The Rocking Rollercoaster That Is: Senior Year

A thoughtful reflection of what it means to be a senior.


Photo by Phoebe Lawson

Seniors R.J., Tony, Brian, Sam, Emma, Savannah, Cat, Gabby, Karmyn, Rosie, Liam, Steven, & Luke pose together at the first major event of their Senior Year experience. They are ready for what is coming.

There is no other word to describe the feeling of the first day of senior year other than exhilarating.

For many, it is the first time driving to school. They walk in, keys in hand, proudly showing off that yes, they are a senior.

For others, it was one of the last days of taking the bus or being dropped off by a parent, because the idea of holding a driver’s license is in the near future.

Regardless, we were all guilty of thinking: “This is my last first day of school!”

“This is my last first time walking my schedule!”

“This is the last first meeting of (insert club here)!”

Of course, this is justifiable. Senior year is complied with lots of firsts, but also lots of lasts.

Take for instance, the first time you will successfully fill out a college application. On the flip side, you might have attended your last Raider Bowl ever this year. 

But, isn’t life in general filled with plenty of firsts and lasts (most of which will be more significant to your life than your last first day of gym class)?

For instance, the first job you are hired for. The first time you buy a house. The last time you rely on your parents to pay for your car insurance. The last time you make an appointment with your pediatrician. Heck, you will even have plenty more first days beyond senior year, when considering college and new jobs.

Why then, does everything about senior year seem so colossal? 

“To me, senior year means more responsibilities. I don’t feel as if we are the oldest of the students at the school, or the ones who should be role models. I still get anxious and worried about making certain decisions. To underclassmen, seniors are admirable. I used to look up to the seniors and think ‘Wow, they really know what they’re doing.’ But being a senior myself, I often feel as if I have no direction and don’t have my life together. Yet, because of my preconceived notion that seniors should be role models, I am motivated to work harder,” reflects Ivy Ma. 

“With previous years, there wasn’t as much pressure or that same kind of feeling because there’s more seasons or years to come,” recounts Brian Bulag. “I think knowing that it’s your last chance to leave a legacy [in school], as soon as any chance passes, you just get overcome with the feeling of ‘it’s over.’ Like the things you can do to make yourself more memorable or ‘distinguished’ when you graduate I suppose. For instance, in wrestling we have a wall of kids that went ‘far’ in our end of the season tournaments. It would be pretty cool to have a picture of myself in the school weight room.”

I think it’s knowing that it’s your last chance to leave a legacy…”

— Brian, Class of 2020

So, perhaps the idea that every aspect of senior year could be the ‘last chance’ is a driving factor in the expectations of what senior year should be.

It’s the last chance to impress colleges, the last chance to participate in new clubs (i.e. when else will most of us have easy access to building a robot with an award winning team), and the last chance to truly connect with peers who have grown up with you since kindergarten and on (and whose now familiar faces you may never encounter again).

“There’s definitely a sense of importance and excitement, as if I’m subconsciously expecting this year to be like my grand high school ‘dramedy.’ ” expresses Kristina Dolan. Of course, with high expectations comes high amounts of stress. “There’s a lot of pressure put upon figuring out your future, starting college applications, and just making this year your best. I’m not great with decisions or of the idea of change, so the whole process is a bit overwhelming,” she adds.

Although senior year is filled with an overarching feeling of excitement and hopes for the future, there can also be an underlying feeling of dread.

In just a few short months, everything we have ever known will be finished. Thirteen years in public school: over just like that.

From that point on, each of our entire worlds will change. The start of senior year is the beginning of this independence.

Often with little to no guidance, we have to decide if college, trade school, the military, or a job right after graduation would best fit our needs and interests. 

Megan Jadge specifies that “The beginning of the year is hectic because of all of the deadlines. The added stress of college application deadlines, college essays to write, making accounts for college applications, the FASFA- all of that. Personally, trying to balance the workload from my AP classes while still maintaining my hobbies is stressful. I’m involved in Marching Band, Color Guard, and I’m in the Wind Ensemble, so all that requires a lot of my time and practice. I’m also considering doing Badminton this year, and I’m balancing a social life as well.”

“Right now, I feel like my classes aren’t the stressful part because seniors don’t really have any more regents to take, although APs are a lot of work,” added Torianna Parsons. “But applying to college is a bit stressful. Visiting colleges, trying to figure out what you want to study and spend thousands of dollars to get a degree in, in addition to being compared to other people across the nation based off scores that say nothing of the true student you are: It’s just a lot and can get demoralizing sometimes.”

At 16, 17, or 18 years old, the ever looming dread that we may make the wrong decision in regards to our future and the potential consequences of our choices on our entire lives is common among all seniors, regardless of school.

Sasha Vera, a former Patchogue Medford student who now attends Hamden High School in Connecticut, demonstrates how the senior experience is uniform, in regards to stress level and unknown futures.

When asked about her feelings towards senior year, she said, “I’m the oldest in my family and will be a first generation college student. It’s stress enough that I’m expected to go to college and get a degree.”

She clarified that, “My parents immigrated from Ecuador to give me a better future. From a young age they have always told me that I need to get a degree in medicine. So, I’ve always told everyone I wanted to be a doctor, when in reality I have no clue what I want to do in life. I have to start applying to colleges soon and I have no sense of direction as to where I want to go. On top of that, the financial burden that comes along with senior year is very stressful. The costs of applications, prom, senior portraits, yearbook, senior field trips, and so much more really don’t help with the fact that I’ll be paying thousands of dollars for an education.”

Cost obligations go hand in hand with the title of ‘senior,’ and only add to the stress that senior year brings.

“Beginning to apply to your top schools can be really nerve racking because you know if you don’t get a really good scholarship, you can’t go,” said Olivia Brinkman. “One can start to stress if they’ve been doing enough extracurricular activities to impress colleges. For example, whether being involved in musicals and ensembles rather than sports, means that a student won’t be awarded as much money.”

Aside from the overload of stress this year brings, in the grand scheme of things, it will all be over relatively shortly.

Most regular applications are due in January, and early admission applications are due in November. From that point on, besides keeping up with schoolwork and the eventual college decisions, senior year should be dedicated to enjoying every experience and not taking any moment for granted.

Ivy gave the insight that “I think the most rewarding thing about being a senior is that you appreciate a lot more. As a freshmen, you might have thought you had a lot of time so you didn’t join as many clubs or attend as many events, but as a senior you know you’re running out of time. You really start to appreciate and get involved in more. At Raider Bowl, the hype and unity I felt of being a senior really got to me. It actually made me more daring and pressured me to want to put myself out there more and get out of my comfort zone.”

Perhaps one of the most important attributes that senior year has the potential to give is a broadening of horizons.

“I feel like so far senior year has made me significantly less shy. Over the summer, I realized that this is seriously my last year in this school and I’m going to be parting ways with so many people I’ve known since elementary school, middle school, and throughout high school. I always hated how being shy held me back from doing things and meeting people. I guess it’s taken me three years to finally do something about it!” exclaimed Rute Rodrigues. “Amber Brewer and I even have a running joke that we are very entitled because we’re seniors. We look like we’re twelve years old but being ‘Seniors’ makes us feel so much bigger and more important than we are.” 

Overall, senior year can be best characterized as a rollercoaster.

It generates both uncertainty and excitement about the future. It is also shrouded in stress yet also an almost peaceful satisfaction about all that has been achieved in thirteen years.

Albeit briefly, we have finally ascended to the top of the totem pole that is public education.

Soon enough, we will be back at the bottom for whichever path we choose to pursue.

Isn’t that exciting? Maybe this is why we should all strive to make senior year memorable. Because it is the last time we will ever all be compiled in one place and unified under the same identity: Patchogue-Medford’s Senior Class of 2020.