Surviving Senioritis

Sen·ior·i·tis: a supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance. This “savage disease” plagues seniors as they try to balance advanced homework, college applications, adequate extracurriculars, dorm shopping and social interaction. Its symptoms include laziness, lack of work ethic and decreased interest in grades.

Students, teachers and parents alike know all too well that, while not an official medical condition, senioritis is a real problem. After three years of hard work, being accepted to college and beginning the transition to adulthood, high school work seems arbitrary. While it may be impossible to avoid catching this contagious condition, seniors can fight it off. By staying motivated, improving their time management abilities and keeping a realistic timeline, seniors can still end their high school careers with a perfect GPA.

Freshman year was the time to become acclimated to a harder level of education. Sophomore year was the year to start taking advanced classes. Junior year was standardized tests and seemingly endless homework. By the time I started 12th grade, I was exhausted. Time to take it easy and focus on college. Right?

Seniors often fail to realize that colleges care about every grade on a student’s transcript– even the very last, second semester “whoops-this-doesn’t-matter-anyway” D-. According to www.professionals.collegeboard.com, in 2007 the University of Colorado Boulder rescinded admission for 45 incoming freshmen based on their senior year grades. To avoid losing scholarships and even having college admission revoked, students need to stay focused and maintain a good work ethic.

It’s important to motivate yourself to achieve both short term goals, like finishing that pesky AP Literature paper on time, and long term goals (working hard and saving money, applying to as many scholarships as possible) senior year. For short term motivation, I like to use a reward system.

Rewards can be simple or extravagant. When I’m struggling to focus on my nightly homework, I use food. I’ll keep a bowl of snacks by my bed, eating a cracker every time I (correctly) complete a math problem. If I have lots of work to do at one time, I opt for a more satisfying reward– once I finish every last assignment, I’ll go out with my friends or head to the gym.

Long term motivation is a bit harder to achieve. Current senior Riley Andrews explained that the thought of going off to college, meeting new people and having the opportunity for new beginnings keeps her inspired to work hard– she ignores any drama and brushes off stress by remembering that her future depends on her being college-ready.

Even the most highly-motivated students can still suffer from poor time management. Procrastination is the biggest “side-effect” of senioritis. Www.psychologytoday.com argues that high school seniors are in a period of “trial independence,” and get a kind of “thrill” from the idea of controlling their own lives and their own work schedules– resulting in unneccesary stress and below-average grades when they make the executive decision to hurriedlly finish a research essay the night before it’s due.

Every student, and adult, has a different mindset behind their procrastination, and consequently needs a different way to battle it. Seniors can benefit from any of the following “Five Steps to Time Management:”

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency– Even if the actual deadline for a paper or worksheet is days away, pretend that you need to have it done the night it’s assigned. You may not produce a product that’s acceptable to submit that night, but at the very there will be an outline and a revisable draft to work on up until the actual deadline. This can also correspond with the reward system mentioned earlier– hunger makes finishing a project seem pretty urgent when snacks are waiting.
  2. Break a Large Project into Smaller Tasks– Procrastination often starts when a student is overwhelmed by a seemingly enormous and daunting project. Split a project up into small parts, spreading them out over the days available until the due date. Not only will it make the assignment seem easier, but will actually allow for a higher quality product.
  3. Work with your Natural (Productivity) Habits– Students know the hours they’re most productive at by their senior year. Some may choose to nap when they get home and do homework at night, some decide to go to bed early and rise earlier to work instead. Figure out what works best for you and stick with it.
  4. Fight your Natural (Unproductive) Habits– This tip is the opposite of #3. If you know everything you work on past midnight is complete gibberish, don’t plan on staying up late to do school work. Stop turning on the TV the moment you get home from school, quit going out with friends when assignments need attention, etc. Bad habits are easy to figure out, and take nothing but willpower to overcome.
  5. Initiate Force– Ultimately, the biggest problem with procrastinators is their lack of forceful willpower. This step is the hardest to successfully complete. Just work slowly, forcing yourself to do one more math problem before you go out, or being determined to edit an essay before eating dinner. Willpower is something that is inside every student, they just need to access and utilize it.

 

With the promise of exciting new horizons soon to come, seniors tend to put too much time into things like dorm shopping or searching for a roommate, when college is still six months away, but there’s a Calculus test next week. Keeping a realistic timeline, and constantly reminding yourself that half a year is actually a decent chunk of time, will help to keep your senior year on track.

Enjoy high school while it lasts. The work may seem hard, but it will only increase in difficulty in college– plus there won’t be the “one-on-one” teacher-to-student time anymore. Friends will part ways, and take years of memories with them. Focus on what is happening now, live in the moment and maintain the grades that have been building for three long years.