Finishing Strong: Making the Most of Senior Year

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This piece is part of the new series, New Pro? No Problem: The PRSA New Professional Guide to Success.

You’ve been studying long and hard and you’ve finally made it to your last year of college. You’re on the cusp of the next chapter of your young life when it hits you: Senioritis. Symptoms include exhaustion, coffee dependency and procrastination. Don’t worry—the PRSA New Professionals Section has the cure. Here are some tips to help you avoid Senioritis and make the most of senior year.

  1. Don’t check out, check in.

Now is the perfect time to start strengthening relationships with your network. Check in with professionals you have connected with during your time as a student. Write thank you notes to those who helped you along the way. Don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to someone and start asking for favors. Developing a genuine relationship with these people now will make your interactions more authentic. When it comes time to request recommendations or ask for an informational interview, they will be far more likely to be a resource to you.

  1. Raise your hand.

While you want to allow younger students to develop their leadership skills and take on responsibility, don’t hesitate to raise your hand and volunteer to help. Join a committee. Offer to be an advisor on a project. Pay it forward and be a mentor.

Sarah Dougherty, a 2017 graduate of the University of Alabama, former PRSSA National Committee member and current financial services PR associate, said she found motivation by getting to know younger students through peer mentorship programs.

“Their eagerness to get involved, to start applying for internships and to establish the foundation of their education and careers reminded me of how much growth happens from freshman orientation through senior year,” Dougherty said. “It was a great reminder to keep working hard and stay invested on campus.”

  1. Develop a routine that increases productivity.

Sticking to a routine can make balancing school, work and fun more manageable. Identifying the time of day when you’re most productive is a good way to start. Are you a morning person or a night owl? Then, consider what environment allows you to focus. Do you prefer a quiet setting or study groups? It’s all about being strategic with your time and setting yourself up for success.

“It’s easy to get caught up in different social events and activities on top of schoolwork, PRSSA responsibilities and student-run firm work,” Dougherty said. “Try to establish your own version of office hours so that you can continue to excel in your coursework and extracurriculars during the job search and enjoy the unique senior year experience.”

Once you have found a routine that works for you, set goals, make to-do lists and prioritize your tasks. Before you know it, you’ll have an empty checklist and be walking across the graduation stage and into your career.

“Look at how far you’ve come since freshman year and consider where you’d like to see yourself in the near future,” Dougherty said. “Being on cruise control senior year won’t get you there.”

  1. Try something new.

If you need to a little extra motivation or just need to shake up your schedule, try something new. Sometimes a new challenge or perspective can awaken creativity and enhance your education. This can be as simple as taking a course outside of your major. Dougherty said she was glad she added classes like Personal Finance and Family Dynamics to her senior schedule.

“Personal finance provided an understanding of how to approach paying rent, building a budget, growing credit, setting up a 401(k) and more. That knowledge became vital during the job search, offer negotiation and post-grad move to a new city,” Dougherty said. “Family Dynamics helped me better understand and empathize with different perspectives and personalities and challenged me to think more critically.”

  1. Have fun!

An important part of making the most of your senior year is having fun! Time flies and you should enjoy this final leg of your educational journey.

“Don’t wish it away! It’s easy to be in a rush to finish projects, graduate and start working,” Dougherty said. “Try to embrace and enjoy the relationships you’ve built, organizations you’re a part of and the flexibility of being a student.”

Emma Finkbeiner is a native Yooper and alumna of Northern Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism. She also recently received her master’s degree in public relations and advertising from DePaul University. She is currently the PRSSA liaison for the PRSA New Professionals Section and a member of Champions for PRSSA. She does sports marketing in Chicago.

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