Why senioritis isn’t half-bad

If you’re a senior who’s still powering through the last stretch of the school year with grades at a record high and your brain burning with the fire of intellect and the hunger for knowledge, then I have an infinite store of admiration for you.

If, instead, you’re a senior who feels more obligation towards your bed than your homework, then hey, welcome to the club.

We’ve earned it — 12 years of mandated education, survived. Check it off the bucket list. The grueling schedules of tests and classwork and homework were something we have trudged through, and now we finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The cute little costume parties and cookie-decorating days of elementary school slipped away into four tests in a day. Recess soon became “brunch” (marking not only the solemnity of the upper tiers of education but also of adolescents’ constant need for food). As the appeal of school lessened and the stress that it brought increased, the sudden realization that our journey is at its last breath brings about explosive relief.

But allow this relief to stretch too far, and you have just condemned your future to its demise — or so they say.

Senioritis can be defined in many different ways. While some assume that this (very real) disease applies as a lack of interest and motivation in only academics and extracurriculars, others identify it as an overall feeling of apathy towards anything that requires work. For the sake of this article, we’ll define it as the former — a declined interest in schoolwork, but an increased interest in social activities and other commitments that weren’t just a boost for the college resume.

The very concept of senioritis is appealing, but the consequences lie darkly underneath. It seems that, after receiving college admissions letters, it’s time to kick back and relax. Spoiler alert: it’s not. I’m learning the hard way.

It’s not fun to admit that allowing my grades to slip has placed me in a perpetual state of dread about getting rescinded from my dream school. For others, the threat of a drastic drop in academic success could even mean failing to graduate. In such circumstances, blowing off an assignment to go out partying may not have been the best trade-off.

Those infected with senioritis also become pinned as “lazy” or “disinterested” individuals. Parents chide that if this is the attitude you present in college, you’ll be back living with them in a month. The senioritis sloth now becomes characteristic of the person who has adapted it, if only just temporarily.

It’s definitely a dangerous juggling act to slip away from commitments that we’ve made in the beginning of the year when all of our plans for beyond high school lie in jeopardy. And it’s without a doubt that the stressors of life continue to bite doggedly at our heels forever.

But maybe not all seniors infected with senioritis are slackers at heart. Maybe we just need some time to adjust to the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

For me, the simple thought of moving out of my parents’ house and into a dorm across the country is darkly imposing. It’s a stressful situation in itself, let alone having to consider the competitive academic rigor that I will have thrust myself into once again, as soon as I get there. No longer will I have the dutiful father who stays up until 2 a.m. with me to help me with the math homework that I’d put off; no longer will I have the sweet, caring mother who spends hours after work cooking my favorite foods. And even though I do have parental support with the simple reach of my phone or laptop, I’ve noticed from practically all college freshmen I know that for a span of time, college can be lonely. Real lonely. So right now, when the pressure is somewhat reduced and the cycle of endearing stress is halted for perhaps the only moment in our lives, maybe I just want to enjoy the time I have left at home.

Senioritis is potentially even beneficial for some, and not just in the way that it unravels the tight ball of stress that an exhausted senior has held within them for years. Because getting into college is no longer the main priority, some seniors can now channel their time into doing activities that they truly enjoy, and gather some real-life experiences while they are at it. Judith Warner of the New York Times cited that two seniors from Providence, R.I. “shipped thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies to a hospital in the Dominican Republic” and others interned in a wide array of professional fields, from the World Bank to the local fire department. These students weren’t being active in their communities and in the world because college loomed over their heads — in fact, it was because the future was no longer as daunting as before.

Senioritis opens up the perfect space for students to not only shake off their stress, but also explore their options for the future. We’re still learning equally valuable information at our jobs and internships that will propel us towards success — just not at school. And even if not all seniors are go-getters and filling up their free time with more work, maybe we just need a bit of a break before perpetual exhaustion begins again, whether we struggle to stay afloat in college or in the workforce.

Being a little bit lazier and just a tad more apathetic about the last stretch of high school should come as a surprise to no one, but should not be so offensive either. Academia has, more than once, pulled us down into the depths of social deprivation and familial disappointment. We’ve trudged through despair, suffered through desperation, crawled through discouragement. After all, not many people look back at high school and think, “Man, I love how cutthroat the competition was and how hard the tests were!” We just need some good R&R after that ordeal, in the form of time with family and friends, and time with ourselves.

But, everything in moderation. I’m not supporting slacking off so that your grades suffer and the future that you had in mind is postponed — or worse, collapses before your eyes. Advocacy is not akin to mere tolerance. The cause of senioritis should just be understood, but not fully accommodated to. If a student who normally aces school has a slight drop in performance, give them a break. But if, because of senioritis, the same student’s performance goes up (technically down) in flames and their plans after high school burn with it, then they can accuse no one of their faults but themselves.

Just because the finish line is in sight, doesn’t mean that the race is over yet.
But if you’re so far ahead of your opponents that there’s no one in sight and you’re in no hurry to beat the clock, maybe you can slow your pace down just a bit to catch your breath.