'Senioritis' strikes graduates-to-be Distracted teens justify slacking off


Hay fever's not the only ailment breaking out these days in Howard County.

The dreaded "senioritis" -- which leaves books untouched for weeks and homework neglected for days -- has paralyzed almost all high school seniors from the western reaches of Lisbon to the eastern hills of Ellicott City to the southern portions of Savage.

It's hit Mount Hebron High School student Renee Sewchand -- and in the worst way.

"I procrastinate a lot more than usual," she says. "I procrastinate anyway, but a lot of assignments that have more than a one-night due date, I'll wait until the last minute. I'm up forever."

Her friend, fellow Mount Hebron senior Jen Kim, spends her time "vegging" in front of the TV or gabbing on the phone. "I've become very apathetic," she says. "Even if I have time, I don't do my work.

"My parents have also let up on me," she said. "They realize I've worked hard for four years, so they let up. I've let up, too."

The symptoms: a perpetual I-don't-care-anymore attitude, and a nose dive in grades.

Some teachers are really annoyed. "You just keep on teaching and try to help them as best you can," said Oakland Mills math teacher Tom Clifton, who teaches a calculus class full of seniors. "They've already shut down. I've talked to parents, and parents have not been able to do anything about it."

Many seniors don't even put in enough effort to pass a class. "Teachers understand what this is about, but it shouldn't get to the point where you lose credit for a course," Mr. Clifton said. "And there are seniors who do this, usually in courses they don't need."

Seniors say they view their final year as a rite of passage, often using it as a justification for slacking off.

After all, they've been going to school for more than 12 years, and many have worked their hearts out the last three to achieve high enough grades to enter college.

"They know their grades don't matter as much now, so it takes more effort to do work," said Wilde Lake's Shamim Sinnar. "Some of the people I know have had it since their freshman year."

Even usually top-notch students are affected by the end-of-high-school burn-out. "I try to do as little work as possible," said Wilde Lake's Jeremy Ou, who holds a 3.9 grade point average. "I wait until the last minute to do work. College has accepted me, and I'm not worried about grades anymore."

He reckons the senioritis bug bit him in December, when he sent out his college applications and grades. He received an acceptance letter from Cornell University two weeks ago.

Teachers tell him and others they'll get a rude awakening in college if they don't shape up, but do students really listen? "Not really," he said, at this time of year.

School officials sympathize with seniors. "We have seniors who are anxious to graduate," said Director of High Schools Dan Jett. "Unfortunately, we can't speed up the clock for them. We certainly try to understand it, and we try to provide class activities to make their senior year memorable."

But there are limits. "We certainly do not condone skipping school," he said. "We don't lower our standards or have a lower expectation for them. We designate a last day, and we expect attendance and work to the very end."

Luckily for school officials, not all seniors have senioritis. "I still try to stay on top of my schoolwork," said Hammond senior Randy Bishop. "I kind of think I've worked hard for 11 1/2 years now, so I might as well finish up."

As the workload and pressure on seniors ease up and they slack off, they count down their high school days with joy -- but they also look into the future with worries. Many are nervous about leaving home and going to college.

Others, like Jen Kim, are "really worried about how to manage next year, how to deal with financial problems and how to stay focused in college."

And still others are spending more time with their families, knowing they will miss their parents and siblings when they leave the nest.

"I'm worried about my little brother, who is going to be the only one at home next year," said Renee, who's heading to Duke University, where her older brother will graduate this year. "I'm spending more time with him and doing more things with him on the weekends. I'm thinking it's going to be tough [to leave home], because I'm really close to my mother."

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad