It may be difficult to imagine now, but soon, the same students who spent last semester hunkered over test prep books, churning out a considerable number of essays, and poring over college applications will have trouble finishing simple assignments this spring semester. In a high school senior’s mind, with college applications submitted and graduation around the corner, the most challenging part of the year is over, and the finish line is within sight. But they’re not quite there yet.
With senior trips, prom, and other year-end festivities, a general lackadaisical attitude can spread, lengthening social time, and shortening study time. Many know this phenomenon as “senioritis.” Students work less, play more, and, if they’re not careful, they can risk rescinded acceptances from colleges.
Hitting “submit” should not mean ditching the books, and just because you’re “in” doesn’t mean your schoolwork should stop. Colleges will see your final transcript, and they reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission or financial aid if they see a decline in a student’s grades.
It’s also important for students who have been deferred or waitlisted in the early round to keep up the pace. A strong final academic report is crucial to help move your application to the “accepted” pile.
While “don’t become lazy” may be accurate advice, it is not particularly helpful. The real task is figuring out how to combat this infectious attitude. Here are some pointers to help college-bound seniors avoid catching “senioritis.”
Set Attainable Goals
Grab a pen and paper, and write down the goals you want to achieve between now and graduation. These goals don’t need to be major. Some examples might be: “maintain at least a 3.8 GPA;” “volunteer more hours at the hospital;” or “train next year’s Red Cross Club president.” Keeping a list of your normal tasks, but phrasing them as pointed objectives, is a great way to stay motivated and on schedule. Remind yourself to continue prioritizing basic responsibilities, even if schools won’t see what you’re doing.
Make a Plan of Action and Stay Organized
Now that you have your list of goals, it’s time to develop a strategy to achieve them. If you haven’t already, buy an agenda, or create a Google Calendar. Note all school assignments and exam dates for the rest of the year, in addition to athletic competitions and practices. All work obligations, club meetings, events, and any other deadlines should go in, too. Next, schedule blocks of time for training, studying, and organizing. Set up reminders to make sure you don’t forget what you have to do, when you have do it, and where you have to be. You may even want to schedule in free time and socialization. Motivate yourself to complete tasks and assignments by remembering that you’ll have time for fun and leisure activities later!
Take On a New Activity
Submitting applications and finishing standardized testing opens up your schedule for more relaxation time. The temptation to sit back and watch TV can be very alluring, and soon, can affect your overall productivity. Prevent complacency by taking on new responsibilities. When making your goals, come up with an exciting new project. Are there any new activities you’ve always wanted to try, or clubs you thought you might join, but were too busy? Now is a great time to start. Write a blog, or take up a new sport for fun. Keep yourself occupied constructively. Take on more responsibility in a pre-existing extracurricular or work activity, or participate in a new volunteer initiative. Seize what may be your last opportunity to get involved locally.
Get Your Friends Active, Too
There’s a reason they call it “senioritis.” Like a virus, the impulse to procrastinate spreads rapidly, and it infects almost everyone with whom it comes into contact. If everyone around you is distracted, it can become a distraction for you, as well. When all of your friends forgo studying for shopping, staying focused becomes increasingly difficult. Make yourself the antidote. Rather than getting pulled into someone else’s destructive web, influence others in a positive way, and shape your environment to optimize productivity. Lead a study group. Recruit friends to join, help start, or get more involved with your new projects and ideas. Avoid the hive-mind by leading the pack.
Many seniors take a heavy course-load their last year, making it more challenging than ever to stay on top of schoolwork. Maintaining good grades in difficult courses is challenging enough without having to resist the pressure to put off your responsibilities. You may have scheduled study and work time into your day, but simply blocking off a period of time is not enough. When it’s time to hit the books, it is important to turn off the TV, sign out of Facebook, put your phone on silent, and really focus on work. You need to keep up good study practices now more than ever. Don’t forget how to work effectively. Procrastinating until the wee hours of the morning to finish assignments will hurt you in the fall when you have a college-level workload and no longer remember how to study well.
Start Thinking About Your College Decision
Early Decision applicants may know where they’re headed next year, but those in the regular round will soon have to choose where to spend the next four years. Get a start on the decision-making process by doing additional research on your prospective schools in order to get a better sense of where you want to end up. You may think you have an idea of where you want to enroll, but be prepared for all admissions outcomes. Managing your expectations while keeping yourself informed can help stave off some anxiety, and keep you focused on the main goal: finding your best-fit school.
After three and a half years of hard work, now is not the time to drop the ball. You’ve done a great job so far and your reward is closer than you think!