Laryngitis, Bronchitis, Senioritis

Sometimes in this blog I plant just seeds, while at other times I sow a seedling in the soil.  In the first case, a tiny seed goes in the dirt simply to start the process.  In the second case, a very young plant, with a stem and several leaves, settles into the prepared earth.

Today, I am plowing a miniature furrow with my finger to drop in a simple seed.

A local high school news broadcast last week ran a story about senioritis.  Like other valuable news features, it pushed me to ponder.  It made me wonder.

In her introduction, one of the student anchors called senioritis a “phantom disease.”  The reporter then characterized  this disease as a tendency for students to “stop putting effort” into their school work.  I have been wondering about the disease metaphor.

If  laryngitis steals your full voice and bronchitis inflames your lungs, what exactly does senioritis do?  More importantly, what causes it?  Laryngitis has multiple possible causes, and infection is responsible for bronchitis.  What lies behind cases of senioritis?


A student interviewed for the school broadcast summed up his understanding of the disease by asking “What’s the point?”  He said that once he had been accepted to colleges, he started wondering what was the point of his school work.  When I hear his summation, I am reminded of my earlier blog post called “Give ’em what for.”

A teacher interviewed for the story remarked that students showing symptoms of the phantom disease are “good kids,” by which he seems to mean that they are not putting in less effort out of any maliciousness.  When I hear this remark, I wonder about the real or imagined voices to which he is responding.  Who says or does things to suggest these are bad kids?  This same teacher said that his AP students have “no other option” but to keep working because of the upcoming test.  This idea makes me wonder about the rest of the students–i.e., those not taking AP tests in May.  What options do they have?  What motivates their work–after spring break or at any other time in their high school career?

Finally, because this simple seed is quickly sprouting leaves, I think of a plaque given to me by a friend.  A company in Kinsale, Ireland makes it.  They have cast in bronze and iron a statement made by Michelangelo, when he was 87:  “I am still learning.”  The combination of this plaque and the senioritis story makes me wonder where Michelangelo went to college.  I wonder what he did after receiving his acceptance letters.  I also wonder how he might answer the student’s question, “What’s the point?”

As a related postscript, I offer the following passage quoted by a facebook friend who noticed that Wendell Berry will deliver the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities:

XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or “accessing” what we now call “information” – which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.

(from Wendell Berry’s essay, “Thoughts in the Presence of Fear,” in the Autumn 2011 issue of Orion magazine)

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73 responses to “Laryngitis, Bronchitis, Senioritis

  1. Stephen G. Kennedy

    “I am still learning…” but I may have to leave the school building to do so. I can imagine Wendell Berry or Michelangelo saying such a thing, unfortunately….

  2. Me, too. At the same time, I’d like to hear them on the subject of “best practices” that keep the heart of learning beating in school communities. Where do they find places like the storybook atrium at your school–full of sacred light, air and imagination?

  3. Your post reaffirmed for me why I spend so much time in my class exploring with the students why they are even here, sitting in chairs in a classroom for a predetermined stretch of time. I continually ask them to answer once again those “guiding stars” of our endeavors: 1) why do we read? 2) what should we read? 3) how should we read? Implicit in their thoughtful, increasingly developed answers is the belief that we will always read. As Kelly Gallagher underscores in his book “Readicide,” reading is an “imaginative rehearsal for life.”

  4. Whitney Pfohl

    As a senior who has already been accepted into a couple of colleges I can honestly say that I do feel slightly less motivated to do school work. I feel as though there is so much emphasis on college, and it is constantly engrained in our minds as students that if you don’t get good grades and work hard then you won’t get into a good college. Therefore, I feel like college was the driving force behind all of my hard work and studying, and now that I’m into college it’s almost like there’s nothing to work towards until I go off to college and start working towards finding a career. I feel like if learning was encouraged for the sake of learning as opposed to the number grades then seniors might have a different mentality about school their second semester. I don’t think it’s that we don’t enjoy learning, but I think that we have worked for 4 years towards one goal, and now that we have achieved it it feels like there isn’t really something to work towards.

  5. Darby

    I seriously think that senioritis is a myth…. But that could be just me. I have always been a hard-working, self-motivated student, and ever since I started high school, I have always heard about the terrible case of senioritis. It being our second semester as seniors, I feel almost obligated to start slacking and not doing work because that’s what a senior is “supposed” to be like. In reaction to your comment, “I wonder what he did after receiving his acceptance letters. I also wonder how he might answer the student’s question, ‘What’s the point?'” Unfortunately, senioritis has become an excuse– an excuse to slack off and to quit working hard. I think it wouldn’t have existed in Michelangelo’s day. Back then, people saw the true importance of education because they directly had to use what they learned, as much as they learned, in order to literally survive the world in which they lived. Today, it isn’t that simple. Today, we see education as a mean to get a good job and eventually money. I wish there was some way to ignite that flaming passion for learning again… I can say that I crave learning– I crave filling my mind with knowledge I have yet to know. That may sound extremely nerdy to some people, but it’s this passion for knowledge that I think that has made me immune to senioritis.

    Michelangelo’s quote really resounds with me… However, my quote would be a little different. Maybe something like, “I am still learning. What’s next?” The things we learn in school aren’t just facts, or unimportant classes that we can toss out the minute we finish a test. This is valuable and irreplaceable knowledge that many people miss out on. Now… I have not perfected this knowledge retention, but my hopes are, that as I move on to the rest of my life, I remember and value, not only the factual information we learn from the classroom, but also the knowledge that “enable[s] citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible.”

    • Well-said, Darby. I appreciate the time you spent thinking and writing on the subject. Also, I admire your observation that sometimes people do things because others around them carry an expectation of such actions. History is full of harmful events that resulted from such thinking. Thank you for your clear and courageous reply.

  6. Clint Dolan

    I agree with almost everything Darby so eloquently writes, but I would go further in her modification of the quote, “I am still learning, what’s next?” I would argue that this is the reason for senioritis. While it is commonly an excuse to slack off, and a very contagious excuse at that, it is the anticipation of the future and the exciting times that lie ahead that get everyone off task. Why do people try to argue against “finishing the drill” in high school? Well, if it’s something that will be retaught in college, where the knowledge of it then is more important than it is now, then why bother? This is one side of the argument that I see. Also, many people have been in the same high school and/or school for the past several years or even 14 years, a little change of pace is needed and should be looked forward to and should definitely cause one to be nervous and excited, thinking passed the day-to-day school work. However, senioritis comes in shifts for me. It depends what is happening that week, as I believe that while senioritis is not a disease…it is a collective excuse to put off school work due to excitement for what is to come and spend more time with friends or family that you are only going to be with a few more months before taking another big step in life and on to college.

    • Thank you, Clint. I especially appreciate the comments about spending time with family and friends. These are important relationships, certainly. How do we continue to honor and enjoy those, while maintaining an active interest in the learning opportunities close at hand?

  7. Josh Waldron

    As a senior who has been accepted to a college, I can say that it is difficult to gather the same motivation for school classes that I had my Junior year. I think that it could be seen as a contagious disease because I think that it is prevalent among second semester seniors to not try as hard in their classes once they have been accepted into their first choice colleges. Because this trend is so common, I can definitely understand why seniors are asking themselves “why bother?” I think that this is because for the last 4 years, most people have used an incentive to try hard and do their best in school so that they can get into a good college. Now that some of the people are into the college, I think that they are beginning to have a real difficult time motivating themselves to do really well because they have already reached their goal.

    • I completely agree about changing our present concept of education. This problem of “senioritits” can only be fixed with the willingness to change their mentality by the students. From a young age, a large proportion of the students see school almost like a job and are solely working towards a diploma without even exploring the power of education. I believe creating classes evolving around student interests, especially senior year, could stop senioritis. We put such an emphasis throughout high school to get good grades and create an attractive image for colleges that it becomes difficult to find any motivation once the end goal is met. If we put a little bit less of an emphasis on number grades and test scores, I personally believe that we could restore the interest in learning new things. Students would come to school looking to explore topics, rather than solely learning in order to get an A.

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  10. Keillor Johnston

    I have already been accepted to my dream college and am 100% going there next year, and I see the temptation of Senioritis. To me, it is a phantom disease but most people call it another thing: laziness. I’ve worked hard for the past three and a half years and a nice break would be rewarding, but I can’t stop working. I want to be lazy and not do work, but I still care about understanding the material so I can be prepared for college. I am done; high school has served its main purpose for me: to get into college. In an ideal world this would be my thinking; however, there is still so much to do. I would say that I have begun to slack off in some classes and become lazy while doing my work, but there are some classes where I simply cannot loose focus in. For AP Calculus BC, if I get a certain score, then I can skip up to two years of math in college, which would help me so much. For must of my classes, my motivation to continue working hard is the credits I could get from taking the AP test. It is possible to enjoy your last year here with your friends that you might never see again while also working hard and staying focused on school.

  11. I think that students a lot of times put forward their full effort in school because they don’t see an end result. Unlike a job where you can work for money, students in school see all the work that they do without any immediate results or rewards and get frustrated. I have found that trying to find something that interests me in every new thing that I learn because I am a lot more open to learning about something that I think is cool as oppose to something the teacher thinks I need to know. By looking for things that interest me in what I am learning I get excited to do more work and find out more cool stuff and I think this way of looking at school can be helpful to many who find it difficult to care about whats going on around them.

    • Thank you for this suggestion. I hope others read your strategy. It is creative, resourceful and positive. In addition, it encourages me to find more ways to open this large door to other students, as we embark on books that initially might seem completely disconnected from their current interests. Thank you again for looking forward towards viable solutions based on your own experience. Solid gold!
      Also, I want to acknowledge your comment about students’ feeling frustrated when they do not receive feedback, results, or encouragement. Point taken, and communicated to my colleagues.

  12. I’m glad you pondered and wondered about senior-itis the way that you did. If I were a doctor I would describe the senioritis disease as a realization that lowers motivation. Seniors have worked for the past 12 or more grades and will continue their work for at least another 4, therefore seniors have earned a brea. When a Senior is aware of his post high school plans his or her High School performance will drop. Honestly I believe that this “disease” is a natural and good thing. It means that Seniors can critically think about their lives and their priorities. The only reason they haven’t left high school is because they are waiting for a diploma and a graduation song. The reason I think senioritis is beneficial is because seniors get to spend time on developing other aspects to their lives that High school is usually in the way of. Junior year should really be your best performance because it matters. The only reasons someone should try their absolute best in the second semester of senior year is AP tests or another disease called “insanity”.

    • I wonder if there is a way for high school not to get in the way of other aspects to students’ lives? I wonder what some of those aspects are. Your comment about other aspects echoes the later reference to priorities. Some of what we may be seeing is a tension between institutionally-defined priorities and individually-named ones. The challenge for institution and individual then is to navigate the difference. For some students, especially seniors, this challenge looms large. Finally, I wonder how best to address those students who find themselves simply waiting for a diploma. I don’t have any easy answers, but am open to thoughtful suggestions.

  13. Ryan Sherk

    I think senioritis is very real indeed. Personally, I find that my motivation has dropped at an exponential rate since freshman year as I decide that there are may things that I just have very little interest in learning. I learn things that interest me well, but if a subject doesn’t interest me, I find it very hard to work on it. Especially so with senior year. People get tired of having knowledge they don’t think they need shoved down their throats, and as a result they are less motivated to work. However, while senioritis is a genuine affliction, it is not an excuse. If work needs to be done, you have to do it, no matter how tedious it is. You can’t use “I don’t want to” as a viable excuse, and therefore senioritis should stop no one from completing their assignments.

    • Agreed–on your last point about excuses. I also see the germ of an intriguing distinction between work and tedious work. If a subject interests you, the work may require hours of labor on minute details–collecting water samples, for example. Collecting data takes time and patience, but if you care about the theory it may confirm or refute, you don’t mind spending the time. Your comment also prods me to consider the range of interest levels. The physics of asphalt paving interests me, but not as much as the chemistry of growing vegetables. You refer to this idea with the phrase “very little interest.” I wonder where the drop-off point occurs for various individuals. Finally, I see an implied connection between those knowledge areas in which you have interest and those you feel you need. Does the need determine the level of interest? Is need (of whatever kind) the driving force, the governor of your strongest interests? I wonder what kinds of needs you are considering. Different people, I imagine, define needs according to their particular circumstances and living conditions.

  14. I completely agree about changing our present concept of education. This problem of “senioritits” can only be fixed with the willingness to change their mentality by the students. From a young age, a large proportion of the students see school almost like a job and are solely working towards a diploma without even exploring the power of education. I believe creating classes evolving around student interests, especially senior year, could stop senioritis. We put such an emphasis throughout high school to get good grades and create an attractive image for colleges that it becomes difficult to find any motivation once the end goal is met. If we put a little bit less of an emphasis on number grades and test scores, I personally believe that we could restore the interest in learning new things. Students would come to school looking to explore topics, rather than solely learning in order to get an A.

    • Well-said. I especially appreciate your suggesting alternate approaches that address the situation–a situation that few have disputed. People see the phenomenon and describe some of the forces causing it. You have gone a step further by proposing solutions to what a number of students and adults see as a problem. I have not yet a heard a voice saying “I don’t see a problem.” Maybe some voices come near this by saying, “So I lose interest or incentive, so are you surprised?” What do you think? Does this second quote resemble the idea that some people see the situation and basically accept it without feeling the need to improve it?

  15. Ryan Nelli

    I think senioritis is a real thing, I just don’t think it is a big a deal as it is made out to be. I have definitely felt a lack of motivation for several of my classes. Regardless of this, I think senioritis is becoming more of an excuse by people who just don’t want to do work. The people who say “I’m second semester senior, I don’t care” are really just hopping on a cliche so they can get out of working. Senioritis is real, and affects people, but if having senioritis becomes your most notable trait, you are a lazy child and probably wont succeed in college.

    • Your closing reference to college overlaps with something I often wonder. What do people expect to do in college if not continue to learn in a formal academic environment? Maybe part of the answer lies in the greater choice of subject college students have as compared to many high school students. When you say “as it is made out to be,” I imagine you mean both students and adults, or am I misreading the passive construction in your first sentence?

  16. There is definitely a lot of merit to the concept of “senioritis”. From the beginning of 9th grade it is pounded into your head that you need to get good grades for the goal of getting into the college of your choice. The concept of “it counts now” is something that teachers tell you in 9th grade. Now that we have already been accepted into colleges, it feels as if it doesn’t count. This is not the way learning should be but this is the way, but with college admissions getting harder and harder, learning is turning more and more into a constant test, rather than acquiring knowledge and skills. The only true way to slow down senioritis would be to take away grades and I think at this point, that is 100% implausible.

    • I appreciate your focus on the notion of “it counts” because it sets everyone up for the eventual idea of “it no longer counts,” if you discount the disincentive of colleges’ ability to revoke a senior’s spot in the future freshman class. As for merit, I would instead say that the concept has validity. It does seem a valid idea for the basic structural reasons you cite. Personally, I have always struggled with the rationale for and influence of grades–be they numbers, letters, or emojis. Finally, I appreciate your implied wish for more focus on knowledge and skills and less on grades. Do you know of high schools in this country that us incentives or assessments other than number/letter grades?

  17. Caroline Spearman

    I couldn’t agree more that senioritis compares similarly to a disease with several causes. I can relate to the feeling of no longer wanting to do work towards the end of the school year. In my mind, this is because we are taught that our whole high school career is working towards the next four years of our life to get into the best school that we can. Once second semester arrives, decisions have come out and transcripts no longer are sent, therefore the goal has been reached. I think students feel the need to slack off because it is like all their work has been payed off and they are no longer working for anything. On the other hand, this can be compared to a disease because it spreads easily. Hearing about the idea of “senioritis” and how common it is can make students feel better about not doing work if everyone else isn’t too.

    • Valuable point about the contagious effect. That’s worth considering, and I hope I did not contribute to it by asking you to read and respond to this post. I mostly want to ask questions, hoping that the conversation may lead to productive responses to the situation–responses that address either the structural issues you cite or the near-term collective work we do during the final months. Your comment also repeats the word “work” several times. I like wok, but I also want to think about the ways in which you mean and use the term here.

  18. Austin Rogers

    As a senior during the second semester of the year i can completely understand the basis and thought process of senioritis. It is very easy to say that the discrepency is false or make-believe coming from everyone but the actual second semester seniors. We go to high school in order to work as hard as possible in order to go to college. After 4 years of this task it gets tiring and monotonous. On top of that after you have accomplished getting into your university you have already accomplished what you were put in this place to do. Therefore you are now tired of doing the same thing and have already achieved your goal; therefore, it is obvious where the decline in motivation would come from. Although it is obviously not an actual disease it is worse, a thought process. You cannot receive medication from your local pharmacy and your senioritis is gone. You have to work through your thought process or let it consume you and not work at all. Either way senioritis is a real and contagious idea that inevitably sneaks its way into the minds of all high school seniors.

    • Thank you. You have hit on something by describing the goal of all of this work. I also like your pharmacy analogy, and it makes me wonder how we “treat” this condition. By “we” I mean we, since what we are doing–to a greater or lesser degree–is a joint effort. I hear, for example, the descriptions of “tiring and monotonous.” The biography project is a mild attempt to provide some medicine. I am open to learning about other prescriptions.

  19. cgracekasper1235

    On the first day of freshman year, we all had notes on our locker that read: “Your transcript starts today!” We have gone through an education system that teaches us from Kindergarten to get an A, to strive for 100s in every class because you will need those grades to get into college. Now, I’m into college, and complete understand the feeling of “being done with school.” Do I wrestle with this idea of whether these classes I’m taking matter and do they matter? Yes and yes, I need them to graduate (so that I can still go to college), but that only means I need a 70 in the class. I think the real reason that senioritis (which means something along the lines of “the swelling of seniors” if you translate its roots literally) exists is because our education system does not cultivate a love and passion for learning but assigns each person a number to try and encapsulate their work. Math and science classes have been places of natural success for me for most all my life, which is why I intend on pursuing it in my future, but I do not know if I like math and science because I am good at them or because I enjoy them. I plan on studying Engineering in college and took 3 AP science courses this year so that I could continue my education into these subjects. I didn’t want a year off from my education, and I didn’t want to have an excuse for senioritis because I have always been a hard worker, driven, and self-motivated. I think that no person is bad for “succumbing” to senioritis; They might be enjoying their last moths with friends or family before they go off to college or be exhausted from the college application process. Senioritis is not entirely the fault of seniors because year after year students find this lack of motivation in their months leading up to graduation. Senioritis may very well be the of our education system.

    • Thank you for identifying the various factors in your experience. The freshman-locker story seems especially revealing. Your last sentence leaves me wishing for one more word. That word seems to be missing from your concluding statement.

  20. Andee Poulos

    I am a senior- a second semester senior. Just saying that is hard for me to comprehend. I understand where some people are coming from when they say “I have an awful case of senioritis”- they’ve worked hard for the past three years or so and there isn’t really anything else for them to work towards- they’re just ready to end this chapter and move on to the next. But, I don’t think this give someone permission to ‘slack off’.
    I had a different set of circumstances coming into high school that may have affected me. I had a brain injury in 8th grade that put my learning on hold for two years. Because of that, I felt like I was experiencing ‘senioritis’ as a sophomore. It was really strange that it was happening to me, but it all made sense- I kept seeing pictures and reading posts about most of my friends and how they were deciding where they were going to spend their next four years, doing all the special senior stuff, preparing for graduation and deep down I felt like I was too because they had been my classmates since I was only 5… the only difference between us now was that I still had two more years until it was my turn.
    It feels so surreal that it has finally arrived, but I feel like I’ve already had the bug. I remember coming home every day from about mid-February on and not feel motivated at all. It was hard for me, especially because it all did still matter. I wonder if I’ll get it again when they’re all seniors in college. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

    • Thank you for this helpful perspective, based on your experience two years ago. Your special window onto this situation helps me think more widely about the various causes.

  21. I think senioritis is a real thing but it is not being looked at in the right way. The goal of high school is seen as getting accepted and attending college. Also, the graduation rate from private high schools is around 96%. Graduating high school is being less seen as an accomplishment and more as an expectation. Also, most people in my experience in school are not working because they are interested in the subject matter but rather are working hard because they want to get into college. This means that once that incentive is taking away, what is the new incentive for students to work hard? The new incentive is not getting your acceptance revoked which is possible but also unlike as long as a minimum effort is put forth. When adults talk about high school rarely do they remember the grades but remember experiences. So why spend so much time doing something I won’t remember in 10 years done the road. If I put minimum effort in for school, I now have more time for other things which I care more about and make me happier. This also brings me to my last comment that senioritis is not about not wanting to learn but actually lose the sight of the purpose of high school. I would say I learn more outside of school than I do while inside it. This is because the things I care about I will spend countless hours that feel like minutes researching myself online. Currently, the main thing hindering me from learning about things I enjoy is high school itself and the time it swallows up. People will learn about what they want, just because it is not the subject matter being currently told in school should not discredit their aptitude and quality of their learning. Michelangelo said he still learning at age 87 but he is not in a standardized blanket school program at age 87.

    • Nor do I think Michelangelo ever attended such a school. I wold have to research the subject before saying anything more about his formal schooling. Clearly he cared about what he was doing. That idea of caring runs throughout your comment. Thank you for pointing out the importance of this feeling. As a young reader, I found it hard to care about the characters because I did not read fast enough, or well enough, to reach the point where I cared about the characters in the stories I was assigned to read. Being assigned something seems to touch on your point about learning from hours serpent outside of school on things you care about. I wonder how we weave more of those things into the “school day,” while also helping students develop certain skills meant to fare them well after/outside of a traditional, formal school setting. Any ideas on that front?

  22. I full heartedly believe in senioritis. I think that the main reason that it exists is because teachers and parents use college as a huge incentive to work hard in school. Because of the emphasis placed on college acceptance, once students are accepted into college they won’t have any motivation. Once I received my first acceptance from the university of georgia, I knew i could attend a really great and fun school where I believe I could thrive. Unless I started failing classes, I was gonna have an awesome option for the next four years. To me that meant I could stop studying for hours on end for that test, and I don’t think that was a bad thing. I have become a lot less stressed as senior year continues. I am able to spend more time with my friends doing things I love instead of stressing and doing work that I don’t absolutely need to do. I think senioritis can be a negative thing for some people for sure, but for me its honestly more of a blessing than a curse. I am learning new things about myself, my friends, and the world around me everyday from real and raw experience, which gives me far more insight than any powerpoint ever could.

    • I like your idea that the condition affects people in various ways. For you, it has become a blessing that frees your from hours-long study sessions because you know where you are going next. Your comment also suggests that the excitement-and-relief you feel about college reduces the stress you have been feeling for a considerable amount of time. I am glad that the stress has diminished, while I also want to think about how students can be involved in vigorous learning with a healthy amount of stress. None of us should expect stress-free college or work environments. At the same time, though, parents and teachers, as well as students, should keep paying attention to types and levels of stress in the school community.

  23. I think that some of the way people view senioritis is wrong. The main purpose of High School is to get into college. For people that already have been accepted to a college that they want to go to, it is reasonable for them to get a small break after so many years of hard work. In addition, most people are choosing to do other tasks with their time. For example, many people want to spend more time with their family as opposed to doing homework, especially because you are about to move out of the house and farther away from your family and friends. I think senioritis is simply people shifting where they put their time and effort as a result of changing circumstances. Once you have completed the academic work necessary for college, it is natural to shift your focus to the things that seem more pertinent and important as you transition into the next chapter of your life. While it is still important to aim for high grades, especially on AP tests, people should better understand the situation seniors are experiencing. I think generally, people rarely have their level of motivation and energy change dramatically in life. What changes is where they choose to spend that time and energy, given what seems to be the most important aspects of their life in the given moment.

    • Your attention to shifting energies and motivations make a lot of sense. You explain this personal dynamic clearly. Thank you. You come at this idea from several angles, resulting in a convincing description of the seniors’ experiences. You have identified a simple, natural shift for high school students in transition. Who can argue with a wish to shift energies towards human relationships during a transitional time? This raises another question: how can school communities strike a reasonable balance between academic progress and the wish to maintain meaningful human relationships inside and outside of family?

  24. As a junior I recall thinking that I would never be the student to catch “senioritis”, because I believed it was a myth or just an individual battle. However, as a now second semester senior I recognize that “senioritis” is in fact a real issue that I constantly struggle with. Throughout high school students have been focused on one goal, college. I even remember on the first day of freshman year there was a note on our lockers that said “your transcript starts today”. That mentality of how the point of high school is to get into college does not provide a healthy platform for students as they continue with their academic career, for once a student has been accepted to college it seems as if nothing matters until they begin attending that new school. If high school created a space where all of your academics and experiences were meant to shape your intellectual growth and college was secondary to that then I believe “senioritis” would be less of an issue. I have been accepted into college and though I do not know where I want to go yet I still find that I do not have the same drive as I did junior year. Apart of me thinks that that is because I am burnt out from giving 110% up until this point, but as I dig deeper I think it is because we have been working toward the goal of college acceptance and now that I have achieved that there is nothing more I need to contribute or add to my high school experience.

    • Your comment starts with a valuable insight–that only now do you know the condition from the inside. This observation is worth noting, especially for teachers and parents. We have memories, but in some sense we are like you as a junior because we are looking form the outside. Later in the comment you use a phrase that I have quoted in my notes: “to shape your intellectual growth.” I also like your use of the term “spaces” because it asks the broad design questions about intellectual and physical and curricular spaces. Thank you for opening that door (those doors). Can we make college concerns secondary to spaces for intellectual growth? Can we combine the two arenas? You raise valuable questions.

  25. James Devine

    I believe that senioritis does not come from people just all of sudden not caring about anything school related, whether it be homework, quizzes or tests. Students at Holy Innocents’ work hard for the prior three and a half years before second semester senior year. I find it difficult to imagine that any student who has been educated on the importance of understanding facts in context and their place in the bigger picture can simply just drop everything. Holy Innocents’ has created a spark in most of us that makes us hate to see ourselves fail, and while you can convince yourself a couple times to not put 100% effort into studying for a quiz or test, the cumulative effect of this is too different from our previous years at Holy Innocents’ to change the way we approach school and our studies. I also believe there is an emotional factor into pushing senioritis away. Students build close relationships with their teachers during their high school careers, and not trying at all in their respective classes is a bit of a slap in the face and says “your teaching content is not worth one minute of my time or effort”. I believe this is a driving factor for students to continue to put effort into their studies because some teachers are so passionate about their academic areas that it is difficult to overlook their eagerness to teach and simply brush away responsibility.

    • Your first point is solidly reasonable one–that the condition does not appear out of the blue, all of a sudden. A student’s course of study over his high school career paves the way for some to feel this senioritis. Most of your comment, however, moves toward the reasons for students to keep working–out of respect for the passionate teachers eager to help students learn, whatever the stage of their high school career. Though I do not consider it a slap in the face when some students ease off their academic work, I do find myself trying new ways to communicate the fun and value of learning at any age or stage.

  26. I believe that to some extent Senioritis is a real thing and has some very understandable causes. First off, after about three and a half years of hard work and getting grades that make you appealing to colleges it is nice to take a step down from such a vigorous study setting and enjoy the final chapter of high school. High schoolers want to take advantage of being in the company of their friends and families before heading off to college then into the professional world. Another reason is that once you are set on where you are going to college and perhaps you have an idea of what you are going to study some high school classes start to become meaningless. For example, you may start to think what is the point of studying biology if you want to major in Accounting. Overall Senioritis is something that is very understandable, however it must be understood that when you graduate life will only get more challenging and Senioritis will no longer be an excuse for lack of effort.

    • Thank you for several valuable points in this comment. For example, your opening sentence suggests that the condition is not completely real, and this thought anticipates your concluding indication that senioritis, for some people, is an excuse. I also appreciate your point that life will present other, bigger challenges. This idea suggests that people see the senioritis as a challenge rather than an inevitable, insoluble problem. Granted, those who use the term as an excuse may not see it as a problem to be solved.

  27. Matt Christensen

    Senioritis is caused by a lack of reward. We grow up being taught that every good effort is answered by a good reward. We train hard in the sports we participate in so we can win a race and we work hard at the jobs we have so we can earn a paycheck. It is not to say we are greedy and expect a return for our work, but we are socially conditioned to expect some sort of result. When a senior gets to a point in the year when the return for our work begins to diminish (2nd semester), we begin to put forth less effort. It is not due to a lack of respect for the teacher or the class, but because it is what we are instinctively told to do. It is human nature to move to the next source of reward after our current source has run dry. I see senioritis as less of a disease, but more of a natural reaction.

    • I like your use of the phrase “preconceived notion.” Your comment makes me hear it in new ways. For example, someone other than you preconceives it. Therefore, it is what people call a “received notion,” meaning you did not create it. Someone else did. It gets planted in your brain and your daily decisions–so much so that grades and college acceptance become the “only reason to work hard.” Also, I like your observation that some people use the term “senioritis” as a fall-back for something they feel like doing, or not doing.

  28. Sarah Schmidt

    I definitely believe that senioritis is a real feeling but not necessarily a disease. I think kids choose to use the term “senioritis” as an excuse for them to do less work, which is completely understandable and honestly something that I do myself. As you continue to receive acceptance letters from different colleges your motivation to do schoolwork decreases because you’ve already gotten into college. We’ve been given this preconceived idea that the only reason that we work hard in high school is so we can get into college. Therefore, if we’ve already been accepted into college then why continue to work hard? Kids also use this idea of senioritis as a way to make themselves feel better for not putting in the effort they know they need to. It sort of acts as something to fall back on when you get a bad grade on a test, homework assignment, etc. For example, if I don’t study for my math test but tell myself it’s okay because I’m a senior and it doesn’t really matter anymore, I usually tend to feel better. Although senioritis is not something that can be cured, you have to work through this struggle and realize that instead of dreading the amount of time we have left in high school, we have to enjoy it.

  29. With the days on the countdowns until graduation slowly lowering, it becomes easy for me and the rest of my senior class to focus on the little amount of time we have left together. Growing up in this close-knit private school community, I have spent the majority of my time inside of school and outside of school with the same handful of people. The thought of moving on to another chapter in my life holds a weight over me, leading me to spend more time enjoying the few numbered days I have left.

    I do not believe senioritis stems from seniors lack of desire to learn; as a senior myself I constantly seek new ways to gain knowledge. But, I do believe senioritis exists. And, it exists because seniors switch their priorities from the “end goal” of college acceptance, to spending time with peers and family members, and simply enjoying the time we have left to spend together.

    On the first day of high school, a group of college counselors announced to our Freshman class that “our transcript starts today” (meaning that day). This statement, along with many others told to me even before high school, led me to accept that college should be the overall destination of education. However, this statement skips over the integral education gained and relationships built during the journey that leads us to this destination.

    So, seniority exists as a result of the lack of attention given to the journey compared to the ample amount of attention given to the destination, as well as the desire by seniors to reap the most benefits from the small amount of time we have left.

    • The most powerful part of your comment for me comes at the end, where you advocate for the value of the journey over the destination. I like to think that in most cases, enjoying and learning from the journey, in all of its facets, will bring people to a healthy destination. You make a strong case for the obverse of this thought–namely that predominant attention to the destination robs people of what one of your classmates called true learning.

  30. Ben Davies

    To me Senioritis is a mental transition when the student has mentally checked out of high school and is ready to move on with their lives. From day 1 of freshman year, everything has been linked to how everything will show up on a college resume. Now that people have gotten into schools, their work and grades do not matter as much and the final grades have already been sent out. Unless you absolutely fail your classes, the final grades don’t really matter to the university you are attending. So, what is there to work for anymore? This idea I believe is the main source of why people lack the motivation in the second semester. I know personally that the excitement of a college structure and curriculum is distracting to me and causes me to become annoyed with the current high school structure I am in. Admittedly, this is the main source of why I have not tried as hard and not put as much effort into my work this second semester.

    • Referring to this period as a transition helps me see it as a moment in time, rather than a condition or disease. It is a mini-era with historical causes and momentum. In the students’ experience, this era will end. For now, though, it is a liminal condition–on the shores of the ocean called college-and-beyond. Another idea in your comment strikes me–the one that compares your imagined view of college courses and structures with the current HS dynamics. I see how this comparison can make you impatient, but I would encourage you to see the impatience and the ways in which it sometimes leaks into annoyance. Is this annoyance, for example, entirely a result of the comparison, or does it have other roots, too?

  31. Kaitlyn Love

    We are told school is important because it prepares you for college which prepares you for the real world. Through out our entire high school career we are working toward two goals really: to be accepted to our college of choice and graduate. You usually reach the one goal before the other: getting into college. All that’s left after receiving your acceptance letter is graduating. However, graduating doesn’t require too much effort just ensuring you don’t miss too much school or are failing any classes. The task is fairly simple, just do the minimum amount of work and you will still graduate. So after working hard for the past three and half years why wouldn’t a senior want to take a little break and get a little lazy. While the senior is partially to blame for the fact that they aren’t putting in work I believe that society is also partially at fault. All the pressure on kids is to just get good grades so you will get into college and then graduate. We aren’t encouraged to truly learn anymore, so when we accomplish our goal why would we continue to push ourselves? I know that a student should want to learn, but that’s not what they are told their main goal is. If teachers truly want to solve this phantom disease then they need to teach kids that their goal in life should be to constantly be learning. Same with the children’s parents. They need to encourage the “learning aspect” of education and not the “where it needs to get you aspect”.

    • Your two-goal approach to these questions opens new conceptual territory. Likewise, your focus on students and society makes us think more closely about the chemistry underlying the condition. As a result of your analysis of the complexities, your comment offers valuable general recommendations. I especially appreciate your asking teachers and parents to encourage true learning. The adults need to reflect on your sophisticated insights. Thank you. We need to find concrete ways to start shifting everyone’s focus.

  32. Being a second semester senior, I can now grasp the idea of senioritis. Senioritis becomes very prevalent second semester of senior year because this is usually about the time when people have or start hearing from colleges. Our entire education we have focused on one thing: college. Even being in elementary school, many kids will tell you where they want to go. In high school, as college is fast approaching, you realize what it really takes to get into your dream school; you work hard all of high school and do what is needed to get into college. Once you have submitted your applications, you’ve completed your final step and just have to sit back and wait for the response. There’s nothing more you can do in order to get into that college. Having this one goal for most of your life motivates students to work hard in order to receive that acceptance letter. Once that acceptance letter is received, you’ve reached your goal: you’re going to college. Personally, I love to learn new things, however when we have this mindset of putting all of our efforts towards one purpose, college, then once that goal is met you’re not sure what to do next. Many students think “I’ve learned all that’s necessary for getting me into college, what’s the point in learning more?” If the education system was directed more towards leaning to the best of your ability rather than solely getting into college, I believe senioritis wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is. However, after working for 3 1/2 years, it is nice to have a little break. Especially since we will be in college in just a few months, we want to spend as much time with friends and family before taking off. So, a lot of the time when we slack off from our work it isn’t because we want to be rebellious, but rather we want to make the very most of our last few months of high school.

    • Two ideas particularly strike me. One, the notion that even in elementary school students talk about their dream school. Second, the idea that people have a dream school. WhIle I understand family or subject-matter attractions to a particular school, I also know that the U.S. is revered internationally for the strength and variety of its colleges and universities. People flock to this country for its higher education institutions.

  33. Cade Anderson

    I think the outcome of senioritis is different for everyone. While for some it may be a chance to give up on academics and learning because of the 3.5 other years in which you tirelessly put in effort. But for others, it’s a chance to put off school and experience and try new things. I’ll admit, I very much so have the “senioritis disease.” Being a competitive swimmer, I found out that I was going to college in the beginning of November, so it took off a lot of pressure that built on me the past 4 years of high school. However, staying in state next year means that my final GPA matters on the basis of money. If I reach a certain grade point average, I get significantly more money, which would help out my family a lot. There’s still that sense of pressure with school, but I’ll admit, it has drastically decreased. I often become bored of subjects in class or will have no energy or drive to do my homework until the last minute. But it’s not like I am doing nothing! I’ve put my effort towards other aspects in my life. I stay more involved in clubs like Student Council & Activities Committee. I spend more time with friends and family because it is my last year to see them and I want to make the most of it. I put more time and effort into the pool because I have to get ready for the college atmosphere. I think senioritis is acceptable because this semester truly does not have the importance that it is seen to have. People often think that this is the last semester to get prepared for a college level course or workload but learning it should not be spent in that 1 semester. It should be spread into the other 3 years in order to get used to it.

    • The concrete example of financial aid fills out this discussion. Continued school work means various things to individual seniors and their families. In that vein, I appreciate the opening remarks in your comment–specifically that the phenomenon of senioritis affects people in a range of ways–for example, some find it an invitation to rest, while others see it as a chance to explore new avenues of learning in or out of school walls.

  34. lexieknox

    I think Senioritis is a real thing but people who are not seniors believe it to be a myth. Being a senior, especially being in the second semester of my Senior year, it is very easy to slip into “senioritis” and start to slack off but I wouldn’t say it is a disease. It is definitely a psychological thing because you mentally shut down when you are excepted into a college and you already know where you are going to attend school in the fall. You work extremely hard all 4 years of your high school career to get into college and for the seniors who have already been excepted into college they feel as if what is the point of trying when they already know where they are going to school. So I do believe “senioritis” is a real thing seniors do consciously, but it is not a disease.

    • I also believe it is real, which explains my original essay on the subject. I wonder if students should be encouraged or allowed to leave high school after they have been accepted and enrolled in college? This question makes me wonder how various families would react, including the parents. What financial, social or other consequences might follow such a policy?

  35. I can understand completely understand why some people are feeling senioritis kick in around this time of year. Many of us have already received one or more college acceptances and are already looking far beyond May of this year. I myself have found it somewhat difficult to motivate myself to continue to push forward with the same dedication to my schoolwork as I have done in the past. I am compelled to believe that the reason senioritis is so widespread among seniors is that we have been told time and time again that the goal and main purpose for our success in high school is to get into a good college and then going to a good college will lead to a good job and so on. So, naturally once we have achieved that goal the last few months of high school leaves us without a goal and without much determination to continue our work with 100% effort. I think our education system is one of the main causes of senioritis. If the education system focused more on students developing a love of learning and the idea that learning can happen outside the classroom, there would not be a widespread lack of effort put forth by seniors in the final stretch of high school because the goal of school would be so much more than a few college acceptances. Students would be able to see past just getting into college and would actually have the desire to continue learning in their final months of high school because they enjoy it.

    • I admire your suggestions, and love the two ways in which you cite the idea of looking beyond. These ways frame your comment. At the start, you write that many seniors are looking well beyond May’s graduation–presumably into college life and after. At the end, you suggest that if the system focused more on love of learning and learning outside the classroom, seniors could look beyond (“see past”) grades and college acceptance.

  36. From an outsider’s perspective, senioritis might seem like a myth or an excuse. But for me, a second semester senior, I have greatly suffered from this disease. It has the power to control your life and turn you into the laziest person in the world. It’s worse than the pink eye epidemic; at least when pink eye spreads their is a cure for it. It seems as if there’s no cure for senioritis–once you get it, it’s game over. The biggest thing that keeps senioritis from being cured is the realization that nothing you do now matters. You’ve already applied to all of your colleges and hopefully gotten in. So what’s the point in trying? I’ve asked myself this question far too many times. It’s so easy to get strung up on this question and think to yourself “that’s so true… I’m already into college so I just need to pass this year”. Personally, I think senioritis doesn’t have to be detrimental to all students. As long as students keep their grades up, I don’t see the harm in it. I’d also like to say that there’s a very fine line between senioritis and wanting to be in college. Senioritis is a feeling of not wanting to do any work whereas wanting to be in college means you’re ready to leave high school. Although I have a severe case of senioritis, I have yet to be infected with wanting to leave high school. In all, senioritis is almost like a reward to the seniors for working as hard as they have for the past 3 and a half years… It’s inevitable that senioritis’ disease will find its way into all seniors at one point or another.

    • For me, your most valuable observation is the fine line between not feeling like working and wanting to leave high school. On behalf of other readers, thank you for this insightful distinction. It helps us think critically about what someone is or is not thinking.

  37. Chase Luther

    Senioritis is something I’ve spent allot of time thinking about. Of course there is this mind set that middle school is just to prepare you for high school, high school to prepare you for college, and college to prepare you for the work force. And of course, that industrialized approach to education is mostly incorrect in this day and age; but I think most students know that. I truly believe that most students understand the importance of the work we do in school and continue to do it after getting excepted into college because they understand its deeper importance. Work always goes on because “I am still learning.” For me, I think senioritis is about something different. It’s about the vulnerability of going someplace new next year; it’s about spending more time doing all the other stuff (other than school work) that makes life important and meaningful.

    • Important and meaningful–two key concepts, as far as I am concerned. In my own experience, some of the skills and knowledge I have acquired strike me as being important–for example, the ability to communicate effectively in writing. Some of these skills and knowledge may have been won through experiences that did not always appear meaningful to me at the time. This seems especially true for my younger years. On another note, I appreciate your reference to the industrial model of production. While factories still exist, as do their assembly lines, it’s also true that we are seeing newer models evolve. I’m thinking, for example, of medical science and its holistic, collaborative approach to work. Accountable Care Organizations strikes me as the front edge of such new ways of thinking.

  38. I have found that senioritis is a very real “disease”. I have found myself asking the question “What’s the point?” a lot recently. As others have said before, it is drilled into our heads Freshman year that the goal is to get the grades to go to college. In this second semester, many of us have gotten acceptances from colleges, leading us to think that our high school journey is over, making what we learn this semester feel like “busy-work”. I have found that the only cure is finding something worth working for in this semester. You never know when you might need to reuse some of the knowledge you learned in US History or Precalculus. Thus far, this has kept me from getting senioritis. Yes, I am ready to graduate and move onto the next chapter, but I know that what I learn now, may be important later.

    • What’s the point? That question resonates with me, as it does with you. These comments from you and others makes me ask this question in the context of second-semester-senior dynamics. I like the way your current solution (vaccine? antibodies?) echoes your opening question, insofar as you are finding “something worth working for.”

  39. If you had asked me freshman, sophomore,or junior year if senioritis was actually a thing, I would have said no way. But boy was I wrong. Here I am, a second semester senior in high school with a bad case of senioritis. As kids enter high school they tend to have an end goal (for the most part) of going to college. I can honestly say that after three and a half long years of nonstop studying, panic, and stress, that moment I got into the college of my dreams was one of the best feelings in the world. The last semester of senior year is so bittersweet. You want to embrace every second possible. When someone asks me about my high school experience, I don’t want to talk about grades… how lame. I want to remember the hilarious moments with my friends, or that super intense football game, or that big goal I made (or most likely missed haha) in that soccer game. I want to remember the funny memories from school dances. Yes, I know grades are important, but for the most part we have done it. WE tirelessly put in three and a half years of CONSTANT stress to be able to say we achieved our goal, and we really did.. we achieved our goal. We got into college. So why should seniors not be able to sit back and relax a little, be able to embrace our last few months as the class of 2017. Freshman year of college only marks a new beginning, where we will be ready to start over on our next chapter of life.

    • I see a link between your responding that your high school experience is more (or something other) than grades and the idea of memory. When someone asks you about your high school experience, you describe what you want to remember. I like this focus on what you will, or want to, remember because it seems to me that part of learning involves memory. When we learn, that seems to mean we remember. We learn what a complete sentence looks like, or sounds like. We remember its basic ingredients. If we learn how to make a white sauce, we remember its few simple ingredients. The examples of what you want to remember involve relationships. We all would do well to remember this pattern, as we keep reviewing, revising and reviving school communities.

  40. Pingback: High School Seniors: what matters, what counts, what next | maroonballoon

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