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Senior Year: Looking Back, Moving Forward

For many students, the thought of finishing college can be as stressful as starting. Students see friends getting jobs and worry if they’ll find one for themselves. Or they hear stories about recent graduates struggling to find work.

As a parent, remind your student that — while these are legitimate concerns — it helps to concentrate on the big picture and acknowledge what he or she has already achieved. Freshman, sophomore, and junior years are all in the past — along with numerous victories and obstacles, both big and small.

Senior year offers a chance to reflect upon countless college memories, but also create new ones. While their earlier years included first-time experiences such as hanging out at the Union, going to a Badger game, and enjoying Madison, all of those activities take on greater meaning for seniors.

Students begin a new phase of exploration as they decide what they’d like the future to bring. Evaluating strengths and weaknesses can be a great way to identify which skills need to be improved upon and which can be emphasized during the job-search process. Students can track their accomplishments during their whole college experience, but focus on senior year and develop a thoughtful resume that best captures their abilities. Career counselors can help students identify the skills and qualities that employers value most.

Even if your student is months away from officially entering the job market, encourage him or her to review job postings regularly to evaluate options and see what’s out there.

While some students will decide to go on to graduate or professional schools, others will close the chapter in their lives as full-time students.

You can play an important role in helping your student figure out what comes next. Research shows that students turn to their parents now more than ever for feedback and advice. As a way to identify a career path, encourage your student to think about which classes — both inside and outside his or her major — were most enjoyable. Remind your student to think about how many previously held fears and challenges he or she has overcome as a way to feel less fearful about taking other risks.

Support your student by emphasizing that plans often change throughout life’s many phases and transitions, but that learning to navigate change will serve your student well during senior year and far beyond.

Tips for Parents