Senioritis, from the word senior plus the suffix -itis (which refers to inflammation but in colloquial speech is assumed to mean an illness), is a colloquial term used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school careers.


By definition, Senioritis is not due to the direct physiological effects of a general medical condition such as hypothyroidism or insomnia but is typically said to include: slowness, procrastination, apathy regarding school work, a feeling of entitlement or privilege and a tendency toward truancy, increased drug use, malingering or feigning illness in order to avoid presence in a school setting, cognitive impairments, and changes in sleep patterns. Many high school students find themselves in a type of "lame duck" situation: their plans are made and a new chapter in their life is about to begin, so finishing the current chapter (the current term separating them from graduation) becomes just a formality or "holding pattern". Senioritis is not to be confused with general apathy that one may experience at the end of any other academic year. Some students in their Junior year, Sophomore year, or even earlier may exhibit similar signs of laziness as the end of the school year approaches, but it must be noted that the diagnosis of Senioritis assumes that the cause of decreased motivation is the acceptance to college and the notion that optimal performance is not necessary to maintain that acceptance. Because of this, senioritis can only be contracted by seniors in high school. Other students are merely experiencing anxiety in anticipation of summer break.

Senioritis usually results in a withdrawal from school-related extracurricular activities and school spirit events and a reduced concern for social acceptance, instead focusing on graduation (and the end of compulsory school) in June, or matriculation to college in September. It can also manifest as increased social and extracurricular activity, which comes at the expense of academic duties, with the student preferring to enjoy themselves rather than work academically.

Studies and Solutions

To introduce the term senioritis as one of recent origin ignores mid 20th Century history of public education, following the events on college campuses of the 1960s. Many public school administrators in the 1970s felt changes in family and community life failed youth in their transitions to adulthood. Writers like James Coleman, Chairman of the President's Panel of Youth, urged changes in the high school curriculum to address the problem of senioritis. These concerns gave rise to the implementation of a "Senior Semester" in many high schools throughout the country, which allowed Seniors to spend time outside of the school or attend seminars in their specific interests. In 1974, for example, McKeesport High School in Pennsylvania received a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to establish a "Senior Semester" Program.

The College Board, the National Youth Leadership Council, and other youth-serving organizations suggest that there are many ways schools can help young people make the most of their senior year instead of succumbing to the temptation to take it easy once graduation is assured. Giving young people opportunities to make their academic work more meaningful through service-learning, or other forms of experiential education, can increase students' academic aspirations .


In some serious cases, when students let their grades drop, universities may rescind offers of admission. Those who experience senioritis are often shocked when colleges and universities send them a letter the summer before their fall semester starts telling them that they can no longer attend the college due to failure in the academic rigor that they promised in the interview or application process. Nonetheless, it is widely known that most colleges do not rescind, and even the most elite schools only revoke a very small number of students. However, senioritis in high school may still cause the incoming college freshmen to not be as adequately prepared for the rigor of college level studies as they would be without the senioritis. A decrease in academic performance due to Senioritis may also cause difficulties should the student attempt to transfer from one college to another. Because transfers require one to apply anew, the student's poor performance would reflect negatively on them in their application and may decrease their chances of admissions.


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