Opinion | Senior year obligates seismic responsibility


Lanie Hibel

Students walk around on in-person Quad Day as they discover all the activities they can participate in. Seniors celebrate as campus is returning back to normal as they embark into their senior year.

By Matthew Krauter, Senior Columnist

Thus far, any student on campus this semester has unavoidably witnessed the bustling Main Quad between classes, the sweaty-but-free goodies of Quad Day, the unanimity of the Marching Illini at halftime and the endless lines for The Red Lion. The campus we all know and love has largely returned. 

But as exciting as it all must be for freshmen and the sophomores who’ve known nothing but the campus of COVID-19, it’s a bizarre return to form for the upperclassmen.

I cannot help but feel like Han Solo recently thawed from carbonite; dazed and out of the loop. Fortunately, KAM’s doesn’t feature a rancor pit quite yet. 

The seniors of the day haven’t tasted normalcy on campus since they were underclassmen in their sophomore year. They’ve jumped to the top of the totem pole in a jarring way, never fully experiencing the crucial developmental middle point of their undergraduate tenure.

Granted, many lived on campus for the duration of COVID-19, but the totality of academic and extracurricular life was never fully revived until now.

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Looking around and seeing only themselves with experience of the full potential of campus life, the upperclassmen are left with the important responsibility of restoring the campus culture to what it once was for both themselves and future Illini. To do so fully, however, seniors should reflect on what their new title means.

The literalists of the room might assert being a senior is nothing more than a threshold number of credit hours, while our fun-loving peers contend it’s a time to coast through easy classes while enjoying nights of no cover at the bars. Though both are true to a degree, being a senior also means adopting a certain state of mind. 

Regardless of whether you intend to accept a full-time offer after graduation, enroll in graduate school or join the Peace Corps, come next summer you’ll plunge fully into the adult world. Senior year is — at root — about finally growing into your shoes and coming to terms with who you are and what you hope to do.

Taking the mantle of an RSO to make an impact on campus, mentoring freshmen by sharing your experiences with them or pushing yourself to produce a senior thesis are all great ways to make the most of your closing year. All these activities are directed at acquiring clarity about your interests, what you’ve learned from your experiences and how crucial possessing courage to challenge yourself is in fostering personal growth. 

In flourishing throughout their final year, seniors become role models for their fellow students, whether they’re aware of it or not.

As much as the limitations of COVID-19 were a detriment to much of our college experience, there’s been no better time than now for seniors to rise to the occasion and beat a path for others. Likewise, don’t forget to include the in-person basketball games along that path this year, I’ve got a hunch they’ll be a slam dunk if they’re anything like the first football game.

Matthew is a senior in LAS.

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