There are three stages to the senior year, each with its own challenges. The year begins with what I call the Busy Period. This stage is characterized by a long to-do list of homework and co-curricular responsibilities that, for many seniors, is at the highest level of their high school years. Somewhere in all that busyness seniors are also expected to craft thoughtful, impressive college applications too. Stress levels are high as seniors try to figure out how they can possibly get it all done.
The second stage of the senior year is the Waiting Period. Suddenly the stress of being overly busy gets replaced by a new kind of stress – the kind that comes from being able to do nothing to influence college applications. It’s out of your hands and all you can do is wait and pray.
The third stage, the Transition Period, seems like it will be the most fun (and it is) but it comes with challenges too. It’s in this stage that seniors make their final decision about where they’ll attend college and begin making serious plans to leave home and enter uncharted territory. It’s exciting, exhilarating and scary all at once.
But let’s hang out on the Waiting Period for a bit. Our seniors are either in this stage already or about to enter it, and this is arguably the hardest part of the senior year. After more than 20 years of watching families navigate this stage and having lived through it myself when the Foxx family applied to college, I’ve learned a few truths that might be helpful for you.
1. Dependence on God is not a one-time thing. One quick prayer to God that sounds something like, “God, please help! I’m worried that it won’t be okay. I need you!” is not enough to carry you through weeks or even months of waiting. In my experience, this kind of prayer is always answered by a feeling of peace within about 24 hours, but my human nature eventually turns back to worry and I find myself praying that prayer again. Depending on the situation, I might be praying that prayer every week, every day or even every five minutes. God wants us to depend on him continually and that’s exactly what it takes to make it through a period of waiting: constant dependence.
2. We’re designed to be in Christian community. The whole reason for God’s purposeful design of Christian community is so we can help and encourage each other as we face challenges. Surround yourself with friends who will lift you up, speak words of truth into your soul as you need them, and point you to God when you feel lost. Lean on these friends to help sustain you.
3. There is joy to be had while waiting. Sincere joy transcends a particular circumstance; it’s found when we abide in God. To help you feel joy when the waiting gets tough, I’ve found it’s very helpful to think back on times in the past when God proved himself to be faithful. Let that wash over you and feel the contentment of knowing that the same God who helped you before is the God who’s helping you now. Trite as it may sound, count your blessings and focus on the positives in how God loves you. That’s when you’ll experience true joy.
4. God’s plan is the best plan. Some of the angst in waiting comes from the desire for things to work out a particular way. It can sometimes feel like everything will fall apart if one certain college doesn’t offer admission or if this source of financial aid doesn’t come through. If that describes your worries, let me encourage you to think bigger. Many times over the years, I’ve seen God change the heart of a student who thought Plan A was the only good plan but then realized that Plan B was actually the better plan. No matter how much we think we know, God knows more. Make your requests known to him but take a posture of asking him to provide his very best even if that is different from your plan. Allow God to be in charge. Trust that he knows what he’s doing.
This waiting period of the senior year is often a time of deep spiritual growth for students and parents alike. Difficult as it may be, treasure this time as God shows you more about who he is and how much he cares for you and your family. Look for God at work around you and depend on the faithfulness of his love.
“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God’s love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis
Director of College Counseling