University of Nebraska senior Jason Gaare recently Tweeted, "Goal for the week: to not skip any classes. We'll see if that happens or not... #senioritis." He explains in an interview that his definition of senioritis is "a general apathy toward school work that is developed after years of schooling at an institution."
The type of senioritis and its impact can vary widely among students. While Gaare feels apathetic about school and attending class, Syracuse University senior Caitlin Moriarty is overwhelmed by the pressure to both succeed in class and prepare for life after college. Many students fall in between, such as Belmont University senior Rachel Martino, who usually works hard to meet her academic obligations, but is becoming more interested in spending time with friends instead.
However senioritis affects students, they shouldn't let it get the best of them. Miss one too many classes, and a senior who may have been on course to graduate in May could have to stay an extra semester to retake the course. Work too hard and too frantically, and students might become too stressed to enjoy their last semester.
Students can avoid senioritis—or at least manage it—by following these tips:
1. Take care of yourself: At Syracuse, Moriarty never skips a meal because she packs herself snacks, and she makes time to exercise because, she says, "be[ing] fit helps me mentally stay on track."
In addition to those healthy habits, Moriarty also suggests that students get adequate sleep and avoid the exhausting "all nighter."
With her days filled with studying, attending class, managing her own event planning company, and participating in extracurricular programs, Moriarty says she needs to stay healthy so she doesn't fall behind.
[Discover how to ensure a healthy college experience.]
2. Stay organized: On November 8, Martino, the Belmont senior, Tweeted, "My life: work obligations > social obligations > school obligations. #senioritis." Martino dedicates a lot of time to her work as a social media consultant, she says, because she wants to land a job after college, and she thinks professional experience seems more important than grades to prospective employers.
Friends are important, too, she explains: "You're really trying to solidify your friends in your last year of college because you want people that you're going to be able to stay in contact with after you finish your studies."
Martino says that time management and using a planner has helped her make enough time to manage work, friends, and academics.
Gaare, at Nebraska, also thinks it's important to keep track of academic deadlines in a day planner, and adds that seniors also need to allot enough time for assignments. He says that, by now, "I can mentally take note [and] say 'this will take me probably about an hour's time,' and that, in turn, lets me know how long I can put it off."
3. Get motivated: "Your motivation at the end of your senior year … is a pretty good indication in terms of your motivation for the next stage of your life,"says Sara Hamon, the assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Florida State University.
She says that the transition from college to graduate school or the workforce will be rigorous and tough, so "the more students can learn how to kindle and keep that inner motivation, the better prepared they are going to be for taking that next step."
Hamon suggests that students take advantage of the "added value" experiences of college, such as internships, study abroad, and community service.
[See which schools have the most students studying abroad.]
Inside the classroom, Robert Habich, an English professor at Ball State University, tries to stir the same motivation in his students. Habich, who teaches the Senior Seminar capstone class, tells his students that, "the best fix for flagging energies is to choose a project that's fun and engaging and to let it pull you in its wake."
"I try to give my seniors lots of choices," he says, "so they can find something invigorating to work on, immerse themselves in it, and maybe even rediscover the excitement that drew them to the major in the first place."
4. Be realistic: John Stoner is a history professor and an undergraduate adviser at the University of Pittsburgh, where he says he's seen many seniors who don't seem to understand just how hard it is to get hired after graduation or accepted to graduate school.
"You'll be looking at some of their transcripts and say, 'Well, I notice your GPA is 2.7; you don't test well; and you want to go to Georgetown Law [Center].' I don't want to be the dream crusher," he says, "but I always want to urge students toward being realistic."
Stoner says that, to "temper their optimism with realism," he urges his students to utilize university career services, to schedule time to retake tests such as the LSAT or GRE if needed, and to seek experiential learning opportunities and internships.
[Learn why nonsummer internships work best for some students.]
He asks students, "Do you feel like you have something else to offer to someone other your previous retail experience at Best Buy?"
5. Visit the career center: Seniors usually face stressful decisions about post-graduation plans, and avoiding those decisions is not going to make them disappear. In fact, Florida State's Hamon thinks addressing questions about career and graduate school opportunities head-on will make life easier for seniors.
"In the long run, I think that kind of good planning and preparation will really decrease the anxiety in the actual transition," she says.
Even if students know what they want to do, Eleanor Cartelli at the Boston University Center for Career Development thinks they should still use their schools' career services, which are usually right on campus and free.
"Great, you know exactly what you want to do," she says. "That's fantastic, but are you prepared for an interview? Are you ready to sit down one on one with a professional of that field … and are you prepared to impress them?"
[Learn how to get hired before graduation.]
Cartelli suggests that students make an appointment with career services to perfect interview skills and résumés, attend workshops, and learn about job openings, among other things. And although Hamon and Cartelli stress that students begin using these services early in their college career, they claim it's not too late for seniors.
"It's never too late to take a step back and really figure out what you might be good at, … where you might excel, and how you might find opportunities," Cartelli says.
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