There is no denying it. Students face a lot of change and stress as they navigate their high school years. Seniors, in particular, face an overwhelming amount of stress and decisions about the future. As soon as you become a senior, the questions begin and people start asking, “What are your plans after high school?” “Do you plan on going to college?” “What are you going to study in college?”
These questions are great conversation starters and a way to get to know someone better, but they can also be very overwhelming for a high school senior. It’s hard to know what you want to do with your life when you’re just 18 years old.
There are many ways to help support kids throughout their senior year. Helping students identify positive coping skills can be beneficial when they are experiencing stress. We spend a lot of time preparing students for their academic futures, but we also want to prepare them emotionally and socially. Building on emotional regulation and distress tolerance strengthens skills they can carry into adulthood.
Another way to help seniors navigate the last year of high school is to encourage the pursuit of interests and talents. Parents and educators can invite professionals in different fields of study to discuss the possibility of job shadowing or interning, and they can help students establish realistic career goals.
One of the biggest ways to show support for seniors is to encourage them every step of the way. When I meet with high school students who are unsure about what to do after graduation, I always reassure them it is okay be undecided about the future. I encounter some students who are not interested in going to college. I often remind these students that all jobs are important and necessary.
Personally, I started college as an undecided major, and I think it was the best choice for me. It eventually led me to discover the field of social work. I would always panic a little when one of my friends announced their plans for after graduation while I was still unsure about what college to attend, or which major to choose. I think it’s good to remind seniors that it’s okay to take extra time when making important decisions.
A lot of pressure is put on seniors to figure out their career paths, and I believe the best way to guide them is to support their career choices and encourage them to do what they think feels right (while being realistic). Overall, helping students navigate their senior year is not always an easy task, but having support systems in place and encouragement from family and friends is a step in the right direction.
Leah Lottes, LSW, is a Youth First Social Worker at Barr-Reeve Elementary School and Barr-Reeve Middle/High School in Daviess County. Youth First, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 83 Master’s level social workers to 110 schools in 12 Indiana counties.