Is “senioritis” just another word for burn-out?


Colin Stevenson

Many students experience “senioritis” as they near graduation, 2023.

As my time in college ends, I wonder if my growing demotivation is due to senioritis or burn-out. Unlike its counterpart burn-out, senioritis is the colloquial condition only present in seniors in high school, college and graduate levels. It is commonly described as the feeling of being constantly exhausted and unmotivated to finish projects and study as your time to graduate nears.

Senior year is many things, but for some it is an exhausting end of a four-year journey – or longer- and is often wrapped around stress and anxiety. You start to question your whole journey to that point. You ask yourself questions like “Did I do enough internships?” or “Do I have enough tangible experience?” “Do I know what I’m doing?” And of course, “Am I qualified to get a job right after college?”

It is normal to reflect on a journey once you near its end. But I have always been much more anxious about starting things and new beginnings and maybe that is what it is for most people. The fear of starting a new phase of life after being submerged in the college experience for years.

Of course, my perspective is backed by the fact that I am a traditional student, and so often I wonder what senior year feels like for nontraditional students who have been thrown back into the college scene and get to go back to a familiar space with a different perspective. And for them, I also wonder what the experience is like having real-life commitments and having to also respond to the demands of the college system.

I consider if senioritis is backed by the fact that this time in a college student’s life is filled with uncertainty and confusion on what comes next or if it is just a fancy name for the comprehensive burn-out that comes after four years of having to meet deadlines and expectations. Personally, the college experience is one that has left me exhausted and burnt out more times than I can count and so maybe senioritis is just getting to a point where you can no longer rake it anymore, where you’ve held out through enough semesters and enough mental breakdowns to the point where you just can’t do it anymore.

Senioritis may also be attributed to college getting exponentially harder the higher you go and so there is the question of why so much work is loaded toward the end of a degree. I understand the logic of leaving a lot of the complex and intensive work till the end but that does not make the experience any less overwhelming. There is a hopeful part of me that sometimes considers what the collective academic lives of students would look like if the academic structure is revamped. That is just wishful thinking at its best and I fully understand that the mechanics of the American Education system cannot be overhauled in a day.

Now more than ever, I have a newfound respect for people who have made it through this journey and have come out on the other side. And I wonder if many graduating seniors feel the pressure to overperform and the guilt that seeps in when they realize that exhaustion might have won another round. Often, I think of my freshman self and smile. She was so full of energy and ambition. She had time to be adventurous and participate in fun things. Now I constantly worry about if I have any time left to rest after I fulfill all my commitments. The days definitely run through faster, and I look forward to going to bed right from the start of every day.

I guess I can liken senioritis to the inevitable fact that we all grow up and that when I started college, I was a teenager with so much to learn.  Now I am considered a woman and I genuinely still laugh at the fact that I have become much like the serious people I once mimicked in conversations. But most importantly, all I genuinely think is where did all the time go? And I guess someday I can say it went to bagging two degrees.