Hello, I am currently a Junior and it is almost time to make my senior course load and I am wondering if the senior year course load matters much in the college process. I'd like to take an easier load than in the past to free up time for college applications and extra curricular activities.
Your senior year course load will matter for college admissions, so I wouldn't recommend taking easier classes. While your GPA is mostly dependent on the first three years of high school, colleges will still see which classes you're taking senior year along with your first semester grades before they make an admissions decision (unless you're apply early action).
Taking easier classes senior year can send a bad message. Admissions officers might see it as a warning sign that once you get into college, your academic drive and effort will drop off even further. Colleges are looking for students who show a genuine love for learning and a desire to take on bigger and bigger academic challenges. The best way to demonstrate this quality in high school is to take progressively more difficult classes.
That being said, your concerns about not having enough time for extracurriculars and college applications on top of a heavy course load are legitimate. I wouldn't recommend going crazy with the number of courses you're taking senior year (six APs at once is probably too much). Just try to progress upwards in difficulty level and subject complexity from the classes you took as a junior.