Even though my youth is just, y’know, casually slipping away, I still remember what it was like to be a senior in high school, believe it or not! You’re sitting pretty at the top of the social totem pole, you’ve got an established rapport with a couple teachers, maybe you’ve been accepted into a college by this point, and now you’re just biding your time until you can cash in on your one-way ticket out. So maybe you start missing a club meeting or practice here or there—you’re leaving soon; it’s not like it matters that much, right? And hey, you’ve got a pretty good attendance record so far; what’s skipping a class or two? And obviously you’re not gonna take that downtime to get caught up on that missing assignment. Or…several missing assignments. Uh-oh. Now your grades aren’t looking so good, and a report card that once might’ve sent you into a panic no longer lights a fire underneath you to try to do better. You know you’re in trouble and that you can (and should) do better, but you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for four years, and now, no matter what happens, you just can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything that would have been super easy for you to do at literally any other point in high school.

The diagnosis? Senioritis.

Thankfully, I myself was never in a position where I was in serious academic trouble, but let me tell you, I was definitely a lot more lax my senior year than I would have allowed myself to be the years before. And I certainly bore witness to a few classmates flush an otherwise successful high-school career down the toilet in the months leading up to graduation. But why does this happen? Speaking from experience, my senioritis was a combination of both burnout and a false sense of security (for lack of a better phrase). I’d taken the most difficult classes I could all throughout high school, I was working, and I’d already been accepted into my dream school, so putting forth the same amount of effort I had been for years felt both impossible and hard to justify. But after talking to my parents, teachers, and older friends who managed to get over their senioritis, I was able to not just stave off any type of crisis my senior year but make it just as productive as the previous three years! And now, fellow burnt-out soul, I shall impart to you those same tips to hopefully help you avoid or resolve a seemingly incurable case of senioritis.

Remember that senior year still matters—in more ways than one

If you think your grades senior year don’t matter because you’ve already been accepted into college, think again. Although it’s rare that someone’s acceptance gets totally revoked, it can happen. What’s more likely, however, is that you’ll be starting college off on an unnecessarily bad note. More importantly, you can end up sabotaging any potential academic scholarships. And if you’re going to be attending college on an athletic scholarship, it’s not exactly wise to get yourself suspended from your high-school team because you don’t meet the grade requirements. You’ve already made yourself stand out among the applicants— now is your chance to stand out among the accepted students. Working hard your senior year may feel like an immense chore at the moment, but it can seriously give you a leg up once you start attending college and things like scholarships will more than make up for it.

Keep yourself engaged

This is your last chance to attend events like prom or participate in clubs or competitions unique to your high school. While similar clubs may be available in college, you’ll be doing all those things as an adult. Which is still fun, but it’ll be a totally different experience from when you’re a teenager. Go for these things while you still can! And, like I mentioned with sports teams, a lot of these things have grade requirements, so if you have something you want to join or attend, that’s another way to stay motivated in the classroom.

Continue planning for college, even if you’ve already been accepted

Just because you got that acceptance letter doesn’t mean you should totally wash your hands of college prep. Dual-enrollment and AP classes are still available your senior year, and you should try to take advantage of that. After all, this is your last chance to earn college credit at a much lower cost than an actual college class. And if you play your cards right, you might even rack up enough credits to graduate college early—I did!

Think of yourself as a college student in training

I suppose you could argue that you’ve always been a college student in training, but bringing this idea to the front of your mind while you’re a senior can be really useful for helping you prepare for the upcoming transition. Are you the type of person who prides themselves on never studying and still getting As? First, what witch did you promise your firstborn child to? Second, maybe stop doing that because that type of practice has a much lower success rate after high school. It may require more effort than you’re used to, but hey, so will college. Take this time to practice developing good study habits, and try to treat things like note-taking and time management seriously. After all, high school is a much lower-stakes environment than college. 

Find a balance

If you opt to take a bunch of classes that you know won’t challenge you much because you want to take it easy your senior year, you’ll just end up bored, think to yourself, What’s the point? and start slacking. Even if it doesn’t produce a negative result on your transcripts, slipping into that mentality is dangerous because it can be extremely difficult to pull yourself out of it—it’s definitely not something you want to bring with you to college. That said, if taking every single AP class available to you and joining two new clubs will end up overworking you to the point that you can’t give anything you’re doing 100% and you start thinking, What’s the point? in that scenario, that’s not healthy, either. Stay productive, but it’s OK to ease off the gas a little. If you’re burned out, honor that, but don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll want to give up entirely! 

Like I said, I’ve been in your shoes before, so I get it. You’ve spent a lot of time working super hard, you’re tired, and you just want to cut loose. And that’s OK! You’re human, not a homework machine. Give yourself permission to have fun because you deserve it. But just remember that you also deserve not to have all your years of hard work undermined. Be honest about the kinds of changes you need to make in order to hold yourself accountable and have a senior year that rewards all the work you’ve put in thus far and will set you up for success moving forward.

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