Oct 09, 2017


10 Habits of Students Who Maximize Their Senior Year

Erica Young Reitz writes about ten habits of students who make the best of their senior year of college.

With so many ways to prepare for life after college, where should students start? Here’s a top ten list for those who want to make the most of senior year as well as prepare for a life of faithfulness beyond it.

1. They approach the transition rather than avoid it. This language comes from theorists Bean and Eaton, and it applies to the coping mechanisms we use for any transition. Students who anticipate graduation and its implications can prepare for it rather than get caught like a deer in headlights when college comes to a close. The best students savor senior year while also considering life after it.

2. They do more than check boxes. They don’t reduce senior year or the transition to a checklist, doing the bare minimum to get to graduation (or the grades they want). Instead, learning is always the goal. The best seniors realize that they still have a quarter of their college career yet to live; they don’t have to go to class, they get to. Also, they don’t focus only on a few key items necessary for graduation (resume polished, credits in, job/grad school offer accepted, apartment/housing secure, and so on). Instead, they prepare for every facet of the transition.

3. They try stuff, knowing that it’s okay to fail. They don’t freak out when they realize the subject they’ve studied for the last four years is not what they want to do for a living. Instead, they take a deep breath, reflect, and trust the path forward will be revealed. The best students know that we learn by doing, so they try stuff: job shadowing, interning, volunteering. Or, they simply say yes to the next thing, even if it’s not the dream job. They know they will learn from the experience, especially if they’re willing to reflect upon it.

4. They invite others in. They find friends and mentors who can support them during senior year, through the transition, and after college. Connecting with other seniors in the same shoes or recent alums (who can normalize the transition) and with older mentors (who will ask the hard questions) keeps students focused and faithful. During any transition, it’s wise to ask, “Who are my supports?” The best students take stock of these supports, and they know that it’s okay to ask for help.

5. They network. They leverage the people resources all around them, cultivating meaningful connections on campus, at church, and in the community. They drop by office hours, invite conversations with their instructors, and they thank the people who have invested in them. For some, “networking” may feel like using people to get ahead. The best students offer more than they ask for; they give by turning in great work to their professors (even in the final weeks of college) or by serving/leading in their church, fellowship, or club.

6. They transition their leadership roles. Those who serve on campus or in the community anticipate the void they will leave when they graduate, and they’re proactive about passing the baton. They not only finish strong in their commitments, but they also look to train up their replacement.

7. They consider “place.” Too often students move for a job without doing any reconnaissance to see what the spiritual climate and community life is like in that new location. We encourage students to consider moving for a church/Christ-centered community instead of for a job. Once
they identify a church or church plant they want to be a part, they can narrow their job search to that region. While it may not be possible for some students to move for a church, they can still apply a rich theology of place wherever they land. The best students put down roots (no matter how short the stay) and invest in their location – for its flourishing and their own.

8. They “dwell in possibility.” This Emily Dickinson line — hope in phrase form – should become the mantra of every senior and recent graduate. With the uncertainty of what’s next, it’s easy to panic or give way to worst case scenarios. The best students dwell in the hope that God delights to show up and awe us, even if it’s not in the way or timeline they expected. They continue to dwell in the possibility that there’s something good around the next corner.

9. They look vertically. As friends and classmates get job offers or graduate school acceptances, it can be easy for students to compare themselves to others, especially if they’re still unsure of their next step. The best students know that God has a plan (even if it’s not revealed until the 11th hour), and they keep their eyes on Him.

10. They pray. Last but never least, the best thing students can do for their future is to continually surrender it – through prayer – to the One who holds it. Big life decisions and next steps are born in the many moments and daily actions that proceed them. Students who attune themselves to God and His frequency in their daily walk will know his voice as He gently leads them forward in every step…and leap…along the way.

How do you help students make the most of senior year and beyond?

What would you add to this list?

about the author

Erica Young Reitz

After 14 years of college ministry experience working for the CCO, Erica is now teaching and consulting. Her passion for equipping graduating seniors to prepare for life after college continues. Erica is available to speak and consult – she loves connecting with students and 20-somethings as well as with practitioners who work with them. Currently, she serves as an adjunct faculty for Geneva College’s Master’s in Higher Education Program. She is the author of After College: Navigating Transitions, Relationship and Faith (InterVarsity Press). www.aftercollegetransition.com