Overcoming Senior Stuckitis

Does your child have a serious case of Senior Stuckitis? The fall time can be an exciting but frustrating experience for many seniors and their parents with the talks of applications, college visits, and scholarships. However, for many students it causes a severe case of Senior Stuckitis that can definitely cause a lot of tension in the house when students seem apathetic, unmotivated, uncaring, or just completely confused about what should be their plan after high school.   This is can often be caused by many things, such as; fear of the unknown, lack of confidence in decision making, or being overwhelmed by the process.

Here are some tips on getting over the dreaded Senior Stuckitis and moving on to simple Senioritis!

1.       Figure out the source of the overall “stuckness” by asking questions and pinpointing the source of frustration you can begin to resolve the issue. This is a time to be very reflective and listen to the root of the problem.  Teenagers often say one thing but when you dig deeper there could be an underlying issue. For example, they say example “a” but really mean example “e” or “f”. In this phase be sure to listen nonjudgementally, simply meaning that if you ask and care, you listen to everything. Do not jump in and start makings solutions and telling them they are wrong, wait them out, listen, and come up with a plan together.


Possible reasons for Senior Stuckitis could be:

a.       Not enough time to do the research and do all the applications

b.      Don’t know what I want to do

c.       Don’t know what school I would want to go to

d.      I don’t think my grades/ scores are good enough

e.      I don’t think I can get in

f.        I/ we can’t afford it

g.       I don’t have to do it yet, there is still time.

2.       Make a plan together. Depending on the above area of concern for the student there are some easy ways to begin to unravel the overwhelming feelings.  Let’s go with the examples above and give appropriate responses of helping resolved the Senior Stuckitis.

a.       Not enough time to do the research and do all the applications: The application process is quite tedious as you have to fill out the application, send out test scores, and request transcripts but are necessary parts of applying. Many students enjoy having someone by their side while they do it. Furthermore, there will be many parent questions, scheduling questions and fees to pay, so having you there can speed things up and make it less stressful! There are definite parts that as parents you can be a part of (or as students you can give over to your parents!). Talk this out, create a timeline and to-do list and get to work on your individual parts.

b.      Don’t know what I want to do: Begin visiting multiple college programs or even find a community service/ internship that allows them to explore a career choice. In Florida, there is a free program called MyCareerShines (https://www.floridashines.org/find-a-career/mycareershines/) that gives valuable insight on a student’s career path based on their personality.

c.       Don’t know what school I would want to go to: Fortunately, seniors do not have to make decisions on where they go to school until May 1st. By applying to a few schools now that they may be interested in, it leaves the door open for many different choices. Just because you apply, doesn’t mean you have to go there. There is no commitment right now on the student’s part. My suggestion- APPLY AND THEN DECIDE!! This would be a great time to take a road trip, visit a few colleges, and do informal and formal tours.

d.      I don’t think my grades/ scores are good enough: A fear of rejection can be quite overwhelming as it can be a reminder they didn’t perform how they were supposed to in school, or that they had overall difficulties. There are a multitude of different colleges that accepts all types of students. It is a great idea to have a variety of colleges they apply to their safety, match, and reach college (College Terminology) .  Having a few different school types will help ease that worry. If they really have a reach school that is their dream but their high school grades don’t cut it, look into what feeder community/ state college predominately goes to that school. Sometimes they have guaranteed admissions from these certain schools. Make a plan to attend there for the first two years, get the grades up, and go in as a transfer student. Not only does this save money, but in the end your final degree is what matters, not how you got there.

e.      I don’t think I can get in: This one is similar to the last, but here a student might have the grades and scores, just has an overall, completely unfounded fear. As stated above, be sure to have a different types of schools on the student’s list; safety, match, and reach. I have had many students over the years be devastated they did not get their top choice, only to have found the program they thought wasn’t right for them- be perfect!! By visiting schools, talking with the admission committee, and meeting with your school counselor, you can get a great sense of where you belong and how you can make any college/ university work for you.

f.        I/ we can’t afford it: The thing is here- a family at this point simply does not know how much college will cost them. Because of financial aid (loans and grants),  scholarships, and school choice it can be quite inexpensive. Again, APPLY AND THEN DECIDE!! If you don’t apply, you never know.  After that , be sure to APPLY FOR FAFSA!!!  This is the only way to be available for certain federal loans and grants, and can provide a way for work study.  If in the end, once you have received your financial aid and scholarship award letter, there is still a financial gap, this is the time to discuss what can and can’t be done. There is the opportunity for private loans, living off campus/ commuting, choosing a local state college or online program, and so forth to make it work.

g.       I don’t have to do it yet, there is still time:  For some schools there is still time as they take applications on a “rolling” basis, meaning throughout the year they make their decisions. Some schools all the way up until it’s time to register for classes. However, if  scenario “f” applies to you, you will lose almost all opportunity for scholarships and FAFSA. The earlier you start the process (again APPLY AND THEN DECIDE!!), the more likely they will get accepted (see scenario “d” and “e”) and receive financial aid and scholarships.

3.       Seek help. Sometimes parents and students just get at a point where they can’t move forward. They are yelling, confused, or just frustrated with each other and the process. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with your school counselor, a teacher, a private counselor, or a trusted friend/ mentor who can help you begin to get unstuck. Sometimes talking through it with someone and getting good advice helps alleviate some of the fears the student/ parent may be feeling.

4.       Quit comparing to the Jones. While in the eyes of the law and education being 18 and a senior doesn’t mean they are ready for the next stage of life at the same time and in the same way as their peers. This process and decision is very personal, even though admission process doesn’t always feel that way. Seek out schools that feel right to your student,  not what all their friends are doing. Making decisions in the best interest of the individual student along with the family needs can be a huge motivator to the student. By explaining this and having this conversation, it gives some further direction and relieves stress on the stuck- hopefully curing the case of Senior Stuckitis!

Dr. Amanda SterkComment