Senioritis in high school seniors must be addressed

From freshman to senior year, teenagers encounter a plethora of challenges during their high school years as they face academic rigor, social expectations and pressures, and the often daunting thoughts of life beyond high school.

While high school may be filled with plenty of memorable moments – the electricity buzzing in the school gym as the basketball team competes in an overtime thriller, or the adrenaline coursing through every student’s body at the annual Homecoming dance, or even the simple everyday interactions with friend groups – it’s no secret that high school lasts a long time. 

Over the course of four years, students continuously complete the same tasks associated with a standard education such as studying for exams, turning in homework, working on group projects, presenting Google Slides presentations, participating in class discussions, and many others.

Having mentioned this “cycle” of educational objectives, it’s important to note the toll these repeated experiences have on students over the years as they approach graduation. As the months pass, many students approaching their final semesters in high school encounter the phenomenon known as “Senioritis.”

Senioritis is typically known as an affliction in, as the name suggests, high school seniors that’s characterized by a significant downtrend in motivation and performance. As a Uni High senior who has had these feelings, Senioritis has plagued my Uni senior classmates, as it has for many previous generations of Uni seniors.

At this point, Senioritis has become a seemingly unavoidable experience for one’s Senior year. Some action must be taken to prevent Senioritis from consuming the overwhelming majority of Uni seniors and seniors across the country facing their last year before graduation.

To understand what must be done, the problem must be examined: what causes this sociological phenomenon in Uni’s seniors, and consequently how does Senioritis present itself? 

While Senioritis does not affect just Uni students, an argument can be made for why Senioritis is particularly prominent among Uni’s population due to the circumstances of being a Uni student. 

At the most basic level, the high school experience lasts even longer than normal for Uni students. Unlike many other high schools that have a four-year, freshman through senior education, Uni students start their journeys as Subbies, adding two whole semesters onto their high school experience. Uni’s curriculum cannot be described as “easy” for the average Uni student. Long research papers, month-long projects, and exams make up huge percentages of grades, and Uni students spend extensive periods of time working and stressing over studying and keeping those grades in shape. While Uni students are known for their academic capabilities and willingness to learn and excel, having an extra year of this challenging curriculum significantly decreases the ability to have renewed energy each year at Uni, especially as one approaches their final year. 

In tandem with the fact that Uni seniors are in their fifth year at Uni, schedules during senior year can be just as hard and full of classes despite the intentions on behalf of most students to have easier schedules. With the absence of more electives, scheduling and class availability may be tighter and more cutthroat, thus forcing students to take harder classes, some of which may not be enjoyable. Uni’s curriculum does not have many senior-specific electives, so most classes are junior/senior rosters and thus invoke the same level of expectations for seniors as juniors. While some students choose to instead fill their course with University of Illinois-sanctioned courses to make up for the tight scheduling and elective losses, having the expectation to complete all the coursework in the Uni classes can feel particularly difficult.

In addition to senior schedules being difficult, it’s worth mentioning that many seniors still need to take hard classes regardless of whether the curriculum offers easier or harder scheduling due to college applications. Admissions officers note that part of the holistic nature of the application review is the classes that you take and their difficulty which extends to senior year.

For the Class of 2022 seniors specifically, mental health and motivation may be particularly low following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and online learning. The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on Uni students’ education started all the way back in March of 2020 with the introduction of “Zoom lessons” and “asynchronous classwork” and continued all the way through to the end of the 2020-2021 school year. 

For many students, mental health and motivation became much harder to maintain with the huge changes between being in school surrounded by peers and friends, and the trapped, boring nature of being stuck in the house to learn while only being able to see other people through a computer or phone screen. Classes became something to set aside on mute without a camera turned on while sleeping or watching Netflix or eating lunch. The mindset of doing whatever necessary to get through that lesson or that assignment became harder to resist, and resorting to easier, more convenient methods became the norm.

Returning to in-person school knowing these semesters are the last before graduating while coming off an extensive time period where procrastinating and completing assignments with less effort still got you through your classes meant a large drop in energy for many of my classmates. In many ways, the Class of 2022 started their “Senioritis” a bit early as the mindset between online learning and the experiences felt during senior year are quite similar. 

Going back to the aspect of graduating, many seniors are focusing more about college than their regular course work. After a few weeks into third quarter, all seniors have already submitted their applications to their universities and colleges of choice. Furthermore, by the fourth quarter, many Uni students already guaranteed their spot in the next step of their education after hearing back from those universities/colleges. This concept brings about the idea that the last few months are of less importance: “We are already going to college, so what’s the point of doing all this course work?” Some decisions, such as Early Decision/Early Action decisions, come out prior to winter break too which means an even longer period in which students care less about their school work having secured their way into college. 

These factors, along with the fact that block days feel particularly long, largely contribute to a perpetuated feeling of Senioritis among Uni seniors. Seniors already skip many periods of the day or even days of the week because of the lack of importance associated with senior year classes. It usually comes down to making excuses for missing class such as “an appointment” or being “sick”, or it may just be skipping school without an explanation. 

While the  “mental health days” provide a few opportunities to take a step back from classes, they aren’t everything. Having only five days to officially take a break from school is tough for seniors, especially with the fact that the mental health days were only officially implemented at the start of the semester which doesn’t account for the long lasting effects of the pandemic. At this point, seniors just skip whenever they feel like doing so.

These feelings of waning motivation and energy are hard to combat no matter the situation, and eliminating Senioritis entirely doesn’t seem viable. However, there is hope in at least preventing Senioritis from overwhelming the majority of senior students. 

At Uni, there are opportunities to take U of I classes instead of regular classes, and the Senior Project allows students to incentivise their future interests in a more defined manner. Having some equivalent form of these types of opportunities where students can pursue their passions and interests may lead to a renewed sense of motivation for students knowing that there “is a point” to their work. These opportunities may consist of internships, special trips to atypical workshops or special sessions, and other ways to get students engaging in a different type of learning. 

Whatever the methods, Senioritis needs to be addressed to seniors can enjoy and make the most of their last high school semesters, an intention which should really be the most prevalent in addition to future aspirations.