Opinion | Beat senioritis by going back to the basics

As a burned out senior, I’m taking notes from younger students on how to be successful amidst senioritis and chronic stress.

Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

The “end of the semester blues” has hit harder than ever as the final year of my undergraduate coursework comes to an end.

When classes, work related stress, and burn out feel like too much to manage, reflecting on the habits of my younger peers reminds me of the successful habits I had when I started my academic journey.

Upperclassmen aren’t the only ones who struggle to stay motivated.

New college students seem to find a higher level of motivation to push themselves through rough spots than students experiencing chronic stress from several semesters of repetitive coursework. I found help for my burnout and senioritis in returning to some basic habits that I forgot about until I spoke to some younger peers in an intro level course this semester.

Some professionals define this problem as “senioritis,” which is a lack of motivation because an achievement feels more attainable than ever before. But common senioritis symptoms mimic those of a very real, mental health condition: burnout.

It’s hard not to think to myself that I can get a five-page paper finished in a few hours and still receive a passing grade. Spending too many nights procrastinating by endlessly playing Stardew Valley, I leave myself with two anxiety inducing options when confronting classwork.

Sometimes, current assignments have me so motivated I work for hours past the point of exhaustion. Other times, the pressure of looming work causes me to look the other way until my only option is to push — or cry — through my never-ending to-do list.

Showing up a bit early to classes, doing the work as assigned instead of feeling pressured to work ahead or convincing myself I could get it done later, keeping track of my schedule in a paper calendar instead of only online, and taking comprehensive notes were all habits younger students reminded me of.

Showing up to class 10 minutes ahead of time means I get the seat nearest to the outlet. Reviewing my notes before lecture also allows me to engage on a deeper level with course content.

Focusing on the task at hand instead of causing myself anxiety by trying to work ahead has allowed me to embrace the lessons within each week’s assignments and humbled my work.

Handwriting to-do lists and class notes has psychological benefits, including increased memory retrieval and personalizing content for review later. This has not only improved my concentration in classes, but also my test scores and decreased my need to cram before midterms.

By hand-writing my notes instead of typing during class, I’ve found my notes are more organized, easier to review, and filled with personal thoughts alongside lecture content rather than just copying slides verbatim.

When professors move too quickly to make handwritten notes possible, the skills I’m learning when handwriting is an option has also positively impacted my electronic notes.

These were skills I had been taught in high school but moved away from at some point during those confusing semesters in virtual school, my transfers between a few academic institutions, and navigating a greater number of long-term projects like my graduation thesis.

This semester has been a humble reminder that we can always learn from each other, no matter who’s older by age or has more experience in a professional or academic field.

By encouraging me to focus on taking my classes one day, one lecture, one assignment at a time, my younger peers have convinced me that there is a livable work-life balance even in the demanding final weeks of undergraduate education and that burnout — or “senioritis” — isn’t inevitable.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.