“Senioritis”, or Final Year Apathy

In America and Canada, the term “senioritis” is well-known. It’s been defined as “decreased motivation towards studies by students nearing the end of their academic careers.” And every single student gets it, without fail.

Whether it last just a few days or several months, well…that’s up to you!

If you’re in your final year now, there’s no doubt you’ve felt it too. The giddy excitement in your bones at the knowledge that – yes! It’s nearly done, you’re nearly there, completing the biggest academic achievement yet…offset with a knee-deep lack of enthusiasm for anything academic. In fact, it gets worse the closer it gets to graduation. The knowledge that there remains only weeks until the end of undergraduate study should be enough to spur me on to work harder, but, paradoxically, it does the opposite.

Sound a bit like you? Do you, perhaps, have “senioritis”? Well, it’s not too late. Like with any illness, it’s worth looking at the symptoms, and what you can do to fight them.

Symptom 1: Skipping lectures and seminars

No need to elaborate on this one. This starts to happen pretty early in the final year, when you feel you’ve got a hang of the whole academia thing and believe yourself to be a master at independent study. “Who needs lectures, right? I’m out of here soon anyway! I got this!”

Whether intentionally or not, I would say every student has done this, at least once. Lectures are a valuable part of the student learning experience – they’re the opportunity you have to interact with the lecturer, get first-hand expertise and ask any questions face to face.

Cure: Try and prepare for your lectures and seminars, and even if you haven’t, go to them anyway. If nothing else, it’ll save you from the guilt! Of course, we all learn differently, and some people prefer to study at their own pace and in their own way, especially if they have short attention spans (like me). I’ve personally found listening to lecture recordings helpful, as I can digest the information in chunks and pause to take notes. Find out what works for you, but try not to get into too much of a habit of missing contact hours.

Symptom 2: Procrastination

Knowing that final year is weighted the heaviest, and can single-handedly elevate your degree classification should be all the motivation you need, right?

Wrong. “I just want to skip to graduation,” I find myself thinking, more often than not, wishing someone else could do my coursework for me. You see, what happens is wanting the reward without wanting to put the work into it. This isn’t exclusive to final year students, but it’s harder when we can see the finish line clear as day, getting emails about graduation procedure and becoming an alumni…it’s hard to actually focus on all that needs to be done before then.

Cure: What helped me, personally, was writing a list of goals and objectives. I compartmentalised the few remaining weeks of study, and gave myself daily goals to accomplish. As I ticked them off, I gave myself a little pat on the back, and saw the path to graduation become more and more clear. This worked wonders in curbing my urge to procrastinate or to just put off doing assignments altogether, because breaking the unsurmountable work into smaller, digestable chunks eased my anxiety tenfold.

Symptom 3: Sleeping – all the time

This is perhaps the hardest to conquer. Chronic sleepiness can be a symptom of a lot of things, but sleeping when you really don’t need to be sleeping? As a means of putting off your responsibilities? Trust me, when you finally emerge from the throes of slumber, you just end up feeling worse! And guilty that the Word document you’ve had open for three days is still pitifully sparse.

Cure: Set. Alarms. Go to bed on time. Give yourself breaks – but not too many! If you really are exhausted, don’t push yourself too hard or your work will suffer. I’ve found power naps to be highly effective, especially in the middle of a study marathon. Also, having a roommate to literally shove me out of bed when I oversleep…that helps a bit too!   

Most of all, the turning point was recognising that this really is my final year of being an undergrad. No matter what I go on to do after, this stage of my life is coming to completion. And that’s exciting – but sad, too. Recognising that I need to make the most of what’s left – that was the key to conquering my senioritis.

Of course, no one’s perfect! I can’t say it’s entirely cured. Every few days, there will be sniffles and stumbles, and I’ll feel it crawling back. But all it takes is a little reality check, and reminding myself that after all this is over, I want to look back with no regrets.

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