March 27, 2012
I've run a few marathons in my day, including Boston. When I've been training for those 26.2-mile endurance events, I've often thought of an analogy between a marathon and a K-12 educational career. There are some similarities. First of all, it can seem endless. It's better not to think about how far there is to go but, rather, about how far you've come. Also, there's the famous "Wall" with 10K to go. That's where your muscles have burned almost all of their glycogen and the lactic acid is sending waves of fatigue across your body, not to mention your mind.
In my experience in dealing with academic "marathoners," I've found that they sometimes hit their "wall" around this time of year, in the early spring, right after college acceptance letters come out. In addition to a gigantic sigh of relief (finally being able to exhale), and a blessed shout of joy in some cases, some seniors succumb to the overwhelming temptation to give in to that academic lactic acid and greatly slow their pace or, in some cases, even stop running and begin a nice, easy figurative stroll. This is called senioritis. It's more common than you may imagine, and it can have wildly negative effects.
Of course if you're in college and reading this, or if you're a parent of a college upperclassman, then the fact of senioritis can be a reality in your life. You don't need to be a literal senior to fall prey to its effects. Juniors (both high school and college) are famous for hitting the wall too. Okay, then, what can you do about it?
Well, first of all, for you high school seniors, you have to realize that getting that infamous college acceptance letter is NOT the finish line. Don't be fooled. College admissions officers will still be scrutinizing your academic performance straight through final grades and more than one high school senior has had his or her college acceptance rescinded. Oh, yes, that's one of those "wildly negative" outcomes I referenced. So, keep that in mind as final exams, AP tests, and senior projects come due. Of course these same principles apply to college students, too.
What inspired me to address this topic is a cool (and practical) article I found last fall on the USNews Web site. I'm wondering if the author, Laura McMullen, has ever run a marathon herself. The article is aimed at college students, but it is perfectly suited for high school seniors too, as my brackets below indicate. Here are three, key, edited excerpts.
Snap out of an undergraduate [and high school] senior year slump by staying healthy, organized, and motivated.
... Students can avoid senioritis—or at least manage it—by following these tips:
Take care of yourself: ... never skip a meal ... pack snacks and make time to exercise because being fit helps you mentally stay on track.
... get adequate sleep and avoid the exhausting "all nighter." ... stay healthy so you don't fall behind.
Stay organized: ... keep track of academic deadlines in a day planner, and allot enough time for assignments ... take note [and] say [for example], "this will take me probably about an hour's time," and that, in turn, will let you know how long you can put it off.
Get motivated: "Your motivation at the end of your senior year … is a pretty good indication in terms of your motivation for the next stage of your life,"says Sara Hamon, the assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Florida State University.
She says that the transition from [high school to college] will be rigorous and tough, so "the more students can learn how to kindle and keep that inner motivation, the better prepared they are going to be for taking that next step."
To put a fitting cap on these brief comments about senioritis, I'd like to quote an amusing definition of the term from the Urban Dictionary:
The feeling you get when you have a college acceptance letter in one hand, a Cinnabon in the other hand, ...
[From] The diary of an infected senior:
Dear diary. I have finally come to terms with my life-threatening case of senioritis. And while my parents and teachers tell me I should "get back on the horse" and study hard, I can only spit out the battle cry of my generation:
SENIORITIS: We'd find a cure, but we just don't ... care.
Or, "Senioritis: The college admission you lose may be your own."
Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.
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