Laziness. Procrastination. Dismissive attitude. Sweatpants.
Senior Maddie Gay’s eyes are drawn to the colorful poster that used to hang in James Lockard’s Environmental Ed classroom, which supposedly lists the components of ‘senioritis.’
The poster is representative of the negative perceptions that some teachers and colleges have regarding this rite of passage. However, to Gay it’s also a constant reminder of her own rising excitement for college visits, finally leaving high school and departing the life of an only child for the world of adults.
Even the College Board has warned of senioritis, what Urban Dictionary calls “a crippling disease.” But when asked to define senioritis, East seniors tend to focus on looking forward to leaving high school instead of more well-known negative effects, like the second semester slump in senior motivation.
“By the time second semester starts, a lot [of seniors] have figured where they want to go to college or have been accepted,” senior Kendall Dunbar said. “They’re moving on to the next step of life and … realizing high school isn’t everything.”
To East students, the ‘disease’ is neither as intense as it’s often believed to be, nor as damaging. While they acknowledge a drop in motivation, there are factors that ensure continual effort.
“For kids who are still in IB or are going to to take AP tests, even if they have [senioritis] and feel it every day, every minute, every hour … you still have to keep yourself in it in order to stay motivated and to still perform well on exams at the end of the year,” Dunbar said.
In addition, being bombarded constantly with questions like ‘where are you going to college’ and ‘what are you going to do with your life’ helps seniors step back a little from that urge to be closer to freedom.
“[The questions] maybe stunt my senioritis sometimes too because I don’t have every answer yet, where I’m going or what I want to do with life,” Dunbar said. “That’s scary.”
From what he has seen among his seniors’ attitudes, math teacher Andrew Walter believes that this condition comes in waves that impacts some students first semester and other students second semester, while some students experience it on and off throughout the year.
Some days it’s more of an eagerness to leave East, whether they feel fulfilled, bored or, occasionally, fed up. Other days, it’s an eagerness to go somewhere else.
Even underclassmen say that they experience senioritis or something very similar, a premature anticipation for the end of high school. Juniors have heard horror stories about how much worse the next year will be and have seen the impact on the upperclassmen, so some are already faltering a little in their motivation.
“Senioritis is played up a little bit,” Walter said. “I think there’s a normal amount of stress that comes with uncertainty about the future, and I think that’s as much a part of the symptoms of senioritis as actual senioritis.”
Walter agrees that the condition exists among his students, but that it’s almost exaggerated by existing impressions and expectations for the phenomenon. He recalls few traces of what’s called senioritis in his own high school experience.
“I remember really making a conscious effort to try to embrace all of the experiences of senior year, so that I wouldn’t look back later and regret not fully participating in high school things while I was in high school,” Walter said.
However, that philosophy is essentially the same as that of seniors today who say that the freedom to enjoy high school itself is just a positive side effect of their senioritis.
“I’ve definitely been more spontaneous this year and had a lot more fun this year,” senior Ireland Hague said.
No matter how impatient they are for the future to arrive, some seniors still feel sentimental about the friends they’re leaving behind and want to experience more of high school before they feel truly ready to leave.
“It’s almost pushing you to be like, ‘Man, I haven’t gotten to get cookies at two in the morning yet in all of my high school existence. I’m totally going to take this as an excuse to go ahead and do that,’” Dunbar said, looking back on late night adventures while working on major IB deadlines.
In a way, the seniors’ view of senioritis as an innocent anticipation of the future can be positive for their academics as well.
“I think if you harness what you’re looking forward to next year, that can give you some motivation to get through the last few things of high school,” Dunbar said.