As I sat at my kitchen table, lamenting the pile of summer assignments I had been tasked to complete prior to the first day of school, my mom’s response remained constant: “This is the last time you will ever have summer work at Wilton High School!” Lately, it feels as though everything I do reminds me of the finality of senior year. It’s the last authentic first day of school, with the customary nerves and excitement that accompany a 6:45 a.m. wake-up. Soon, it will be the last time I dress in a blue-and-white uniform to play my final basketball game as a Warrior. Eventually, it will be the last time I see many of my classmates’ familiar faces, the ones who have shaped my childhood experiences thus far. But as a self-proclaimed optimist, I refuse to dwell on the endings and, instead, focus my energy on a year of exciting firsts.

The night before school began, I noticed my Class of 2019 Senior sign, planted squarely beside my mailbox. Seeing these coveted Wilton landmarks gracing the driveway entrances of my friends-turned-seniors felt surreal. Just yesterday, I envied my cousin’s Class of 2014 Senior sign, longing to be in her elder position. Now, I've arrived, smiling to myself as I drive through town passing these signs, and wonder if my eight-year-old neighbor is waiting to check this first off her bucket list, as well.

On the first day, I was quick to exercise many of my freshly obtained “senior privileges.” Parking in a reserved lot each morning, without fear of the eight-minute trek from the town tennis courts? The ability to hit snooze just once and arrive only 20 minutes early to the security of a personal parking spot? Sign me up! As I turned the corner to the senior lot, I was flooded with memories from my freshman year, watching seniors congregate over iced coffees before walking into school swinging car keys.

Later that first week, I walked from my newly selected locker to the Jungle, an alternative study space at WHS designated for 12th graders only. For the first time, I sat as Maddie Burke, the senior among a group of my peers, in an area we have dreamed of inhabiting since our freshman orientation tour. Sitting there, surrounded by some of my kindergarten tablemates who now slaved over AP Calculus homework or quickly scarfed down UberEats orders, I, for the first time, felt old.

Like it or not, I will soon experience a plethora of firsts throughout the college application process. I have embraced the first-time-on-The-Common-App nerves, and began my first round of supplemental essays with the associated trepidation. Soon, I’ll feel the initial relief of hitting “submit,” quickly followed by the nagging anticipation as I await my fate from the admissions gods — equally scary and exciting. The process will undoubtedly bring me my first feelings of rejection, but hopefully a couple doses of first-time-fulfillment, too.

Yes, senior year is a culmination of sorts, where you get one last go-around in the town that has raised you. But as most graduation speeches remind us, it is also a beginning. At certain points, especially as I watch High School Musical 3, the obvious endings that lay before me could dampen my spirits. But each day as an almost-18-year-old, I discover a new experience to check off my childhood bucket list. And come mid-April, I will first understand what it’s like to have a small glimpse into my future — and all the amazing firsts awaiting me there.


Maddie Burke is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.