Even though it might not seem like it sometimes, it’s officially Spring! The weather is getting a little warmer, birds are starting to sing, crocus buds are popping up…but along with these changes, you may also be noticing a change in your student: lackluster effort in projects, low motivation for completing homework, and a general lethargy for anything academic.
Yes, along with the first signs of spring often come the first signs of “senioritis”, a very natural affliction that affects many students to one degree or another at this time of year. And although the name implies Grade 12 students are the only victims, it’s not just seniors who are affected; it can happen to any student in any grade.
All kidding aside, many students are struggling to stay focused on school at this time of year. There are so many other fun things to think about! Although the name for the affliction is humorous the results of senioritis, if left unchecked, could have serious consequences, especially for university-bound students in Grades 11 and 12.
For students in Grade 11: remember Grade 11 marks matter. Some of the courses you're taking right now might be used by universities to calculate your admission average AND your scholarship offer next year. Also, make sure you don’t jeopardize any pre-requisites for university admission requirements, e.g. English, Pre-Cal, Chemistry, etc.
For students in Grade 12: many of you will have your offers from universities by now and it may be tempting to coast to the finish line. Remember, though, your second semester grades will be checked to ensure you’ve met all pre-requisites for the program to which you have been accepted. If you haven’t passed it or met the minimum requirement, your offer to that program may be rescinded (withdrawn).
It’s unlikely that your offer of admission to the university will be rescinded (although it’s possible, if your grades fall significantly), but it could mean you are no longer eligible for your desired program and are offered admission to another, e.g. you fail Pre-Cal and are no longer eligible for Science but are offered admission to Arts.
In these situations the impact can be felt long-term, as you are always one credit behind in your degree program until you make up the missing credit by taking a course overload (not recommended) or you take a summer course to make up the credit. It may mean graduating in 4.5 years rather than in 4 years which adds time and cost to your degree, and delays employment.
Of course, it’s not the end of the world if your student fails a high school pre-requisite; there are ways to make up classes before entering university, such as summer school. But who wants to spend their summer sitting in a classroom making up a course that could have been passed the first time with just a little more effort?
Side note: potential good news – some universities will re-evaluate for scholarship on second semester finals. This means if your grades go UP significantly, it could increase your scholarship offer. Check with the university to which you have applied for their policy.
So what’s the cure for senioritis? While I don't have the magic answer, here are some suggestions:
a) Get help: at the first sign of significant struggle, get help from an experienced tutor. A little bit of time and money will be well-spent if it means the difference between getting or not getting a pre-requisite or meeting the required minimum average. Having a weekly meeting with a tutor will also help your student stay focused and accountable.
b) Set short term goals: try to have your student stay in the moment and think in terms of short term goals, e.g. getting an 85 on the next English test, spending an extra half hour on homework tonight.
c) Cut back on activities: if your student is over-committed to extra-curricular activities, now may be a good time for him or her to cut back a bit. When I worked in academic advising I would sometimes see students who were working a part-time job, and involved in so many activities that their grades were suffering and their entire year was in jeopardy. And on top of that, the hectic lifestyle caused them a lot of stress and affected their eating and sleeping habits. Although it may be difficult to convince them to cut back, your student’s grades—and their health—may benefit from fewer non-essential activities.
Although Google categorizes the definition of senioritis as humorous, in reality it’s nothing to laugh at. But it’s normal and it’s natural.
On top of the sheer boredom with school some students feel at this time of year, for Grade 12 students especially, there is the excitement and uncertainty of big changes to come in the near future.
The months ahead will be bittersweet for your student—and for you!—so try to balance your concern with understanding and care.