High school seniors entering their last semester of grade school often lose motivation. Interestingly, the two main causes of “senioritis” are polar opposites: a lack of goals or no goals left to achieve. High school students who do not aspire to go to college may view senior year as their last chance to socialize in such a setting. As a result, a lack of motivation for further academic development can cause students to wonder “what’s the point?” of their classes in their final school days. On the other end of the spectrum, students who believe they have achieved everything they had planned to in high school (i.e. getting into the college of their choice) may also display symptoms of senioritis. Although not as a worrisome as students without goals, students who are complacent with their achievements may be just as likely to fall behind in their schoolwork senior year.
High school seniors should stay academically motivated throughout the entire school year for two primary reasons. First, most college applications are due in the winter. So students should spend the first few months of senior year preparing their applications: writing essays, gathering recommendation letters, completing required standardized tests, polishing a resume, requesting high school transcripts, and more. If a student is not organized early, he or she may have to scramble at the end, which may lead to subpar applications. Second, most scholarship applications are due in the spring. Students who take their foot off the pedal during the second semester of senior year could miss out on opportunities to secure scholarship money for college. Given that most seniors have a lighter schedule during their last semester of high school, they should take advantage of the extra time to research and apply for scholarships. College and scholarship applications in addition to classes and extracurricular activities can make senior year a very busy time, so it’s important that students remain focused throughout.
However, despite what many think, the final senior year transcript plays a very small role in college admissions. As long as students do not fail a class, a subpar academic performance in the last semester of high school will not affect their college acceptance. Students only need to make sure they pass their final classes to be in the clear. This doesn’t mean that parents should be apathetic to their child’s academic performance, but they should grant more independence. Most professors in college will not hound students to complete their homework, turn in term papers, and study for tests the way that high school teachers do. Because seniors will still have their hands held in high school by teachers and administration, it’s important that parents give students some degree of independence at home. This will best prepare them for the personal freedom within an academic structure that they will encounter in college. Students should use their second semester of senior year to explore classes that interest them. In college, students will have the option to choose many more elective courses than in high school. And most institutions offer hundreds of courses to select from. Therefore, it’s a good idea for students to get practice now. This way, when students enter college, they will be ready to select interesting classes, transfer out of undesirable classes at the beginning of the semester, and decide the right major.
But before college, it’s important that high school seniors stay focused. One tangible way students can stay motivated during senior year is to write down three goals at the beginning of the year. These goals could include receiving admission into a top university, achieving a high SAT score, or winning a scholarship. Students should put these goals in a visible place such as the refrigerator door in order to serve as a visual, daily reminder as to why they are finishing off senior year strong. But remember that in order to achieve long-term goals, short-term goals are absolutely necessary. In addition, students should attach deadlines to the small goals they set for themselves. For example, if a long-term goal for a student is to win a scholarship, a smaller goal that he or she could set would be to apply for X number of scholarships by a certain date. You could even set smaller deadlines as to when the essay should be completed for each scholarship. Setting small goals with deadlines will not only keep students focused during senior year, but also prepare them for the academic independence of college. And best of all…it will help students avoid senioritis!
Shaan Patel is the Director of SAT Programs at Veritas Prep and is the author of the best-selling book SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps.