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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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How to Handle Burnout Heading Into Your Senior Year

What does it mean to be “Burned Out”?


After three years of school, work, extracurriculars, standardized tests, and always trying to be on the top of your game, it is possible to feel a little exhausted. Especially with graduation so close, some students find themselves feeling unmotivated to try as they head into their senior year.


This is the feeling of burnout, the intellectual exhaustion that results from being tired of high school’s rigorous and demanding academic routine. This feeling is common among high school students, especially those who get good grades, have many leadership positions, and are involved in many extracurriculars.


If students let burnout sink in, they’ll walk into senior year with an attitude that sets them up for failure. This attitude is sometimes referred to lightheartedly as “senioritis”. While it may seem like a joke, it can have a serious adverse impact on a student’s future. The lack of motivation can lead them to fall behind in classes, not complete assignments, shirk their responsibilities, and, in extreme cases, fail their classes altogether and not graduate.  


If you’re starting to feel the stress of high school getting to you, or you think you might be burned out heading into your final year of high school, you can draw on the advice and expertise of students who once felt exactly the same way you did through our Zen Blog, a media publication dedicated to addressing the issue of mental health in the college admissions process.


If you are simply looking to get ahead of senior year burnout, however, keep reading. In this post, we will cover some of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with burnout heading into your senior year and give you the tools to finish your high school career strong.


How to Handle Burnout: Ways to Motivate Yourself During Your Senior Year

Schedule Some Breaks or Fun Activities

We at CollegeVine understand that senior year, particularly fall semester, can be a particularly stressful time. On top of your usual academics, extracurriculars, and other responsibilities, you have to take your SAT and ACT tests in time for your applications, secure letters of recommendation, and somehow find time in your busy schedule to actually fill out your college applications.


If you want to learn more about any of the above tasks related to the college application process, check out the following blog posts:


A Step-by-Step Guide To Your Recommendation Letters

So, What is the SAT Anyway? (A Newbie’s Guide to the CollegeBoard SAT)

The CollegeVine Guides to the ACT


It is important that, during your busy senior year, you find ways to unwind every once in awhile. This can be as simple as watching new episodes of your favorite TV series with your friends every week, or as official as a class in something like yoga or meditation. Either way, you should plan some activities into your senior year schedule that are just meant for chilling out.


If you find some time in your schedule to relax, you will break up the rigorous routine that can come to define your high school experience. You may also find yourself feeling more calm and focused because of it.



Any doctor will agree that you should exercise, regardless of whether you feel burned out or not. However, there are biological reasons why making a point to exercise during your senior year can help with burnout.


When you exercise, your body releases hormones called endorphins. Endorphins elevate your mood, making you feel happier and perhaps more motivated to complete your tasks. In addition, the health benefits of exercising are likely to keep you happy and encouraged as well. Exercise is also a great way to release tension and relieve stress.


With a better mood, you may find yourself seeing your tasks and your entire senior year in a different light. By exercising, you can keep yourself driven to do well in your classes, activities, and college applications.


Set Specific Goals for Yourself

Write down the things that you want to achieve this year. Don’t worry about keeping the list at a decent length or making it reasonable. Whatever goals you have, write them down.


Then, when you find yourself feeling burned out and unmotivated during the year, go back to that list and remind yourself of what it is you are trying to achieve before you graduate. After all, you probably want to be able to look back at the end of the year and say that you did everything that you came to high school to do. If you keep a list, you will have tangible proof that you either did or didn’t.


Setting specific goals for yourself and holding yourself accountable to them can serve as a motivating tool by providing a constant reminder of what you’re working towards. If you remember that your end goal is to graduate with a certain GPA, you will be less motivated to slack off in your classes. If you continuously remind yourself that your end goal is to earn a specific amount of money before college, you’ll be less likely to skip shifts at work.

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Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story


Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographics, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Calculate your acceptance chances

Keep Yourself Intellectually Stimulated

One reason why some students get burned out is that they get bored of their classes. You’ve had to take the required core courses at your school for three years, and these classes may or may not have interested you. In addition, you may have selected many of your electives based not on whether the classes interest you but whether they will get you a certain GPA or look good on your college applications.


Now is the time when you can sign up for high school courses in subjects that you genuinely care about and want to learn more about. If you take classes that you enjoy during your senior year, you are more likely to stay engaged and see them to completion.


If you are not sure which classes you might enjoy, you can try joining a course that you have never tried before and see how you like it. The point is to keep things interesting academically, so that you stay motivated until the end.


Always Keep College In Mind

Your impending college admission can serve as a great motivator for finishing strong in high school. If you find yourself unable to convince yourself that you need to get work done, remember that most colleges you get accepted to want to see that you did well during your final year of high school.


In fact, many colleges, especially large state schools, will give you a minimum GPA to uphold before you graduate when they offer you admission. Some also require you to send in your final transcript so that they can see how you did at the end. If you don’t meet their requirements, some universities may rescind your admission offer.


If you want to ensure that you will still be able to enroll at university in the following fall, make sure you don’t slack off during your senior year. Keep college in the back of your mind whenever you are feeling like a particular task may not be worth it in the year ahead.


Appreciate the high school environment

You may not feel this right now, but many students leave high school feeling reminiscent and nostalgic. After all, many of the things that you do this year will be things you do for the last time, e.g. homecoming, using a locker, having a lunch period, etc.


There are many little things about the high school experience that you will never get to do again after you graduate, and you may even find yourself missing some of them after it’s all over. It’s worth taking a moment during your senior year to try and appreciate where you are and what you’re doing.


This is not to say that you should force yourself to appreciate everything about the high school environment, including the things about high school that you did not like. Just remember that, for the things you do like, this may be your last opportunity to experience them. For the things you don’t like, remember that it’s the last time you have to do them.


Bringing It All Together

If you find yourself feeling burned out before your senior year begins, you are certainly not alone. This feeling is very common among high achieving students, and there are some easy ways to get that motivation back.


Make sure you deal with senior year burnout sooner rather than later, though. The more you let that intellectual exhaustion affect your activities, the less likely you are to finish strong.


Remember that if you ever feel stressed or need help dealing with mental health issues while in high school or while dealing with your college applications, Zen is a great resource. The articles in the Zen blog deal specifically with issues of stress and anxiety that can arise throughout the college admissions process and offer many great tips and resources to help combat these issues.


To get a little taste of the Zen blog, see some of our Zen blog posts:


Green with Envy: How I Learned to Love My School Again

Graduation Feels: Life Goes On

4 Struggles of Senioritis

Ways to Avoid Schoolwork but Still Feel Like an Intellectual

Second Semester Senior Year: The Waiting Game


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!