Student Stories: Senior Season

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Katy Payne she/her

Editor’s Note: OSPI aims to elevate the authentic experiences of the students in Washington’s K–12 public schools. This story was written by a Washington state high school student participating in OSPI’s Student Stories Program. The author’s opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of OSPI, and publication of this story does not constitute OSPI’s approval or endorsement of its contents. With questions, please contact OSPI’s Communications team at

I woke this morning in a cold sweat worried I had actually submitted an annotated rough draft of my personal statement with my application to attend Gonzaga University. Being in the thick of college application season has plagued me with painfully mundane nightmares, such as turning in an essay full of sentences spliced with “elaborate” and “[insert a second example]”.

The phrase “application season” has brought me to a realization recently. My friends, my family, my teachers, all want to talk about “application season.” It seems to be a well-established period for every college-aspiring high school senior. Where are you applying? What did you write your personal statement about? What’s your top school? Through all the questions on this one singular topic, I’ve realized that my senior year is cut into a variety of seasons and every so often is marked by a milestone.

As a student aspiring for a master’s degree or a doctorate, my senior year is going to be primarily dictated by the process of college admissions. This begins with the aforementioned application season. It all started on August 1 with the opening of the Common Application and it ended, for me at least, on January 5 with the deadline for the University of Pennsylvania application. Soon after I hit the submit button on my final application, and the confetti settles at the bottom of my screen, I will start to get The Emails. With either a “We regret to inform you…” or a “Congratulations!” – decision season (as I’ve dubbed it) will commence. Between February and April, one way or another, I will hear from 13 universities, and by May 1 I will be required to make my final decision.

By that point June 7 will be looming, and graduation season will begin its fade into my focus. I will begin working on my senior presentation (a 10-minute slideshow recollecting my high school career), I will attend my senior tea, my final prom, my final choir concert. It’s all very bittersweet. I’ve been looking forward to it for a very long time, but it also terrifies me completely.

With each day my clock is ticking a second closer to midnight. There’s only a couple months until June 7, but there’s an infinite number of moments I’ll experience within those days. I’ve realized the importance of cherishing life’s little things this year. My advisors have told me to “document my senior year,” the intention behind it being material for my senior presentation, but this (amongst other things) has led me to a greater appreciation for all of life’s little joys. Catching up over a game of tennis with a friend, hearing Orion for the first time and preparing for my first last choir concert, my final homecoming, seeing Hozier perform live, getting to put my handprint on the wall of the stage’s paint room. In all of these moments I have felt incredibly 17, the reality of being a high school senior has really hit me, and for that I am grateful. These little moments are incredibly grounding. Through the stresses of college applications, finals, and the huge changes I will face at the end of this school year, life’s seemingly everyday things are what keep me from getting too caught up in the big picture to enjoy the now.

As you go about your day, take notice of things you usually glance past or the moments that seem a little mundane, but moments you are happy in nonetheless. The flower growing out of the crack in the concrete, the feel of your new sweater. Grabbing coffee with an old friend, laying on the ground and staring up at the stars in the brisk winter air. Learning to appreciate the now has brought me indescribable amounts of joy.

Megan Jewell author bio