Senioritis: What is It, Does it Matter, and What Can Be Done About It?

This post is for Parents and Seniors in High School or College wondering what is the deal with Senioritis?

What is Senioritis?

Let’s start with a metaphor. Imagine that school is a race and graduation is the finish line. Senioritis happens when you are close to the end, but feel like you can hardly go on. There are a surprising amount of mixed feelings. Reaching the finish line feels both right in front of you and just out of reach. You are both excited and scared. Sometimes there is both anticipation and dread, which can be really unexpected. With our marathon metaphor there is relief at the finish line. But we part with the race metaphor at the end because with school, there is a real life fear of what comes next. Many describe this phase as feeling surreal, since they have worked for so long towards something that they thought would feel different. Only to find that they are the same person, just more tired. Burned out.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

Many of my clients identify feeling guilty. Guilty for not caring more about their assignments and grades. Once we dig a little deeper we often find that guilt is a small part of many other feelings. All of these feelings can tie up your brain with distractions which keep you from studying and getting things done. Senioritis as a whole can be a sneaky distraction from acknowledging all the things you are feeling about this phase of your life.

Does Senioritis Matter?

On one hand, it doesn’t matter. Because the end is coming, ready or not! But yes, I think acknowledging the feelings of each individual person does matter. If we deny our feelings about an experience we just postpone having to feel them. While the experience of senioritis is so universal it is almost predictable, that doesn’t mean it is any less uncomfortable for each senior. So declaring that you feel this way may actually be helpful.

The hallmark of Senioritis is procrastination. There are a lot of distractions, most of them a great deal more fun than just doing the same old work as always. Procrastination can be really tough, but choosing one thing to do at a time and breaking down obligations into smaller steps can help. It is also good practice for when you experience procrastination again in adulthood. Procrastination also causes a lot of conflict with parents and other authority figures. Which creates resentment and can lead to more procrastination. What a mess!

Maybe you don’t want to be like everyone else and they are talking about senioritis. The desire to avoid being a cliche is common during Senior Year. You don’t have to declare “Yes, I too have Senioritis!”. As long as you acknowledge the challenges you are having somehow. Maybe you only confide in one person. Maybe you can only trust a counselor. You don’t have to call it “Senioritis”. It isn’t necessary to embrace the label as long as you address what you are going through. It is better than trying to push forward, pretending you aren’t on the cusp of a major life transition.

image stating The End in all caps representing how college is ending for students with senioritis who may need to seek therapy for anxiety in Tennessee | 37130 |37916

The End | College Ending | College Student stress | counseling for college students in Tennessee 37130 | 37916

What Can Be Done about Senioritis?

One of the first things I discuss with clients in my anxiety therapy work is the pressure they feel to “finish strong”. While the idea of a strong finish sounds great, I believe it is a myth. The goal is to finish. Finishing strong feels (to almost everyone) like unbearable pressure. Please know – no one is finishing strong. Even if it looks like it on the outside, internally your classmates are not feeling confident and competent. Most people are limping over the finish line of graduation. As I mentioned before, your last semester of school is full of a lot of surprising, sometimes conflicting feelings. Acknowledge that it is a weird time. Many students feel that it is implied that since they have been working towards graduation for years that the only acceptable feeling is elation. And the only acceptable speed is full steam ahead. But remember, you are nearing the end of a marathon. You are probably depleted. And it makes sense that you are exhausted and slowing down because You. Are. Tired.

It can help to take a few minutes every day to acknowledge how you feel. Talk to someone you trust about it or type it all out in a journal. Maybe one moment you can’t wait to get out of there. You are so close to it you can almost feel the freedom. But you are also going to miss your friends. The late nights, the funny selfies, the times you laughed until you cried. These will be sad things to leave behind. And grieving is appropriate when we are sad. You don’t have to wait until the cap toss to feel the sadness. Go ahead and have a good cry earlier if it makes sense for you. It can be a nice release.

Another common experience my clients talk about is worry that you are going to screw it all up right at the end. Maybe that will happen to you. Maybe not. You won’t be the first person in the world. Nor the last. Once you give up the vision of the strong finish you can fall into a comfortable speed. Maybe it is slower. But you are still moving forward. From this position you will see that you will finish. It may not look as magical or powerful as you hoped, but a clumsy move forward is still a move forward.

It is okay if your thoughts are going to some negative places. Maybe your fears are big and all over the place. Your job is to gently gather them all back in and tell yourself it is going to be okay. Even if bad things happen. Trying to predict them doesn’t scare them away. So focus on things you enjoy. Connect with your friends. Make time to study. Look around and take in your surroundings between classes. You made it this far. You are doing okay.

Graduation caps being held in the air representing how college students may feel after seeking therapy for senioritis in Tennessee | 37130 | 37916

graduation | senioritis | college student therapist | counseling for college students in Tennessee | 37130 | 37916

A word of advice for those that are seeing a counselor already…don’t stop. I have had many clients in the past abruptly stop their sessions with me around the time of graduation. And they often end up coming back. When we dig into what was happening at the time, they say they assumed that they were done with counseling. They hoped that suddenly their mental health would be in a vastly different state. Maybe it is true that your environment is vastly different. But inside, your emotions are likely the same. And your coping skills are the same. And right around and after graduation is when they need support the most.

If you aren’t currently in therapy, this can actually be a great time to start. Having a weekly appointment with someone to process your thoughts with during a transition can feel much more stable than trying to navigate it alone. A professional can help. Contact me today and we will get started.

A Note for Parents

If you are finding that this semester has had more conflict and tension than you would like, reach out to me. Although I only provide counseling to students that are located in Tennessee, I am able to offer parent sessions to anyone in the U.S. You may find it helpful to have a few sessions to express your concerns and hear from an experienced Anxiety Therapist. You can see some of my thoughts on parents of young adults here. Whether I meet with you or your student, we can make this time of transition a smoother one for all involved. Visit my website to schedule a consultation.


About the Author

Jody works with adults looking to address their anxiety by accessing a highly trained therapist via online therapy in Tennessee.

Jody is a therapist just outside Nashville, Tennessee serving anyone within the state looking to find better ways to cope with their anxiety. In addition to her work as an anxiety therapist, parents from anywhere in the U.S. can meet with her to see how they can best support their loved one. She is also trained to provide Brainspotting Therapy for those looking to get unstuck and feel better quickly.