The Harbinger Online

“Senioritis” May Impact Students More Than They Think

[media-credit id=177 align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]College applications? Done. Long nights working on the ‘senior paper’? No more. Calculus take-home tests? Zilch. Graduation? Less than four months away.

Second semester has begun and so has senioritis. After seven busy semesters, many seniors are finally taking a deep breath and are coasting through their remaining months as the days until graduation count down.

Senioritis, according to senior Alex Fanning, is “a highly contagious, highly contaminative disease that plagues the modern high school senior; a great lack of energy to complete schoolwork; downright laziness. Antonyms: Honor student, Over-achiever.”

At East, many seniors have already begun the fight against senioritis. Although often disregarded as an excuse for apathy, this mindset that seniors adopt during their last year of high school is actually a unique combination of mental and emotional factors.

“[Senioritis] seems [to be] a complex interplay between developmental issues: students uncertain about who they are and where they are going in life,” Director of the KU Psychological Clinic, Sarah Kirk said. “Motivation is low if they are uncertain about the future, [there is] some resistance to becoming an adult, [as well as] personal factors.”

Senior Emily Frye says she caught senioritis during second semester of her junior year, but it wasn’t until last December that her study habits started to be influenced by procrastination and apathy. Unlike her previous years in high school, Frye isn’t as motivated to focus on school work as she once was. She believes that senioritis can be attributed to a student’s exhausting junior year and the college application process during senior year.

“Junior year of high school is the hardest academically by far,” Frye said. “Between American History AP and Calculus BC, there was little time to enjoy school. Because it was so academically challenging, I became burnt out and therefore lost all motivation to challenge myself when it came to school.”

Frye believes that once students have applied and have been accepted into college, the drive to stay on top of grades starts to decrease, leaving seniors just going through the motions for the remainder of the year.

However, senioritis hasn’t always been such a big issue. Whereas Frye’s senioritis began during her junior year, there used to be a time when the talk of senioritis didn’t start until much later.

Vicki Arndt-Helgesen, sociology and American History AP teacher, saw a significant change in the mentality of seniors she taught when the district changed from three to four year high schools in the late 80’s.

“We really did not have kids talking the language of ‘senioritis’ until after spring break, until we went to a four year high school,” Arndt Helgesen said. “In middle school two years is too short to commit, four years is just too long.”

According to Arndt-Helgesen, senioritis is not only caused by the amount of time spent in high school, but also the rigor of the core years that has a consequential impact on students.

“Quite frankly, when else are you carrying five to six to seven solid classes [as well as] doing activities?” Arndt-Helgesen said. “[Students] will never again try to do as much—part of it is kind of like ‘I’ve worked really hard, don’t I deserve to enjoy this?’”

Disengaging is also a large part of the equation for students leaving high school. Senioritis often goes hand-in-hand with the realization that four years of an era are coming to an end and that universities and careers await in the very near future.

“Sometimes the word senioritis really has to do with ‘I’m backing off of the commitment to’ list or it’s like ‘I recognize I’m leaving,’” Arndt-Helgesen said. “It’s a way you almost [handle] some of those aspects of loss.”

Even though students may be enjoying an activity or class, often the repeated daily routines start to have a negative effect. Senior Madeline Pigeon sees the constant repetition of day to day schedules, school work and activities as being detrimental to the morale of the student.

Pigeon says her case of senioritis started after Thanksgiving break. She has known since October where she was going to college, and feels that discussing the future has been distracting her from the present.

“Senioritis can also result from discussions at home,” Pigeon said. “Talking about future plans for college [can make you] forget about the present.”

At its core, senioritis is a way to deal with anxiety. Students may be excited to move on to college, but also may be apprehensive about leaving the familiarity of high school behind.

Senior Taylor Crane says she’s ready to start a new chapter of her life, even though she is going to miss the teachers and people she’s been able to meet at East.

“Senioritis, the way I see it, is the urge to want to get out of this place and move on with our lives,” Crane said. “The idea of getting out there and starting living our own lives just excites us.”

Crane really started to think about high school coming to an end after completing the senior paper and receiving a 99 percent on it.

“After stressing and working non-stop on the paper, I just got tired off all the school work and effort I have to keep putting in to the rest of the year,” Crane said. “I think because I did receive a good grade on my paper, It made me feel like school should be over.”

Arndt-Helgesen believes that the effect of senioritis can be relieved if seniors find something that they are passionate about to focus on during their remaining time in high school.

“We find our little niches, whether [it’s] photography, running or whatever we’ve got,” Arndt-Helgesen said. “We find our places that give us sustenance—well, that sustenance ought to be the meat of what we do.”

According to Arndt-Helgesen, making senior year count is important, but leaving a familiar place and looking forward to the future is simply a normal process of life.

“There’s a distancing, an exiting that we have to do,” Arndt Helgesen said. “God forbid this should be the highlight of anyone’s life. You know if it is, I’m really sorry.”

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Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook is a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School. In addition to being a part of the Harbinger, he enjoys choir, debate, track, and playing the guitar. Read Full »

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