Avoiding the Senior Slide

Many seniors who have applied for their colleges start to relax, even slack off, for the rest of their high school careers. This is commonly known as the senior slide. It may seem sensible to take it easy after you apply; why would colleges care what you do after you apply, right?

This sort of thinking can jeopardize your application status. As many as 19% of seniors now apply to colleges early[1], and taking it easy for almost your whole senior year can seem very tempting.

Avoid this mindset! Most early applications are in November, and the seven months between early application and graduation is a long time for your grades to decline! College applications do not mark the end of your high school career, graduation does.

Colleges are also dealing with a much higher volume of applicants now compared to 100 years ago[2], and colleges have had to get stricter with who they admit. Many colleges still monitor the grades of students they admit, rescinding your acceptance if your grades slide too far.

If a college revokes your admission, it may be too late to apply to another school. That’s not the end of the world[3], but it means that you had achieved undergrad status and lost it! Don’t let this happen! Maintain your grades until the year is over!

Maintaining your grades is easier said than done. All around you, your fellow seniors will be partying, picking up more hours at their jobs, and generally focusing less and less on school as the end of the year approaches. How do you avoid the contagious mindset of the senior slide?

Firstly, remember that the senior slide isn’t all about academics. Colleges can take back your admission if you get in too much trouble or cheat on a test. You should already avoid trouble regardless, but after you apply to college, make sure you don’t do something that could invalidate your college applications. Once a college accepts you, you’re being held to their honor code. If you break it, you’re out.

Secondly, make sure you listen to your college. Many will give conditions upon your acceptance into their school; maybe you have to maintain a certain GPA, or maybe you just have to graduate. Either way, having a real goal to set your sights on will help your mental health immensely.

No matter what, colleges always need you to graduate high school before you attend their school. It’s not over till you turn your tassel!

Make sure you don’t overload yourself during your senior year. Senior year doesn’t need to be as jam-packed as your first three high school years; you just need to maintain all of the good work you’ve already completed. Senior year is all about applying to schools, completing your diploma requirements, and staying out of trouble. Don’t burn yourself out with extra APs and extracurriculars you may not need.

Colleges know that a student can only take so many AP classes during their high school careers; many students attend high schools that only offer APs during their students’ junior and senior years. If you only have energy to complete two or three, your colleges will understand. Don’t risk everything by thinking you need to take five AP classes during your senior year!

Just like you don’t need to take all APs, you don’t need to be president of every club. Your application is all about crafting a narrative about yourself[4]; this narrative is all about you and your interests and passions. Make sure you’re showing your talents and interests in your chosen fields, and don’t stress too much about showing off outside of your narrative.

So long as your senior year is uneventful and consistent with your narrative, you will avoid the senior slide.

Lastly: ask for help. Your teachers, guidance counselors, and fellow students will help with your senior slide more than you might think. Guidance counselors know how many seniors slide and are prepared to give you resources and help to keep you on the right track. Your teachers and classmates can make studying easier and more efficient by working with you, and help you fight the burnout that many students experience during high school.

Ask for help. You’re not alone.

Burnout is a real problem among students. The senior slide is not (usually) the result of apathy, laziness, or self-sabotage. The senior slide is often the result of burnout. If you want to avoid the senior slide, make sure you don’t push yourself too hard. Take a day off if you’re caught up on assignments, relax, and make sure you’re ready for college mentally as well as academically.


Author: Hastings Davin