The Psychology Behind “Senioritis” and How Students can stay Motivated


Anna Pogacnik, Senior Staff Writer

The phenomenon of “senioritis” is something many remark humorously about when a student approaching a momentous occasion, such as graduation, suddenly experiences a decrease in motivation and performance. There are many who view this situation as “an excuse for laziness”. While in some cases, laziness as a label may be accurate, this condition oftentimes is rooted much deeper, from a psychological perspective. In no way does the term “senioritis” refer to an actual physical disease; however, it is largely characterized by both mental health as well as an individual’s surroundings. Psychologists have often described this state of disinterest as “situational depression” that tends to affect people differently based on their levels of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter within the brain. An article entitled “The Science Behind Senioritis”, written by Alexa Aaronson, reported that a study completed by Vanderbilt University found those with higher dopamine levels show strong association with a high work ethic; whereas those with lower levels of dopamine tend to be more negligent about schoolwork as their motivation decreases. This disinterest and apathy could result in negative academic effects if the student has truly given up on his/her studies. Poor grades, loss of interest, skipping class, and laziness are just some of the many unfavorable factors associated with this common circumstance. 

The so-called “senioritis” however, is not solely dependent on an individual’s level of the feel-good neurotransmitter that is dopamine. In many cases, seniors are genuinely excited to graduate from high school and begin the next chapter of their lives. When asked if her future plans had her more enthused than completing classwork, Hubbard High School senior, Katie Stinson, responded, “I’m definitely looking forward to graduating and going to college in the fall. Senioritis is very real”. This eagerness students feel as they prepare for their futures, whether it be attending college, trade school, or starting a new job, can lead to an overall disinterest in high school classes and activities. “I definitely feel senioritis. I felt it at the beginning of the year. And the thought of graduating and going to college makes no sense to me. I still feel like a freshman walking into HHS for the first time,” stated Hubbard senior, Elaina Villano. Not to mention the current COVID-19 pandemic that has stripped students, especially seniors, of the many end-of-year functions that had been anticipated. While it can be tempting to allow these factors to jeopardize all an individual has worked tirelessly for, it is crucial to remember the importance of achieving success in a high school environment. For those who plan to pursue a college education, it should be noted that universities look to see how an individual performed in their last semester of high school. Seniors should also keep in mind that previously earned scholarships may not be given if a student performs poorly during the end of their senior year. Acknowledging these consequences can be motivation enough to continue in a positive direction as seniors approach the end of their high school career.

The good news concerning senioritis is that it is a very treatable condition. In fact, there are quite a few ways it can be brought to a halt if a student feels he or she may be experiencing senioritis. One common way is to start by setting attainable goals such as maintaining a satisfactory GPA or striving to avoid procrastination. Another method that works for some is  participating in a new club or activity. This may be a refreshing experience that can encourage students to challenge themselves and allow for greater motivation. Other options include staying organized, exercising, researching possible career fields that may interest them, or simply setting aside some time to take a break from schoolwork, offering improved focus. Again, this is just a few of many helpful tips in order to overcome senioritis. Remember that eventually these feelings of apathy and disinterest will stop and renewed motivation will lead to a brighter future. In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunities given in high school and enjoy what is left of this chapter that is quickly approaching an end.