No Slumping, College Bound Seniors!

Hooray! You selected your college and made your deposit. Congratulations! Now you want to kick back and take a little break. Maybe you've already decided to ease up and stop working so hard. Wait. Hang on just a little longer and resist the urge to slack off. Bad cases of "senior slide" have been known to derail event the most serious student and his or her college plans. Trust me.

As a college dean, I meet with each first-year student placed on academic warning (probation) after final grades post at the end of a semester. I look for clues that might help determine the best approach for guiding an individual toward improvement. I've sat at my office table with hundreds of students over the past 13 years. On paper, these should be some of the brightest, smartest, most engaged young adults on the planet. They are valedictorians, entrepreneurs, artists, athletes, and leaders. Why are they struggling in college? Are there gaps in their preparation for college level work?

In these meetings, we talk openly and try to identify the trouble spots, reflecting on things that he or she could have done differently. After mapping out a plan for the coming semester, I ask each student to reflect on the last six weeks of high school and gauge his or her ability to stay motivated after being accepted to college. That's when the word "senioritis" creeps into the conversation. About 75 percent of these promising college students admit to coasting to the finish line during senior spring. Bad idea.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines senioritis as "an ebbing of motivation and effort by school seniors as evidenced by tardiness, absences, and lower grades." Sound familiar? Here are a few ideas for staying on track and completing high school in good standing:

Talk about it. Acknowledge that senioritis exists. Accept the symptoms. Recognize the warning signs. Discuss it with your teachers, friends, and family members. Stay motivated. Set up a timeline for completing tasks on time.

Make a bucket list. Planning fun things to do with friends helps maintain energy and appreciation for the final weeks of high school. Stretch outside of your established comfort zone and/or friend group and participate in something new. Go see the school play or spring recital. Attend a track meet or softball game. Check something off your "to-do" list.

Finish strong. And certainly finish what you start. If you coast, it will catch up with you. Most colleges will ask a student to explain a noticeable drop in grades. And if your explanation is not satisfactory, your offer of admission could be revoked. Seriously.

Show gratitude. Teachers and counselors likely wrote letters in support of your college applications. Be sure to thank them. Written notes or cards are particularly nice. Most important: thank your family on graduation day (or sooner). You worked hard to get into college, but you did not make the journey alone.