Senioritis: A Springtime Epidemic

Senioritis is a term created to describe the apathy and lethargy that seems to strike students close to their graduations. While not actually a medical disease, senioritis can have serious consequences. For those students who intend to further their educations, college looms just beyond the summer horizon. Finishing off the final term of classes strongly and maintaining GPA is important; 69% of college admissions are revoked due to poor “final grades”, indicating grades received during the final term of the student’s high school career. That being said, why is it that when the chips are stacked does it seem so difficult to stay focused in the final months, weeks, or days of high school or college?

The most obvious reason could be that students are simply exhausted. Eleven to twelve weeks of class, day in and day out, and the additional late nights of studying compound fatigue from lack of sleep with mental exhaustion. Mental fatigue is shown to reduce cognitive performance, particularly the ability to focus. It also impairs goal-directed behaviors leading to increased distractibility.

Another possibility is the anticipation of summer and the closure of graduation. While it may only be a piece of paper, a degree validates the countless hours of studying, paper writing, and nights of homework the student has had to trudge through. This anticipation can be positive or negative. According to psychodynamic theory, the negative anxiety of what comes next in life can be so overwhelming that some may unconsciously resort to self-sabotage to prevent themselves from realizing their potential. Or else, the senior student may dread the prospects that await him or her, not ready to cross the line into ‘adulthood’ (and all the responsibilities that come with it.)

Whatever it is, studies demonstrate that the very end of the term (especially the end of the academic year), scores on finals are on average lower than finals given earlier in the term. In addition to academic advisors cautioning students against the long-term consequences of senioritis, restructuring the curriculum in such a way that avoids heavy assessments toward the end of the year might also aid the situation. After all, life is not all about grades and scores on tests. Quality of life must also be considered in the lives of young adults, whom are so often thought of as transitory beings ‘only passing through’.


Undergraduate research assistant and blogger for the Moral Communities Project. **The opinions and views expressed are my own and do not reflect the official positions of The Moral Communities Project or its funders.

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