Many school counselors feel this is the least wonderful time of the year. Between scheduling students for next year’s classes (not really a counseling duty) and beginning the coordination of spring testing (really not a counseling duty), it’s easy for counselors to wonder exactly why they’re getting up in the morning.
Incredibly enough, we aren’t alone. This same level of existential angst is alive and well in most of your seniors. With college applications complete, and with most of them now in the last classes of their high school career, there isn’t all that much for them to plan or anticipate. It’s certainly likely some of them are thinking about graduation day, but as that becomes more of a reality, new feelings about high school are starting to surface, and they aren’t always glowing.
Welcome to the senior doldrums, an attitude that can afflict even the most conscientious senior. While senioritis describes a slowdown in productivity that can be seen, the senior doldrums is more of a mindset, and can exist even in the most ambitious, hardworking senior. It’s less about what they’re doing, and more about how they’re feeling about what they’re doing—or what they’ve done.
This malaise can easily be misinterpreted as anxiety about college, as a number of students are still waiting for admissions decisions or financial aid packages that will shape their plans for life after high school. But even the students who have heard from their colleges, and know what next year will bring, can suddenly seem listless, uninterested, and noncommunicative, even if they’re in at their dream school, and life looks pretty great.
What’s the cause of this sluggishness? Like all counseling issues, it depends. For some, the fact that everything is settled makes them, well, unsettled. There’s nothing to plan, nothing to anticipate, no what-if scenarios to build hypothetical responses to. To these students, the thinking is done. Now it’s just a question of show up, punch the clock, and wait until June.
Others have a different issue. They’re looking at their college options and wondering if they could have done better—whatever that might mean. This leads some to start looking back at their high school career and asking the same question. Would honors classes really have been that hard? Would I have made the wrestling team if I had tried out? Would Jackie have gone out with me if I had asked her? Since going back isn’t an option, and moving forward can’t really start until after graduation, it’s easy to think all that’s left to do now is to live in the world of what-if?
The best thing for counselors and students to do right now is to enjoy each other’s company. Counselors need to set aside the scheduling spreadsheets and the No. 2 pencils and spend more time with some seniors. Call up the local pizzeria and ask them to sponsor some senior lunches, where you and 8-10 seniors sit around and catch up. Mozzarella is a powerful antidote for many of the ills of youth, and creating a space that pulls students into a better world is what counselors do best. You don’t have to have much of an agenda, just a listening ear, and an eagerness to let seniors know you care about them. Now that’s doing your job.
You might strike out getting sponsored pizza lunches, but you get the idea. Right now, seniors and counselors are stuck in a rut of the mundane. As usual, the answer to getting back in high gear lies in supporting one another. You can find a way.