NDP senior Rylee Chasse has had a very stressful school year, but this is not uncommon for the average senior.

Chasse is in two AP classes, has a job at Scottsdale Education Center, is a varsity tennis player, is in multiple clubs, volunteers regularly, is applying to eight colleges and is still able to have a social life. 

“The pressure of keeping your grades up and college really adds on to the stress that I undergo,” said Chasse. “Last week, I had five [tests] and that was just last week so I have probably had at least ten tests since we got back.” 

Chasse’s normal day begins by going to school, and she will usually go to work at Scottsdale Education Center for a couple of hours. Once she is done with that, she goes to either workout at her local gym or practice tennis. 

Chasse’s normal day begins by going to school, and she will usually go to work at Scottsdale Education Center for a couple of hours. Once she is done with that, she goes to either workout at her local gym or practice tennis. 

She will then go home and begin her homework almost immediately. Afterward, Rylee will try to get six to eight hours of sleep per night. She then repeats this cycle every day.

The stress of senior year can become exhausting for any student to deal with, no matter their education or background. 

Students are going through the busiest time of their lives up to that point, as they have to balance what can feel like the entire world. Students have to deal with school, sports, clubs, extracurricular activities, volunteering, standardized tests, college applications, jobs and taking care of their families.

In this overcrowded schedule, there is no time for students to have any time for themselves. According to U.S. News and World Report, high school students get an average “of 17.5 hours of homework per week.”

Before starting homework, students have to go to school and sometimes have extracurriculars, such as sports, after school. This can add up to about nine hours total. A student may also have work that day for about two hours. Then, he or she may have to go to tutoring for help for about two hours because they are struggling in class or to practice for the ACT or SAT. 

That leaves just four hours for entertainment, sleep, etc. for this student. This student then has to wake up the next day and repeat this cycle again while they are completely exhausted from the day before. 

Read more about common coping strategies for Senior-itis here

A Lack of Sleep:

Lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on students that undergo this regularly. Some students end up having to pull frequent all-nighters, or nights when a student does not get any sleep because they spend the entire night studying, working, etc.

According to Fastweb, a website that assists students in college research, 20 percent of students pull an all-nighter at least once a month and 35 percent of students stay up past three in the morning at least once a week. This is not a healthy lifestyle for anybody, let alone a high school student.

High school students are supposed to be happy, make friends, and live a stress-free life. But instead, kids are panicking about where they are going to go to college, if they are smart enough to get into a good college and constantly stressing about their grades more than anything else. This is why depression and anxiety affect students the most, and it is at an all-time high. 

According to the American Psychological Association, about 35 percent of high school students suffered from anxiety. But in 2013, the number has jumped to just under 50 percent. 

How Students Cope:

This unhealthy schedule can lead to students drinking caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks and coffee. The FDA recommends teenagers do not drink over 100 milligrams of caffeine in a day. 

However, according to the U.S. News and World Report, 71 percent of high school students drink caffeine daily. This can lead to many dangerous side effects, sometimes even fatal. The more caffeine students drink, other adolescents take note and begin to believe that they should give it a try. 

According to CBS, about 73 percent of kids ages twelve to eighteen consume caffeine in some way every day. That number jumps even more for high school students, as they begin to develop habits of drinking coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda, and even caffeine-infused gum to help them stay awake.

Many students at Notre Dame Prep have to be able to keep up with the busy schedule that comes with senior year. Students have reverted to using those dangerous caffeinated energy drinks such as Monster, Red Bull and Bang. 

Cameron Ninneman is a senior who drinks energy drinks constantly to be able to function during her day. “I drink energy drinks when I am really tired or I am really stressed,” said Ninneman. “I have a lot of homework to do at night and I end up having to drink one in the morning and when we have games for soccer, I have to have a second before the game to stay awake.” 

Ninneman says she averages about six hours of sleep because once she is done with school, she has soccer practice for the school. She then has about an hour before she has to go to club practice for the Phoenix Rising youth team. 

Ninneman is actually around the average sleep that a high school student in his or her senior year gets. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average high school senior gets “about 6.8 hours of sleep on school nights.” This study surveyed over a thousand seniors and found that there were some schools where the average was sometimes below six hours. They also reported that “less than 15 [percent] of seniors will get a quality sleep 8 hours per night. Keep in mind, we [National Sleep Foundation] recommend about 8-10 hours for teenagers.”

Ninneman says that it has become a blessing whenever she can have a relaxing night where she gets just the recommended amount of sleep in a night. “There have been nights where I got about five hours of sleep after a long day and did not even feel upset about getting that little sleep,” said Ninneman.

“At this point, it is a miracle if I get those seven hours that everybody is always telling me I need to get in a night” said Ninneman.

When Ninneman gets home and rests for a little bit, it is about 9 p.m. and she had to start her homework and usually finishes well after midnight. 

Senior Bannack Wheeler working on his homework that he wasn’t able to do last night because of how little sleep he got on December 10, 2019/Staff photo courtesy of Andrew Sodhi.

Underclassmen Preparation:

Having to deal with this strenuous work schedule is unfair to seniors like Ninneman, who end up going to bed extremely late. This leads to unhealthy habits, like energy drinks, just so they can make it through their normal day.

Many seniors have already been telling the underclassmen about the terrifyingly difficult curriculum and life of seniors. Junior Christian Galia has already had many conversations with seniors concerning senior year. 

“I have been talking to many seniors about their senior years and I feel nervous and scared about how I am going to deal with it because I feel extremely unprepared,” said Galia. 

“Throughout my high school career, people have always told me that senior year would be the easiest because everyone already knows where they are going to school and there is no stress. But as I get closer to senior year, I see the reality that it is actually the toughest year with having to deal with so much stuff on people’s plates.”

Galia enjoys reminiscing about a time when he was younger in middle school and looked forward to being able to graduate from high school. But now, he has begun to dread going into his senior year because of the rigorous work that will be coming. 

“Ever since I was about twelve years old, I have been ecstatic to graduate high school and be able to begin the rest of my life,” said Galia. “But from what I have heard, I am losing excitement every day because of what I have heard from the current seniors. I mean, I should be excited about being able to start adulthood and the rest of my life soon, right?”

Looking for Work:

To go with the difficult curriculum and extracurricular activities, many seniors have are employed to either gain experience for their resume, make money for college tuition or both. Today, there are more teenagers that are employed. According to ChildrenTrends, a website that researches and surveys minors, about 69 percent of high school students are employed or have been employed during high school. That number continues to increase as kids grow older in high school.

Seniors have already felt the difficulty of both finding and having a job during the busiest year of their lives. Looking for a job requires a great amount of time, let alone being apart of the workforce. Senior Nicolette Sciortino has been trying to get a job, but has had no time to look since this year began. 

“I have been in the process of looking for a job and a workplace which has added additional stress,” said Sciortino. “Applying for college has already been stressful enough, but now I have to add that onto my schoolwork and having to find a job to help pay for college. People say that my senior year is supposed to fly by without me even noticing, but it has so far felt like the slowest months of my life.”

The Addition of Sports:

And as if this did not seem to be enough stress for students, add on extracurriculars and more difficult classes. Senior Ryann Schidler has been on the girls’ varsity soccer team for all four years and has consistently taken AP and Honors courses throughout her high school career. 

“I have spent the past four years prioritizing time with my family, knowing I’ll miss them when I leave for college, but now I feel like I’ve missed out on moments with friends and classmates,” said Schidler. “I have no idea where I want to go to college so I constantly feel pressure to decide and the college admissions and application process has been a big stress in my life.” 

Effects on Education:

Many students’ grades have also fallen during the senior year. Research says this is normal for students grades to drop because of the exhaustion, college applications, tougher classes, etc. 

NDP senior Jackson Lehman under stress due to a long night of homework that awaits him on Dec. 8 2019/Staff photo courtesy of Andrew Sodhi.

According to PrepVine, a website for preparing students for college, “almost every senior’s grades will drop because of everything that they have to deal with during the year.” So, it is nothing out of the ordinary to see grades go down during a student’s last year of high school.

Some seniors wish that teachers would help seniors out during this difficult time in their lives. Senior Kira Carmical simply wants teachers to acknowledge what their students are going through and instead of assigning a large amount of “busy work”, they choose to be more conscious of what is going on.

“Senior year has been difficult for me due to the pressure of applying to colleges. It seems as though our teachers forget that on top of our classwork and homework, we have our whole future to be thinking about and applying for,” said Carmical. “It seems like we never get a break when it comes to the anxiety of college and what is to come. It honestly makes me excited to graduate high school so I can be done with all of this unnecessary stress and work.”

However, there are seniors who do their best to stay optimistic and find the best in these times. Seniors, like Mary Stallkamp, have been extremely stressed since the school year began, but are always trying to deal with their problems with a positive attitude and find something to take away from each situation.

“Senior year has been extremely difficult and stressful as I have had to balance my time between my homework and school, work, practice, friends, family, and applying for colleges. There have been many stressful nights where I am up extremely late finishing homework assignments and essays, on top of finishing my college applications,” said Stallkamp. However, Stallkamp likes to look on the bright side by saying she has “learned to have better time management skills because of the stress.”

The only way seniors are going to be able to finish this difficult year is with the help of their teachers. Tracey Heisler, the Instructional Coaching Program Coordinator of Notre Dame Preparatory, has been doing her best this year to help students feel as comfortable as possible.

“I try to help students by being aware of the stress that they are undergoing and learning how to be flexible and understanding for what they are dealing with,” said Heisler. “I want everyone to succeed and fulfill their potential, so I will do my part in that. I plan on making more changes to keep helping students.”

If students want to reach the highest of standards that they have set for themselves, then teachers must help seniors. Instead of teachers assigning worksheets and notes that do not teach the student much and end wasting time, it would be better if students were given work and assignments that help them understand the material, without having to use an extended amount of their own time comprehending and working.

As the school year continues, seniors will continue to minimize their effort. They will realize what college they will be going to, leading to them thinking that they do not have to try in school anymore. But if teachers chose to help prepare them for college instead of giving homework to keep them occupied every night, seniors would pay a lot more attention.

How Seniors Can Enjoy their Year:

Notre Dame Prep offers a college preparation course during the summer for seniors, but it is a very short course. Seniors need constant help about applying to colleges, time management and organization, especially during the first semester.

This increase in attention will keep seniors engaged in the course because they want to learn more about what the future will hold for them. Their grades will already be submitted to colleges, so they will give little to no effort for busy work that they do not learn from. But work that teaches them about college and what it will be like will keep them doing work in and out of class until the day they graduate in May.

Seniors will continue to see their grades continuously drop as their effort and lack of care decreases during the year. It is almost as if they are trying to make up for the lost time of enjoying senior year from all of the stress dealt with during the first semester of the school year. 

As the school year winds down, seniors will begin to mature and focus on what is in store for them in college. They will figure out where they want to go to college, what they want to do when they graduate from college and will begin to think about what is next for them on their journey after high school.