For high school students in the US, “senioritis” is a dreaded term. For students outside the US school system, however, this may be a foreign concept. So what is senioritis, what impact can it have on your studies, and how can you create an effective prevention plan?
It’s the end of the university application process, and very nearly the end of high school. You’ve spent years challenging yourself to earn your best grades, sitting external tests and exams, and submitting college applications. The temptation, after hitting ‘submit’ on your last application, is to call it early and to coast through the finish line.
This is senioritis. The feeling of demotivation and lack of drive that can start to derail academic achievement and even personal fulfillment in the final year of secondary school. Students have been vulnerable to this mindset for generations, and it’s important to have a clear understanding of the impact this can have on you, especially if applying to US and UK universities simultaneously.
Once accepted early to a top US university, you may want to proudly proclaim you have an ‘unconditional offer’ and no longer need to focus on your grades. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This misunderstanding is a significant culprit of senioritis.
In reality, US universities expect you to maintain your academic standing through the very end of your senior year. This means you need to keep your foot on the pedal and work just as hard to remain as academically impressive as at the time of application. Aim to arrive on campus as the student you presented yourself to be on paper!
If you apply to schools in both the US and the UK, there is a slight chance you may find yourself without any US acceptances or facing the uncertainty of being added to university waitlists. These situations can make UK offers an obvious preference, and you need to have prioritised your grades well in advance to keep these options open. Proper planning and consistency are key throughout your final year of school, and this prevents the late-game stress of trying to elevate attainment back up to where it may have been before senioritis set in.
Continued achievement can also offer dual-track applicants more flexibility. For example, perhaps you previously had the US as your first-choice destination and that preference shifted to the UK through the process; that’s why you should aim to be well-prepared to meet the minimum offer of any UK university you wish to pursue. On occasion, students make the decision to reapply to US or UK universities after completing their final year of school; in this case, it’s also important to avoid senioritis to ensure that you’re in just as good a position (or an even better one!) to apply to university the following cycle.
So how can you start now to ensure you are on track to maintain your academic standing next year and avoid senioritis?
Your academic planning for your final year needs to start during the spring term of your previous school year (what’s called junior year in the US school system).
If your school follows a curriculum where new courses are selected for each school year (such as the US AP/Honors system), then this is the time to decide which classes you will take in your final year. It is a crucial strategic decision to ensure you do not overload your schedule, while still challenging yourself. Your counselor can advise at this point to ensure your course selection puts you in the best position to get into your best-fit schools.
Regardless of school curriculum, you need to think realistically about your summer and plan for challenging subjects.
Which one will likely be most difficult for you? Calculus, Physics, and Chemistry, for example, can be really demanding in the first term since you’re also juggling college applications. Success in these subjects rests on building a strong foundation to which more complicated concepts are added later in the year, so it can make a real difference to start prepping for these subjects before the fall term starts so you can stay on top of the workload and avoid falling behind.
For other subjects such as AP US History or AP European History, the volume of course content is significant, and starting revision late in the academic year is almost always insufficient.
If any AP is relevant for your desired college major (for example, if you want to be a writer and are taking AP English Language), it is also worth putting effort into this subject during the summer so that your fall term grades reflect your continued commitment to your passion.
Make sure you spend the summer progressing each of your Internal Assessments as well as your Extended Essay. Some schools only demand a rough writing plan by September, but in many cases teachers want to see fully fledged content (or even final drafts!) by November. This can add a lot of pressure to your super busy fall term, during which you will also be applying to university. Start by chatting to each teacher before you go on summer holidays and ask for a timeline for when the work is due. Then work with your family, counselor, and mentors to ensure you cover enough ground during the summer break.
Use the feedback from your Year 12 exams to close any content gaps during the summer. Be proactive and discuss with your teachers about your predicted grades and what you can do to improve your level in each subject before the fall term. In some cases, when teachers see a proactive student make a real effort, they are more confident to predict higher grades for their A-levels.
You can start by having a chat with our academic mentor Andra Necula (email@example.com), who can help put together a summer plan for you.
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