Spring is officially here and, for high school seniors, this means graduation is fast approaching. It’s an exciting time of year. College looms on the horizon like a big glowing ball of opportunity. The summer beckons, with the promise of beaches, barbecues, and bonfires. Your mind is awash with thoughts of late nights, outdoor concerts, and road trips. You’re in your happy place. And then *cue ominous music*...senioritis strikes.
Before you get to all that fun summer stuff, you actually have to get through the last few months of high school. For many of you, these months will be spent online. If you think going to school online protects you from senioritis, think again. In fact, it’s possible that, as an online student, you have an even higher risk of contracting this dreaded condition.
Doctors (probably) define senioritis as the condition of having tons of better stuff to do at this point in your life than studying, doing homework, or asking your English teacher for a hall pass just to go to the bathroom. While online education may spare you the indignity of asking for permission to use the restroom, it is a bit of a tradeoff. You run the risk of losing motivation in other ways like zoom fatigue and online burnout.
For more on these conditions, check out How Online Students Can Avoid College Burnout.
To learn more about the connection between online education and senioritis, read on…
Senioritis is an informal term and, to be totally honest, it isn’t actually a medical condition. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t quite real, and possibly very consequential. For most high school seniors, college acceptance will come sometime around March. Final exams, on the other hand, are usually in May.
That period in between can be kind of a dead-zone for motivation and interest, which may precipitate declining performance. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) warns that
Symptoms of senioritis students should watch out for include a drop in grades, not completing assignments, procrastination and loss of interest in studies. You might even start skipping class or turning in work that is subpar.
One of the reasons that senioritis may be so common is because, on one level, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. After all, you’ve already gotten into college. That was kind of the whole point of high school, wasn’t it?
But senioritis isn’t without its consequences. First of all, it’s not unheard of for an accepting college to rescind its offer if your grades slip too severely. To some colleges, this will be seen as evidence that you aren’t as dedicated or diligent as you made yourself out to be on your application. Granted, this doesn’t happen often, but it is a real possibility. Colleges aren’t looking too closely at your performance in those last few months…unless you give them a really good reason to do so. Don’t give them a reason.
It’s also worth noting that your flagging effort places you at risk of being underprepared for college. While you may perceive these last months of school as a sort of educational limbo, there is a far more constructive way to approach this time. In reality, this is precious time that you could be using to prepare yourself for college—practicing your writing and research skills, experimenting new strategies for effective time management, and just generally remaining in a state of educational readiness.
You will absolutely need all of these skills in college. Now isn’t the time to let your academic tools get rusty. Now is the time to sharpen these tools for the challenges up ahead.Back to Top
Look. We get it. High school is almost over and in a lot of ways, you’re totally over this place. But what if “this place” is actually online? In the wake of the pandemic, a record number of high school students have been forced (or have chosen) to navigate the final stages of high school virtually. This exile into online learning may actually be responsible for the swelling impact of senioritis. Senioritis is typified by emotional detachment, lack of motivation, and clock-watching. Incidentally, these are the same experiences that some students describe when complaining about online education.
Don’t take my word for it. Just Google senioritis and you can hear it from the students themselves. In my own research, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the leading sources on this subject were articles in student newspapers, conceived by high school juniors and seniors who have unexpectedly endured their final years of high school online. Clearly, high school seniors are grappling with this issue in real time.
In the Linganore High Lance, Erich Miller writes that
Every year the new senior class gets a hard case of senioritis. This is where the students lose motivation during the school year. Now with COVID 19 this so-called senioritis is at an all-time high and it has struck many of us well before spring 2021.
Lukas Luna of Downey High School’s Downey Legend writes that
With the less than ideal circumstances that the class of 2021 finish their general education with, one cannot help but wonder if senioritis has become more potent in the age of the Coronavirus.
Liz Williams, online editor-in-chief for the Portage Central High School Central Stampede suggests there may be even more to it than that, noting that
this lack of motivation is not just caused by the long exhausting school day. Senior year not only comes with the burden of being the oldest in the school, but also the stress of adulting as we encounter new priorities and responsibilities.
These priorities and responsibilities can include preparing for the transition to college, taking on part-time work, fulfilling community service responsibilities, and more. Simultaneously, many students report that the online workload is actually often higher than what they experienced in traditional classes. For instance, many of the tasks that could previously be accomplished through classroom discussion have since been supplanted by additional writing work.
And for students who are learning to manage these priorities and responsibilities in the midst of the pandemic, certain shortcomings in online education make it particularly easy for exhausted seniors to check out mentally and, in the case of some students, even physically:
Williams quotes senior Janek Mietusiewicz, who admits that
Online learning has definitely caused me to be less productive. It is not uncommon that I accidentally sleep through my first few classes. Being behind a computer screen all day just doesn’t give me any motivation.
There is some value in this experience…the exposure to online education, that is, not the sleeping. For many graduating seniors, the last few years have confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that online college is just not for them. It’s true that some students will only thrive in the dynamic setting of an actual campus.
For others, online education, though challenging, has been a lifeline. In addition to its trademark convenience, flexibility, and accessibility, remote learning gives us the power to weather dramatic educational disruption. This alone may be a compelling reason for today’s graduating senior to make the leap directly from virtual high school to online college. The very best online schools boast a level of instructional training, curricular format, and experience that, for obvious reasons, few brick and mortar high schools are equipped to match. In an uncertain world, your online college may be in a unique position to conduct business-as-usual under a wide range of unpredictable events.
In other words, you might be well-served to think of virtual high school as a practice run for the real thing. If you think you might want to take advantage of the opportunity to attend online college only, use these last few months to prepare for the transition by sharpening your online educational skills. Consider this opportunity a good source of motivation as you fend off online senioritis.Back to Top
Need a few more sources of motivation? We’ve got you covered. Below, we offer a few ideas on how you can beat senioritis while wrapping your high school education online.
Find ways to remain active and engaged with your high school community whether that means helping to organize graduation activities, arranging study sessions with classmates, or taking on a community service activity. Don’t think of these as ways to pad your high school résumé. Think of them as ways to remain connected to your high school during your final few months even as you attend classes online. That connection will translate to greater academic motivation.
After years of working for grades and the promise of admission to a great college, you may have a difficult time finding reasons to try. It’s up to you to find incentives for success, whether that means treating each assignment as a chance to sharpen your study, research, or writing skills or rewarding yourself for a job well done by taking an hour to shop or power-nap. If grades are no longer your top concern, find new reasons to do your very best on every assignment.
With the weather warming up, you may be able to put a spark into your final few months by getting out of the house and looking for a change of scenery. If the downside of online education is that you miss being around your classmates, the upside is that you can do it from almost anywhere—a coffee shop, a park bench, or a beach boardwalk.
This is a critical time in your education. The transition to college learning will demand preparedness and dedication. If you allow yourself to fall into the senioritis slump, it may be more challenging to channel these virtues when you need them, especially for students who will continue their online education at the college level. You’re no longer working to get into a great college. Now, you’re working to be ready for a great college. In other words, you aren’t at the end of an educational experience. You are at the beginning of one.
Sometimes a lack of motivation and feelings of inadequacy can go hand in hand. You’re having trouble summoning the energy to take on your responsibilities, which consequently makes you feel as though you aren’t up to the task, which in turn, saps you further of your energy. You can see just how cyclical the whole thing is. Start by giving yourself a break—a psychological break, that is. While you continue to work your way through the final months of senior year, forgive yourself for feeling a little less-than-engaged. You do have a lot on your mind and a lot to look forward to. Give yourself regular pep talks and remind yourself that you’re in this position because you worked hard and got into the college of your choice.
All that’s left to do now is finish strong!
Of course, for some, finishing strong may be easier said than done. Senioritis may not itself be a medical condition. But it certainly can be symptomatic of real mental health challenges. According to the University of British Columbia,
it’s important to get the proper support if it’s more than the usual feelings that accompany an impending graduation—because senioritis isn’t always just senioritis.
That is why we strongly recommend taking steps to Protect Your Mental Health While Getting Your Online Education.