Something is spreading among the student population: a fast-approaching scourge that will inevitably infect a significant portion of Cornell and other schools alike. Specific to seniors, this condition risks a student’s mental, academic and even physical well-being. Often dismissed jokingly, “Senioritis” still yields serious consequences for a small portion of students whose life circumstances may compound in a perfect storm of depression, apathy and burnout.
In a time when a mental health crisis is inflicting our youth, a decline in motivation and academic performance is something we should all take seriously. Especially given that many of us will apply to graduate schools, we should stay vigilant about our academics. Whether you’re wide-eyed and optimistic about a future beyond college, or a hardened senior, dreary at the thought of one more winter in Ithaca, you mustn’t underestimate when and how you can be affected by senioritis.
While there isn’t much out there to read on the phenomenon, the few articles that do comment on it make the significant mistake of characterizing it as without a definitive cause. However, much like its suffix “-itis,” which means “inflammation,” senioritis itself is more symptomatic of other problems of student life, rather than their cause. When noticing a drop in your motivation, it’s important to look intrinsically at what might be causing it.
Likely the more common cause of senioritis, a longing for graduation can lead to a decline in our academic ambition. With so many of us done with our course requirements, there is less incentive to be as careful about our classes as we were in previous years. We may realize that the wonder of being at Cornell is no longer there, and we become more likely to slack off, seeing the end-goal of graduation in sight. These are particularly pernicious sentiments, as once you’ve fallen behind in class, it can be more difficult to catch up than it was to keep pace.
This is all an issue of perspective. We see our academics as essentially completed; we see the campus as the same as it ever was; we see Cornell as now just another stepping stone. To counter these perspectives, we should be more optimistic about the way we view Cornell. The classes we are currently taking may be our last opportunities, for a long time, to learn so deeply about a wide variety of subjects. As we acquire full-time positions, we will rarely have the same amount of time to learn so deeply about a subject area we care for. So, cherish these opportunities for what they are.
The campus also holds many more mysteries and opportunities that we may have not yet experienced, and our positive experiences here are largely determined by those we share them with. So, look to explore the more niche aspects of campus — from seeing the Brain display in Uris Hall to exploring campus at 3 a.m. — and cherish those moments with those you care most for. One of my most memorable experiences was just walking through central campus with a group of friends at 1 a.m. as we sang as loud as we could. It doesn’t seem like much, but it made a big impression on me.
Be it in class, or in the middle of the night, there is always a memory to be made. Don’t let these opportunities pass you by as you count the days toward graduation. Seek within yourself the motivation to find more from Cornell, and you will be richly rewarded.
Likely the more harmful cause of senioritis, burnout is the state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by excessive or prolonged stress. Burnout can manifest in many ways — for some, it can produce physical symptoms such as headaches and mental exhaustion. For others, it can be much more latent, causing people to slowly shut down without them even noticing; for example, by isolating themselves from their friends and killing their motivation to do work. Either way, burnout can harm both your relationships and academic performance. It takes a lot of self-searching to identify how burnout manifests in your life, but it is very commonly caused by one thing: a deficiency in one’s priorities.
Not everyone is built equally in their ability to function in academic life. Nor does everyone bear the same responsibilities that may interfere with their ability to succeed. Whatever burdens you bear, having properly aligned priorities is essential to your academic success. There are too many variations between each person for me to comment on what may work for you in particular, but it seems to be a universal rule that your environment is key to your success in life. Whether it’s the clutter of a messy room distracting from work or the group of people you surround yourself with influencing how you spend your time or see yourself, one of your priorities should be cultivating an environment that is beneficial to your physical, academic and mental wellbeing. Your environment functions as a foundation for your success. Improving it should be one of your highest priorities.
This campus is full of the most exceptional people I have ever come across, but even the most excellent students can be vulnerable to these afflictions. Seniors: Over the next year be mindful of how senioritis can show up in your lives. Be more conscious about the boundless opportunities this university offers to enrich your final year. Finally, remember to prioritize surrounding yourself with things and people that benefit you. I wish you all the best.
Daniel Obaseki is a fourth year student in the College of Arts and Sciences. His fortnightly column Beyond Discourse focuses on politics, culture and student life at Cornell. He can be reached at [email protected].
The Cornell Daily Sun is interested in publishing a broad and diverse set of content from the Cornell and greater Ithaca community. We want to hear what you have to say about this topic or any of our pieces. Here are some guidelines on how to submit. And here’s our email: [email protected].