Senioritis is not a new phenomenon. For years, burnt-out seniors have been blaming their struggles with finishing homework assignments, projects and even tests on this so-called disease. According to Grand Canyon University, senioritis is the loss of motivation to complete schoolwork that students experience in their final year of school. GCU likened senioritis to normal burnout but specified that it only occurs in the final months of senior year.
Senioritis is more than just a lack of motivation. For some, it can be debilitating. The CollegeBoard website warns that the actions students take while claiming to suffer from senioritis can force colleges to rescind offers of admission, alter financial aid packages and put incoming students on academic probation. Seniors’ futures are put at risk due to senioritis, but many are unaware. Senior Joaquim Willemsens (he/him) spoke about his experience with senioritis and how he’s seen it manifest itself in his peers.
“To me, senioritis feels like a very specific type of burnout that people face at the end of high school, because high school is like, ‘Oh, you’re at the end of this part of your life,’” Willemsens said. “All 12 years of schooling are coming to an end, people start to be like, ‘Oh, I already got into university!’ or ‘It’s already come to an end. I did what I could. It is what it is.’”
Senioritis not only impacts seniors’ academic lives, it also hurts their personal and social lives. It can mentally paralyze those experiencing it and prevent them from pursuing anything, whether it be schoolwork or something else. Senior Aliana Taylor (she/her) reflected on the impact senioritis has on her personal life, making things less enjoyable.
“You can’t enjoy anything when you’re stressed, or when you have stuff to do. Like, for me, it just makes me really anxious,” Taylor said. “Because it’s like, ‘Oh, I have four assignments to do.’ But I’m just resting [but] I can’t rest. Or I can’t do any fun things without having that stuff done. But it’s never gonna get done because it just keeps piling up.”
However, Taylor said that burnout doesn’t impact her friendships negatively. She said that her friends are supportive when she’s feeling burnt-out and vice versa, but that she thinks that may be different for other friend groups. She said she doesn’t feel like she needs to compare herself to her friends when they’re burnt-out.
“We’re just all suffering together.”
The never-ending pile of work stacking up on seniors’ desks can demotivate them. Willemsens said he feels like the so-called “finish line” is always out of reach. While he’ll give himself arbitrary deadlines to keep himself motivated; as soon as one deadline passes, he’ll make another, resulting in a vicious cycle.
“I feel like there’s a limit to how much I can fool myself into thinking that the finish line is real at this point. It feels like it’s not even attainable,” said Willemsens.
Current seniors are all too familiar with feeling like the finish line is out of reach. The class of 2023 went through much of their freshman year and their entire sophomore year online during the first years of COVID-19. Because of this, the transition from online school was rough, said IB Biology teacher Beth Stewart (she/her). She noted that her current seniors, who she had last year as juniors as well, don’t seem to be any more burnt out than they were last year.
“It’s been going on for two years, right? So, I think that the transition this spring has felt less to me. Overall, I think that senior students have felt more burnt out to me than students ever have in the past.”Taylor recalled how her burnout was exacerbated by quarantine.
“I don’t know, there’s something about the pandemic that was just really horrible. I don’t think it was the isolation, but there was just nothing to distract me from being upset. I felt like I was going insane at home. I just got really burnt out.”
Willemsens also highlighted the hopelessness he experienced over quarantine that may have contributed to his current burnout.
“I felt like I lost a lot of that expectation or that hope of what I could be in the future, and thus, I was like, ‘What is the point of me putting in this work? There’s no reason to because it’s not gonna amount to anything anyways.’”
Though teachers can feel frustrated by their students’ lack of motivation, Stewart said that many teachers do their best to alleviate the impending feelings of doom that come with senioritis. She discussed the role she plays in making sure her burnt-out students make it to graduation.
“It has pushed me as a teacher to try to come up with ways to learn in a way that still seems relevant to them. It’s been two whole years of thinking, ‘What is essential here? What do we really need to do? What can I take off your plate so that you will be more willing to focus on what is important, right?’” said Stewart. “And I think since the pandemic, I have done that more. I think all of us have really pared down to what we think is truly essential so that you can see the benefit bleed into your overall life, not just your academic existence here.”