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The Viking Vanguard

The student news site of Puyallup High School

The Viking Vanguard

The student news site of Puyallup High School

The Viking Vanguard

Seniors: A Final Checklist for Graduation

Often times, senior year is filled with Xello lessons, transcripts, career exploration and decision-making skills. A number of school experts share their advice for pairing a successful graduation with minimal stress. 

“There’s three buckets to graduation. The first bucket is to ensure you have all your required classes done and credits. You need 24 to graduate,” Wiest said. “The second bucket to graduation is doing your high school and beyond plan. That’s all of your Xello lessons, those 10 core lessons have to be completed. We kind of start looking at them in February of your senior year.”  

School counselor Kelsey Wiest’s last ‘bucket’ to graduation is the graduation pathway. This involves passing both the English and math SBA, or Smarter Balanced Assessments. If students didn’t pass the SBA, they can look into alternate routes such as taking and passing two courses in a CTE pathway. Another bucket is the High School and Beyond plan, which Career Specialist Shelley Jellison manages.  

“The High School and Beyond plan is a graduation requirement for the state of Washington. We have a series of lessons through Xello, our digital platform that has been approved to provide all of the activities and resources that students need to complete the High School and Beyond plan,” Jellison said. “In addition to those lessons, students will complete a professional resume as well as 20 hours of community service.”  

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When students log into Xello, the left-hand side of the dashboard what percent of lessons have been completed.  

“Obviously if you’re a sophomore, you still have more lessons to do your junior and senior year but it will show how many lessons that you’ve completed so far. [For] seniors, if it doesn’t show 100%, there’s something that they still need to do,” Jellison said.  

Once these three items are checked off, most students are well on their way to a productive graduation. The next step, however, is not as easy. Post-graduation plans must also be factored into the equation.  

“Do some research, get on Google and look up different things,” Wiest said. “Nailing down what interests [you] is super important. As far as trade schools or community colleges or a four-year university, whatever route you decide to go through, just start doing some research. If you’re interested in a college, go to campus and get a feel for it, because there’s a big difference in going to PLU versus UW Seattle. It’s really about your journey. It’s nobody else’s journey but your own.” 

As for transcripts, college-bound students need to make sure they send a full high school transcript to their colleges of choice. Both unofficial and official transcripts are available to students through their counselors.  

“Your counselor can send a copy of your unofficial transcripts straight to you. If you need an official transcript, like through NCAA eligibility center or your college is requesting it, then that will be done,” Wiest said. “You can order your own through and send it from PHS to whatever school you need at the NCAA eligibility center. Just let your counselor know and we’ll connect you with the person who uploads your official transcript onto there.” 

Most seniors are familiar with the term “senioritis:” when seniors, after having committed to a college or trade school, start to fall back in their grades.  

“If you’re working super hard to have good grades you get into the college of your choice. They will get your final transcript after school is over and after you graduate. If your grades aren’t there, they can pull your acceptance or they can put you on some kind of academic probation,” Wiest said. “My suggestion is, if you work so hard to keep your grades, why give up now?” 

Speaking of grades, credit deficiency is another obstacle seniors might struggle with as they approach graduation. Likely, any student approaching deficiency will have already spoken with their counselor. 

“Once you start becoming credit deficient, we’re going to start begging you and we’ll have the options laid out for you,” Wiest said. “We usually meet with our students who are missing credits or we’re sending mail home or we’re sending Schoology messages or parents square messages. We’re in constant communication with our students who are at risk.” 

One common theme throughout the graduation cycle is a dependance on school counselors. Available to all students and a source of reliable information, they are a common point of contact for struggling students.  

“I mean, we’re always a great point of contact. A lot of times, if we don’t know the answer initially, we’re going to try to find it out for you or we’re going to put you in the direction,” Wiest said.  

Growing up, most students are aided by parents or guardians to manage their schedule. As graduation approaches, seniors are having to detach from these safety blankets and branch out into their own methods of organization.  

“[I’d recommend] the use of your reminders in your phone, a calendar. Those are big things that I use in my daily life. Make those alerts in your phone so that you won’t forget,” Wiest said. “Things are going to be stressful at different times of your life. If you just take the moment to sit down and breathe, sometimes that can do everything.”  

Cassandra Mueller, Career Choices teacher, agrees.  

“[Seniors] should know what stress feels like to them, and how to manage it,” Mueller said. Knowing how to be able to still function and manage your stress so that it doesn’t shut you down.”  

Moving forward from high school, it’s important to know how to manage a schedule and take care of a regular life.  

“I think they should know how to deal with a bank account and know how to balance what they need to spend with what they earn,” Mueller said. “They need to know how to get a credit card and use it wisely so that they don’t end up in debt.”  

According to Mueller, one of the few “good” debts is college debt, unavoidable as it is.  

“A lot of people are worried about college debt, and I had a huge amount of college debt. It was really worth it,” Mueller said. “If you have to get into debt, then there are repayment options that are that are income driven, meaning that they will have to identify what your current wages are and they will give you a plan for paying back a small amount of time.”  

One of the pressing decisions of graduation and entering a new stage of life is considering what career or pathway students take. Whether they have it all figured out or are still struggling to decide, Mueller offers some advice that may just lighten the load.  

“I would say that if [seniors] think everybody else has already decided, they haven’t. They’ll say that they have because they want to impress someone, or they want to look like they have it all together, but those sorts of those people really don’t know,” Mueller said. “Working hard is something that people might be afraid of, but it also feels great when you work hard, especially if it’s something related to joy. That work is going to feel like it’s an accomplishment.”

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Sienna Hanson, Staff

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