Senioritis: A Case Study

Searching for a potential solution to a pressing problem faced by seniors nationwide through a look at Beckman’s largest senior class: Advanced Placement US Government and Politics (AP Gov).


Mr. Bowman sees the worst cases of senioritis every year.

Aarushi Bhaskaran, Arts and Entertainment Editor

“Senioritis” – the term every student hears upon entering high school and every teacher dreads. The word refers to the lack of motivation and diminishing performance of students in the second semester of their senior year. Between jokes about it and the motivated, academically-inclined, attitude of students at Beckman in the years preceding senior year, many believe it to be a myth. In fact, when the definition for the word is googled, it comes up with the classification “noun” followed by “humorous.” A joke, not a real condition. Yet its effects are very real and its outcomes potentially devastating.



Second semester senior year sees a notable decline in academic performance, yet as is the case in previous years, the coursework only seems to become more rigorous. Teachers attempt to stress the importance of performing in the home stretch, telling horror stories of rescinded college admissions as a result of senioritis. Not much research has been done on this non-medical epidemic, yet as of 2012, a survey conducted by The Omniscient revealed that 78 percent of seniors admitted to feeling the effects of senioritis. At a glance, if Beckman is to be a measure, not much has changed. So how can this problem be fixed?



Dangling the threat of rescinded admission to college seemingly has no effect on students. To take the Advanced Placement US Government is and Politics (AP Gov) class as a case-study, the effects of senioritis are clear. Mr. Bowman, who teaches AP Gov, which is comprised of only seniors, sees the acute effects of senioritis year after year. He begins each year by citing the  previous year’s shockingly low pass-rate for the AP Exam. “There’s a significant drop-off second semester – grades typically dip by at least three or four percent,” says Bowman. “I see a lot less effort, the quality of work comes down, people aren’t ready for tests – a lot of them just check out.”



If even students motivated enough to take an AP class behave in such a way, it begs the question: should seniors not be allowed to take AP classes? And should senior classes be designed differently from classes for juniors and lowerclassmen to focus on intrinsic motivation rather than external factors? To both these questions, Mr. Bowman answers “No […] Usually when students take APs, it’s to show colleges – it’s usually a matter of mindset.”



Yet there must be a solution of some kind. The typical trend for classes throughout high school is that the second semester holds the hardest content and requires greater effort than the first. While senioritis must be addressed by students themselves, on a systemic level, it would make sense to invert this format. Which is exactly what the AP Gov class has done this year – the bulk of the content, making up about 70 percent of the exam, was taught in the first semester for the first time. The remaining content, which is much less vital and is arguably much easier, is being taught this semester. There are no results for this change yet, as this is the first year it has been implemented.



It remains to be seen how this will impact seniors this year and in the years to come. Perhaps senioritis need not have devastating results, after all. It all hinges on this year’s pass rate.