Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Five Stages of Senioritis

The Five Stages of Senioritis

     Everyone has had a case of Senioritis at one time or another.  Everyone at the University of Wisconsin was once a senior in high school.  I am currently in the middle of my final semester at UW, and I have a bad strain of Senioritis.  
How do you know when you have developed a case?  I have developed a five stage model that you can use to help determine if you or a loved one has Senioritis and identify to which stage the Senioritis has progressed.  The stages are presented in the order that they usually present, but there are a few cases that deviate from the norm.
*adapted from the Five Stages of Grief described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.

Denial:  This stage occurs at the beginning of the student’s senior year.  Anxious to get the year started off right, the student chooses not to admit that in the spring, it is likely that he or she will be donning the cap and gown that symbolizes the right of passage into the working world.  Ultimately, clinical manifestations of this stage do not differ much from when the student was a junior.  They just continue to go on with their business as a student because, after all, they will be here for a while longer.

Anger:  This stage can be an absolute ear-sore for those closest to the student that is affected.  It is during this stage that the student begins to ask the question, “What is all of this for?”  Angry outbursts about classes that they felt were a waste of time are common, and the student is never in a good mood after coming home from class.  They develop a carefree attitude about schoolwork, saying it just does not matter anymore.  After all, C’s get degrees, right?  Or was it B’s?  In any case, arguing with a student in this stage is futile and will result in hurt feelings and/or bruises.  This stage typically lasts until around the end of the student’s first semester of their senior year.

Bargaining:  After surviving the first semester, the student begins to see that mid-May graduation date in the distance.  It is during this stage that alternatives to graduating begin to manifest in many clinical cases.  A few examples of these include but are not limited to: joining the Peace Corps, deciding on graduate school, or taking a few more classes to pursue that elusive second major, “the victory lap.”  Other symptoms the student may display include long conversations with his or her parents convincing them of the logic of their decision and the student incessantly changing their mind about what they will be doing next year.  Bargaining typically lasts until about mid-second semester.

Depression:  This phase is extremely variable for many students.  For some, realizing that they might not see their friends on a daily basis, party until the early hours of the morning consistently, and interact with willing co-eds weekly is as bad as it gets.  Others do not have the luxury to worry about such petty things.  Students that pay their way through college see the mountain of debt that they have built.  Those that aren’t fortunate enough to have a plan for the fall are forced to search for jobs, many of them not quite as illustrious as they had once imagined.  The question of moving on to new places or staying put arises.  This stage is typically accompanied by nervousness and intermittent stomach butterflies and typically lasts only a few weeks.

Acceptance:  This is the final stage where the student realizes graduating may actually be a good thing for them.  People in the working world do not get paid to party, and not everyone is capable of pulling off a “Van Wilder.”  Moving on to new things, meeting new people, exploring, and self-discovery await.  The apprehension that was felt by the student turns from a negative to a positive feeling.  The student realizes that it is all right to be nervous about the future.  Breaking out of a routine can be a scary but exhilarating experience.  Should this stage present clinically, tell the student to savor this moment.  He or she will not likely experience this feeling again until retirement, if they are lucky enough to retire.

Rx:  Enjoy the company of friends, do things spontaneously, and take lots of pictures.  Memories can be as valuable as the experience itself.


At 8:22 AM, Blogger Lindsay said...


As a fellow sufferer of senioritis, I really enjoyed your blog! I think I’ve gone through every stage except for the Acceptance stage!

Denial: I definitely didn’t start thinking about graduating until spring semester. At the beginning of your senior year, I think you try to pretend it’s a usual year. As many of your friends are younger or staying an extra year, you act like you are one of them to fit in. There is some jealousy toward others who don’t have to enter the “real world” as soon as you do. Sometimes you can even convince yourself that you aren’t graduating…I mean, you never know what could happen within the next year. Maybe you’ll be cast on the Real World or win the lottery.

Anger: Tom Petty says it best…
“I've learned one thing, and that's to quit worrying about stupid things. You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You'll never remember class time, but you will remember the time wasted hanging out with your friends. So stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due on Wednesday. Spend money you don't have. Drink 'til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does..."
I think it would be so great to have that attitude, but I just can’t make myself do it! I know this is the last time I’ll be able to choose when to sleep in or to celebrate Thirsty Thursdays, but I feel like I will be letting myself down if I slack now…and that makes me angry!

Bargaining: I am just exiting this stage of senioritis in which I have to make big decisions about my future. I’ve gone through all of the options you have given and even thought about traveling for awhile before I find a job. My parents are slightly concerned with the debt I’ve managed to build up, so I think job searching is in the near future!

Depression: I can’t explain the feeling I had when my roommate now signed a lease with somebody else for next year. It seems so weird not to be searching for apartments, and it’s tough not knowing where I will be after I graduate. Like you said, I am pondering staying in the Midwest or moving somewhere further away and warmer. I also have chosen not to party as much lately, and it’s not because of school. I just don’t feel like it much anymore, and that makes me very depressed because I feel like that’s a sign of getting older. And I don’t want to grow up!!!

Acceptance: This is apparently a stage that I haven’t come to yet, but I'm hoping that you are right and that it is in my future!

One thing that I think also is a part of senioritis is procrastination. Whether it’s graduate school applications or writing a resume, everyone seems to wait until the last possible minute. Life is tough.

SENIORITIS: We’d find a cure if we weren’t so damn lazy.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger mkovalenko said...


I'm a high school student at hoffman estates high shcool, illinois. we have a speech team here, and im on it. one of my events is oratorical declamation, which is memorizing someones work and orally delivering it in competition. i've been looking for a good script about senioritis, as i am a senior this year, and i think your blog is perfect. in order to use it i'd need full name so the committy can look it up and see that it's someone elses work and it's published. i would love to used this, and i'd love it if you contacted me with info. i would have to memorize it and credit the blog to your name.

my name is Marina Kovalenko and i have a facebook, so you can contact me throught that.



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