Your College Student’s Senioritis: Recognizing and Addressing It

This is the second of two posts about the senioritis sometimes experienced by college seniors.  In our first post we looked at some of the roots or causes of your student’s feelings.  In this post, we’ll consider what this senioritis may look like and how you, as a parent, might help your student cope.

In many ways, although the causes may differ, college senioritis may look very similar to high school senioritis.  Your usually motivated student suddenly loses interest in his coursework, missing classes and deadlines for assignments.  He doesn’t seem to care about his work and only puts forth a partial effort.  His grades are in jeopardy of slipping and he doesn’t seem to care.

Although it is possible that this may be due to ”school fatigue” after sixteen or more years of school, we discussed in our last post several other possible causes.  These causes may lead to other symptoms that indicate that your student is a victim of senioritis.

  • Your student may be paralyzed by the realization that this is really the last year of college.  He knows there are many things he should be doing, and it feels as though he should be doing all of them at once.  He doesn’t know where to begin, so he doesn’t do anything at all.
  • Your student may experience a level of stress and anxiety greater than she has before.  This level of anxiety takes her by surprise and she doesn’t know how to cope.
  • Your student doesn’t want to face the reality of senior year, or post-graduation issues, so he chooses (possibly unconsciously) to disconnect from both his current work and the plans that should be made for next year.
  • In a very severe case of senioritis, a student may simply self-destruct academically.  Although he may not consciously realize what is happening, if he fails courses this semester, he will need to return to college for another term.  This will postpone dealing with the issue of what to do next year.

Senioritis may be a simple, passing inconvenience or it may be a paralyzing situation beyond your student’s ability to control.  You’ll need to think carefully about when or if you should intervene.  Anticipating possible issues and talking to your student about them may help to proactively prevent some problems.  Here are a few suggestions as you and your student explore senior year together.

  • Talk to your student about his post-graduation goals.  Do a lot of listening.  This is not necessarily a conversation about a job, but more about hopes and dreams and possible ways to move toward that ultimate goal.  As always, helping your student think about how to turn goals into action plans may give him a place to start.
  • Work with your student on next steps.  He should work with his Career Services Office to develop a good resume and practice interviewing techniques.  He might begin mailing inquiries.  Taking some positive steps rather than just worrying will help.  Let your student know that he doesn’t need to do this on his own.  Encourage him to take advantage of all of the resources available on his campus.
  • Talk to your student about senioritis and why it might hit.  Naming it and forewarning him will help him be aware if it begins to strike.
  • If he is especially anxious, suggest that he visit the college counseling center.  They may be able to help him develop some important coping mechanisms.
  • Encourage your student to find something that he loves about everything he is doing right now — yes, even his least favorite class.  Help him work for a positive frame of mind.
  • Share some of your positive stories of your early working years.  Students have often been told that college will be the ”best years of your life.”  As students get ready to leave college, they may fear that it will all be downhill from here on.  Help your student look forward to this next phase.
  • Encourage your student to enjoy the ”now” even as he is working on looking toward the future.  Make sure he finds a balance and can enjoy the experiences and friends during these last few months.

Students survive even the most severe cases of senioritis.  This interesting phenomenon can be just that — and interesting phase — as long as your student understands and takes steps to cope with those emotions and stresses that go along with college completion.  As a parent, you want your student to enjoy this time.  Talking to her openly and frankly, letting her know that you understand how much she is dealing with right now, will help your student know that she is not alone in her feelings and that she has a strong support network.

Congratulations to you and your student!  You’re almost there!

(For some practical suggestions that your college senior can put into place right away, see this recent post on HuffPost College.)

Related Posts:

College Commencement’s Coming: Is Your Student Ready?

Are You Ready for the Pomp and Circumstance?

College Parents’ Role in the Job or Internship Hunt

Is Your College Senior Suffering from Senioritis?  13 Reasons Why It May Not Be What You Think



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