photos your child has taken it can cost anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars, NEFE estimates.

    Yearbooks. Most yearbooks will cost around $100, NEFE said, however many schools also offer advertisement space within the books that families can purchase for public well wishes. Seaman said these ads can start around $25 for a quarter of a page and can run up to about $200 for a full page spread. Many schools also allow parents to submit photos for these ads and make a scrapbook page for their child.

    Class rings. Ring prices can greatly vary depending on the style and material your child orders, Seaman said. These can often cost $200 and up, NEFE said.

    Dances. Many schools offer some type of fall homecoming celebration, as well as winter and spring dances. The biggest celebration — and biggest expense for many parents — is prom, Seaman said. Tickets for dances can be around $40 or $50, and from there, depending on the dress, tuxedo, limo, flowers and more can add up to hundreds of dollars. NEFE said the average American family with a high school student attending prom last year planned to spend $807 on prom-related costs, including formal wear, hair and makeup, flowers, photos, limousines and prom tickets.

    College application fees. Many schools charge around $30 or $40 per application, Seaman said. While these fees aren’t sky-high, parents can keep costs down further by limiting how many schools children can apply to, or by visiting some campuses in advance to narrow down the list.

    SAT, AP and ACT tests. Some students take the SAT and ACT tests several times, running these costs up. The SAT test costs around $50 to take, and Seaman said her own daughter’s AP tests in school were $87 each. This does not include prep courses or costs.

    Graduation. Students often need to either rent or buy their cap, gown and tassel to wear on graduation day for around $50. Keep in mind, costs don’t end theresummer will bring on a wave of graduation parties, and for many students, college is only a few short months away.

    Here’s how to really benefit from your retirement savings.

    Not everyone has access to a 401(k), but if your employer offers one, you have a great opportunity to build a substantial nest egg for the future. That’s because 401(k)s offer much higher annual contribution limits than IRAs. Currently, you can sock away up to $19,500 annually if you’re under the age of 50, and if you’re 50 or older, that limit increases to $26,000. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to get the most out of your 401(k).

    1. Contribute enough to snag your full employer match

    A large number of employers that offer 401(k)s also match employee contributions to some degree, and that’s effectively free money going into your account. Be sure to find out what your company’s match looks like so you contribute enough to take advantage of it. Keep in mind that matches are often dished out as a percentage of salary, so your employer might, for example, match up to 3% of yours. If you earn $50,000 a year, it means you’ll need to contribute $1,500 from your own earnings to get $1,500 from your employer.

    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

    Now, imagine you get an extra $1,500 from your employer every year in your 401(k) over a 20-year period. If you invest that money at an average annual 7% return, which is likely if you load up on stock investments, you’ll wind up with an extra $61,500 in savings just from the money your employer put in.

    2. Choose the right investments

    Your goal in setting up your 401(k) investments should be to maximize your gains while minimizing your fees, and stock-based index funds are a good way to do both. With a 401(k), you get to choose between actively managed mutual funds and index funds, which aren’t overseen by highly paid people, but rather, track existing market indexes, like the S&P 500. As such, the fees you’ll pay for index funds are substantially lower than what you’ll pay for actively managed funds, and the lower your fees, the less they eat into your returns.

    Keep in mind that your 401(k) will generally offer both stock and bond funds, but with the latter, you’ll usually see much lower returns than with the former. If you’re within a few years of retirement, focusing on bond funds is a good idea. But if you’re a long way off from that milestone, you’re better off loading up on stocks. The reason? You have time to ride out the market’s ups and downs, and if you play it safer by choosing bonds, you may not get the returns in your account you’re hoping for.

    3. Consider a Roth

    Not every 401(k) has a Roth savings feature, but if yours does, it pays to take advantage of it. With a traditional 401(k), your contributions go in tax-free, which is a nice way to reap some near-term savings, but then your withdrawals in retirement are subject to taxes. Roth 401(k)s work the opposite way — you don’t get a tax break on your contributions, but your withdrawals in retirement aren’t taxed, and that’s a huge benefit to be privy to when you’re older. Also, whereas higher earners are barred from contributing to a Roth IRA, that restriction doesn’t apply to Roth 401(k)s — you can earn as much as you’d like and still fund one.

    The savvier you are in managing your retirement savings, the more financial security you’re apt to buy yourself as a senior. Make these smart 401(k) moves, and with any luck, you’ll be sitting pretty once retirement rolls around.

    How to Get the Most out of Your Senior Year

    If you’ve recently started your career as an entry-level engineer somewhere, you’re probably wondering what steps you’ll need to take to climb the ladder. Is it simply a matter of time? Do you have to go back to school or get a special certification?”

    The answer to all of the above is the same: “Not necessarily.” Even though formal education may help you advance up the ranks, I know many developers who have reached “senior” status with a college degree—and no additional schooling.

    While some people advocate for a move toward standardization, others feel that not having strict requirements helps the profession remain more egalitarian and open to non-traditional means of education. Only 41% of software engineers have a Computer Science degree, and 47% of professional web developers do not have a four-year degree at all. With such a large portion of professionals in the industry coming from non-standard backgrounds, it’s not surprising that there aren’t standard paths to promotions either. Besides, engineering encompasses so many skills that it may not be realistic to build a single test that proves you’re ready for an advanced role.

    So, an individual’s progression through titles is mostly dependent on his or her employer’s preference and practice. Some companies are very rigid in their career tracks, while others are more loosely structured. That said, there are some traits that almost all senior engineers have, so it’s worth your time to develop them.

    1. They Have Strong Debugging Skills

    Senior engineers don’t necessarily write bug-free code—that’s an impossible standard for any one person—but they do have the knowledge and tools ready to diagnose and solve any issue within their domain. When you’re new to programming (or a specific language or toolset), tracking down bugs can be hard, but senior developers make it look easy.

    Developing debugging skills takes time, but it helps if you work on a variety of projects with different people. If you don’t have the opportunity to take on interesting bugs at work, then get involved in an open source project.

    2. They Know When Not to Do Something

    Most new developers have some degree of “shiny object syndrome.” There are so many interesting and useful tools out there that it’s difficult to know when to use established best practices and when to take a risk and try something new.

    The best developers know that rewriting a library from scratch just to make it more readable, or switching to the newest framework when the team has previously chosen an older one are not always good decisions. In fact, most senior engineers I know are wisely risk-averse; they know that good software is working software.

    3. They Mentor Others

    Whether it’s in their job description or not, senior engineers mentor their junior team members. They passionately share their knowledge, and, by doing so, they can level up the whole team.

    Practice these skills now by going out of your way to be collaborative and touching base with your colleagues to see how you can be helpful.

    4. They Review Code Meticulously

    New engineers tend to fly through code reviews. Yes, reviewing someone else’s code can be challenging and monotonous, but to reach a high-level you’ll need to accept how important it is. It’s your job to put your years of experience to work.

    5. They Can Communicate Complex Technical Ideas

    To advance in this field, you’ll need to be able to clearly communicate details to others. You don’t have to be great at public speaking, but you should be able to get your point across to the other engineers you work with. This is a team game; nobody can be great at it without the ability to express his or her ideas and get others on board.

    6. They Specialize

    As with most technical fields, the longer you spend doing this, the more likely you are to develop a specialty. Senior engineers are usually dynamic enough to do three to five things on a team, but they’ll take real ownership over the one or two things they specialize in most.

    7. They Admit What They Don’t Know

    In job interviews, many people will try to fake their way around topics they don’t know. Senior engineers have been around long enough to realize that they couldn’t know everything about the topic if they tried, so they’ll usually be honest about what they do and don’t know.

    While there aren’t any widely accepted benchmarks for senior engineers, there are notable differences that managers will keep an eye out for when deciding whom to promote or hire for top-level roles. If you want to advance, make sure you’re spending time improving the technical and non-technical skills listed above.

    Stay on track with college admissions by following our guide for senior year.

    High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

    Your senior year of high school is the most important time in the college planning process because you’ll need to decide which colleges and universities to apply to, send in your applications and explore financial aid and scholarship options for the colleges you seek to attend.

    Fall (September-November)

    Start your senior year by finalizing your college list.

    Now that you have an idea of where you want to go, visit prospective colleges and get a feel for the campuses.

    Consider options for early action and your recommendation letters.

    Register for required tests, it’s your last chance to take the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests!

    Fill out and complete your college applications before the deadlines arrive.

    Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to ensure all your colleges get what they need.

    Start working on your college application essay; it’s a crucial part of your application.

    Explore your prospective schools’ financial aid requirements to plan your college budget.

    Winter (December-February)

    Schedule your college interviews to finish up the admissions process.

    Complete your FAFSA so you can get the most possible financial assistance for college.

    Continue your hunt for scholarships and apply for scholarships.

    Spring (March-May)

    Once you’ve received all of your responses from colleges, make your final decision!

    Verify your financial aid before you make any college budget decisions.

    Follow our last admissions checklist: Send your final transcripts to your college and meet housing deadlines.

    Prepare for your AP exams and complete your AP tests before summer.

    Cross everything off your graduation checklist and graduate!

    Summer (June-August)

    Start your last ever high school summer job.

    Attend your college’s summer orientation to get the lay of the land before school starts.

    Apply for student housing and get matched with a great roommate.

    There’s no time to waste, begin preparing for your college coursework now.

    Get ready for a new world of student organizations, on-campus living, and college life by learning more about what your school has to offer.