Overcoming a Dreadful Case of Senioritis

By Samantha Kutner

Senioritis is that drop in motivation and the tendency to procrastinate and/or entirely miss assignments during your final year or semester as an undergrad. It has ruined many an A student, but it doesn’t have to ruin you!

You might have great news about your plans after you graduate… or you might have no plans whatsoever. Both, surprisingly, cause a fair amount of anxiety. You could be inundated with options or offers (or realize that you have none). You may be thinking, “I finish this, and it’s over. I graduate, and then what?” In addition to all the uncertainty about the future, you still need to finish your assignments to graduate.

By the time you recognize the signs of senioritis, you may be in too deep to pull yourself out unassisted. Try talk to your friends and family and let them know that you would appreciate their extra support. In addition to your support group of friends and family, here are a few tried and tested tools that have worked for me to manage my own senioritis. I hope they can work for you too!

1. Perspective Taking

In my downtime, I like to read about people and how they’ve adapted to adversity and challenges. I am currently reading a memoir of someone with clinical anxiety disorder (who happens to be a brilliant and funny writer). Even if you are just mildly anxious, sometimes it helps reading about the experience of being anxious in someone else’s words. That feeling of “Oh, I’m not the only one experiencing these things” can be calming.

2. Find your way “in” to the material
Many student will put off taking classes they are not interested in until their last semester. As a senior, you may be taking a class that doesn’t even remotely relate to your major or career path. The hardest thing here is finding that connection between something you already know or enjoy and something that seems foreign or inaccessible. The more connections you can make, the easier it will be to get through the class. For example, I find it helps to draw the neuroscience figures to help me remember as opposed to memorizing slides. It lets me engage with figures and anatomical things in a more creative and less threatening way.

I’m no Ramon y Cajal, but you get the idea.

3. Find Your Way “Out” of the Material
Part of senioritis is fatigue. You’ve been through 4+ years of this difficult journey called “college,” and you might be feeling like a runner who gets a cramp during the last mile of a marathon. We all have something we enjoy doing, and sometimes it’s necessary to take a break and just do that thing! It could be taking a bath, going for a hike, seeing a concert with a friend, or just meeting with your friends (even if it is to talk about how stressed you are).

4. “Grandma’s Rule” or the “Premack Principle”
Ensure that the things you enjoy (for me, it’s dancing, reading, and writing) will only happen if you finish one of your goals. I tell myself often, “If I finish half of my chapter by 6pm, then I can go out to that movie or salsa dancing or take that dance class.” It requires a little bit of self-discipline, but you’ll find that rewarding yourself when you do get things done can provide that motivation you need to finish your last semester. The important thing is to set realistic, clear, small goals. An unclear, vague, or terrifying goal would be saying “I can’t eat dinner until I’ve finished my entire essay or the entire study guide for my exam.” A more realistic goal could be, “I am going to answer and fully understand at least 3 questions in my study guide before going out tonight.”

5. Seek support and extra help, if needed
Make time to speak with your instructors or TAs. You may just be misunderstanding one element of a single mathematical concept and figuring that out can make the difference between procrastination and a sense of feeling like you can accomplish a decent grade in a class. Come into the Writing Center if you’re having a hard time organizing or structuring your senior thesis or final research paper! There is also no shame in seeking help from a counselor to talk through problems and adopt healthier strategies for succeeding in your final semester.

None of this is easy, but I’m right there with you, seniors.

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