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Senioritis is a colloquial term mainly used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college, and graduate school careers. It combines the word senior with the suffix -itis, which technically denotes inflammation but in colloquial speech is assumed to mean a general illness.
Writer James Coleman, Chairman of the President's Panel of Youth, urged changes in the high school curriculum to address the problem of senioritis. These concerns gave rise to the implementation of a "Senior Semester" in many high schools throughout the country, which allowed seniors to spend time outside of the school or attend seminars in their specific interests. In 1974, for example, McKeesport Area High School in Pennsylvania received a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to establish a "Senior Semester" Program. The Evaluation Report for Senior Semester Program 1974-75 McKeesport Area Senior High School, McKeesport, Pennsylvania was produced by the Office of Measurement and Evaluation, University of Pittsburgh, July 1975. The Director's Report for Senior Semester Program 1974-75 by Dr. Lester F. Jipp can be found at ERIC ED 157 165.
The College Board, the National Youth Leadership Council, and other youth-serving organizations suggest that there are many ways schools can help young people make the most of their senior year instead of succumbing to the temptation to take it easy once graduation is assured. Giving young people opportunities to make their academic work more meaningful through service-learning, or other forms of experiential education, can increase students' academic aspirations.
In some more serious cases where students allow their grades to drop quite significantly, universities and high schools may rescind offers of admission. Those who experience senioritis are often shocked when colleges and universities send them a letter the summer before their fall semester starts telling them that they can no longer attend the college due to failure in the academic rigor that they promised in the interview or application process. Nonetheless, it is widely known that most colleges do not rescind, and even the most elite schools only revoke a very small number of students. However, senioritis in high school may still cause the incoming college freshmen not to be as adequately prepared for the rigor of college level studies, and may decrease their ability to gain entrance scholarships. Because Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other advanced classes generally do not have their final exams until early May, they provide a challenge to seniors who are battling with senioritis issues, since most college and university admissions are decided in March and April and students in advanced classes have to overcome the pull of senioritis during the time gap between those two events. In addition, some advanced classes have tests, projects, and other major things relevant to the curriculum spread throughout the second semester; thereby ensuring that students remain busy with a constant stream of deadlines.
- Martin et al. "The Impact of Service-Learning on the Transitions to Adulthood", Growing to Greatness 2006 St. Paul: NYLC, page 19. Archived December 18, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- Schevitz, Tanya (October 10, 2006). "Colleges crack down on taking freshmen with 'senioritis'". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- Mathews, Jay (February 4, 2008). "In Praise of Senioritis". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-06.