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For high school students completing the remainder of their high school year, homework becomes a sort of pedagogical triage. Seniors find themselves weighing the benefits and detriments of completing their work: they're going to graduate, they've already submitted their first semester grades, why keep up the hard work. This inner conflict--and the ensuing decision to slack off--is called "senioritis." Many seniors fall into a confident lull as soon as they learn of their college acceptance and begin to stagnate in scholastic performance. Finding seniors up at 2 a.m. watching SpongeBob SquarePants marathons or playing Call of Duty is no longer an uncommon phenomenon; it's a standard Thursday night. Senioritis has become such a prominent trend that a recent article in The New York Times Magazine highlighted the efforts by the Utah legislature to abolish senior year. Even I have had to pull myself from watching garbage on television like Jersey Shore and attempt an even more mind-numbing "situation:" school work. After working four long years and taking countless standardized tests and AP courses, should seniors feel entitled to a break after the stressful college application process?
In most college applications, students are required to hand in their midyear grades and final grades. So a second semester senior appears to be a free man. However, after taking a closer look, you may find that a second semester is not so "free." Colleges have been known to withdraw acceptances of students who perform poorly the second semester of their senior year. Most college admission counselors will confirm that you that when your grades drop below your norm, you may be in trouble. Now it's no need to panic, as your grades would probably have to fall at least a full letter grade to get on the admissions office's radar. However, seniors need to be aware that colleges may check in on them. If you're an A-student suddenly receiving C's, there might be a cause for alarm. The important thing for seniors to remember is to stay motivated and focused--not only out of fear of application rescission, but also for their own sake, enforcing healthy study habits and getting prepared for colleges.
Pretty much every senior will find himself walking a fine line between sloth and guilt come second semester. But what's important for all high school students to remember is to stay focused in their studies and retain the work ethic that got them accepted to college. If you're too burnt out on calculus problem sets and physics quizzes, it's OK. But rather than filling your time with TV and parties, try investing more time in the extracurriculars you put on your college app--whether that's French Club, Varsity Soccer, volunteering at the local soup kitchen or writing articles for a website like Vault. If you really bomb your second semester grades and your dream college's admissions office takes note, they'll probably give you a change to explain yourself, most likely in essay form. And admissions officers will be much more understanding of the C on a Spanish test if they see you're devoting your time to a worthy activity.
That being said, senioritis is not just pseudo-comic disease, it's psychology. Cognitive dissonance may be characterized as "an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously." This is the feeling you get when its 4 a.m. and you realize you have to stop watching reruns of Charmed--erm, I mean Family Guy--and start writing your 10-page research paper on James Joyce. As much as I hate the loads of school work I'm dealt, I also hate the prospect of receiving sub-par grades. And while the medicine of an angry mom is always helpful (a spoonful of Mrs. Greener is enough to get a Marxist to finish AP U.S. Government homework), high school seniors need to take responsibility and make sure they keep the ball rolling after a college acceptance. They need to keep maintain the study habits they've honed for years so as not to lose it come September.
--This is the second in a series about college admissions by Dan Greener. Dan is a graduating high school senior, heading to Cornell University in the fall. With his college application experience so fresh in his mind, he will provide honest insight into the life of the Class of 2014.
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