Looking ahead to senior year

A local high-schooler shares her thoughts about this exciting, and scary, time in a teen’s life

A little bit elegant, and a little bit rock-and-roll. Katie rips a riff before heading off to the prom. Courtesy Photo

It’s been 11 years in the making but senior year has arrived and all the challenges and questions that come with it.

I’m not the only one going through this. We’re all in the same boat. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned, what my friends have shared with me and what I can pass along.

Throughout my junior year, I finally started thinking more about my future. I had never really put much serious thought into it since graduating high school and pursuing my own career never seemed real until now.

I figured out that I want to go to college for music education. I have played music for many years now, but I never thought I’d want to do it as a career. I was worried it would take the joy out of playing music, but I realized that I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. It became more of who I was and I found myself enjoying music much more this past year as well, which has made me more optimistic about my future.

I started touring a few colleges, with a focus on the music program. It was good to get a perspective on what my everyday life might look like in a year. It was exciting to get a glimpse of something that I had only heard about before, and made it seem all the more real.

Many of my friends have now graduated, meaning most people I talk to have already been through what I’m just now starting. It’s been helpful, but it also means my last school year is going to be very different. It will be much more difficult with my friends heading off to college when I have to stick around for one more year. But as it grows closer I feel more optimistic about things, since they’re heading off to start their futures. It’s exciting to see them do that.

I’ve heard mixed things about senior year from my friends who have just finished it — that it was stressful, that it was great, or that they just ran out of motivation. But one thing I’ve heard over and over from many different people is that it goes by in a flash. It’s a relief, but it also adds more stress. I have even less time to pick a college, apply, decide for sure if I want to spend my whole life playing the bass as a career, and return all my library books.

I’m expecting my final year of high school to be similar to previous years, but easier. At this point I’m used to how things go. I finally know where each hallway is, and I don’t have to take science this year. It’s very exciting. It already feels like things are wrapping up for me.

I’m about to face a lot of challenges, which makes me like everyone else. I think the hardest thing has been trying to wrap my mind around how quickly life goes by and that I’m going to be getting ready to head off to college in a year. A year sounds like a long time on paper, but if I think about where I was a year ago, it seems like it was just yesterday.

I’ve found that I have both long-term and short-term problems to worry about. Where will I go to college? Also, the issue of the inevitable, unreasonable and unavoidable student loan debt. The extent of the debt problem depends on where I decide to go. It could end up being a little bad, or very bad.

We’re all going through it. Student loans and permanent debt is a growing problem for young people. We have to consider paying back many thousands of dollars over 10, 20, 30 years. I just wish I didn’t have to worry about not being able to go to my dream school because it might be too pricey.

I don’t want to sound negative, though. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited to head off to college and study topics I am passionate about. I’m excited to have a new sense of freedom, and to live on my own and take care of myself. I’m also a little worried that I won’t know how to do that, since there can be a few too many luxuries currently, like buying whatever frozen foods I want, whenever I want.

I still have another full year of high school ahead of me. I remember as a freshman having no idea what it would feel like to be a senior, and now we’re here. I’m taking classes I feel I’ll enjoy while at the same time benefit me as I pursue music education. I’m taking a teaching class I’ve only heard good things about, and a music theory class that could really put me ahead in college.

Here are my thoughts for parents: give your kids a break, and let them take their time deciding who they want to be for the rest of their lives. You have been through this before, but things are a bit different now.

It’s a new generation of people heading into college for the first time, so it’s our turn to discover our future.

Katie Burke will be a senior this fall at Timberlane Regional High School in Plaistow, where she is president of the orchestra and the Tri-M Music Honor Society, a member of The Milkmen improv group, the Timberlane Players, the National Honor Society, the school’s jazz combo, jazz band, orchestra, chamber orchestra, rock ensemble, the NHMEA All State Chamber Orchestra and NHMEA All State Orchestra. Katie, daughter of Amy Burke, has had her life chronicled over the past 11 years by (her) Dad on Board Bill Burke.

Categories: Teens