Ask Series: Ask the Psychologist – Dr. Ehrin Weiss of Houston Family Psychology

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You’ve done it! You’ve made it to your last semester at your school. You might be excited that the end is finally in sight, or you may be nervous about what’s coming next. Chances are, you’re probably experiencing a lot of conflicting emotions that may be stressful and even confusing at times. These conflicting emotions can make the last semester one of the most challenging.

The first step to successfully facing any challenge is to understand it. What makes the last semester feel more stressful than others?

Feeling caught between worlds

If you’re looking ahead to what’s next, you may have one foot out the door. You may feel like you’re living in two worlds: the world of completing your last semester, and the world of planning for your next step. If those two worlds seem very different, you may not feel like you really belong in either at this point.

Feeling like you belong and knowing where you fit into the world are important human needs throughout life, but especially during the adolescent years (approximately age 12-25). Because of this, feeling like you don’t belong anywhere can be very stressful and confusing, and may result in experiencing an increase in negative emotions.

Lack of motivation

If you are usually driven to do well, the loss of motivation that often occurs during the last semester can feel not only confusing but concerning. You may worry that something has changed about you, that you’ve lost your drive and you’ll never get it back. But take heart, the decreased drive to succeed during the last semester is usually temporary. Lack of motivation is so common during the last semester it has its own name, “senioritis.” While this term is usually used negatively, there are good reasons you may be feeling that way. If you’re feeling like you don’t belong anywhere, as described above, or if you’ve decided that you really belong in the next step and no longer fit where you are, it can be difficult to stay motivated for the demands of your last semester.

This can be especially true if you have been driven to get good grades for the sake of getting to the next step (getting into the right high school, college, graduate school, or landing the right job) and if your next step no longer depends on this semester’s grades, you many no longer feel motivated.  If you’ve already been accepted into that next step, or if it seems like there’s nothing your grades this semester can do to impact what will happen next, it can be challenging to make yourself keep caring about doing well in your last semester.

Saying goodbye

This brings us to the next major challenge of the last semester—saying goodbye. When the semester ends, you will be saying goodbye to your daily life as you currently know it. At the least, this means saying goodbye to your current school. It may also mean saying goodbye to some or all of your friends, your city, your home, and your family.

Saying goodbye is rarely easy, even when you are looking forward to what’s ahead. You may find yourself putting more emphasis on spending the time you have left with your friends and less on your academics. Conversely, you may find that you start to distance yourself from the people and places you will be saying goodbye to. You may start to look for their flaws in an attempt to make yourself feel better about your upcoming separation. I often see friendships and romantic relationships fall apart during the last semester as people try to prepare for the changes ahead. Whether you’re holding tightly to the precious moments you have left or starting to create distance in an attempt to prepare for your next step, difficulties can arise; holding on too tight can make it difficult to focus on preparing to move on, and creating distance now can create strained relationships and leave you feeling lonely and unsupported.

Uncertainty about the Future

Let’s face it, the future is never certain. Even when you were staying in the same school, there were changes that happened from semester to semester or year to year. But there were also a lot of things that stayed the same, which made the changes seem smaller. The changes ahead may seem much bigger, especially if you are moving to a job or school where you don’t know many people and don’t really know what to expect. For some people, this uncertainty can feel scary, while others may find it exciting. If this uncertainty about the future fills you with dread, you may feel like you are constantly stressed or on edge this semester.

These factors work together to impact how you will feel and function through your last semester. Understanding and accepting the challenges ahead puts you in a better position to successfully navigate them so that you cannot just survive, but thrive through the last semester!

 

Last semester, Parenting Techniques, School gui

 

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Also please visit Dr. Ehrin Weiss’ website for more blogs like this and more information about what she does.

Houston Family Psychology

If you enjoyed this read check out our other Blog in the Ask Series:

  • Ask the Professor
  • Ask the Tutor
  • Ask the Statistician
  • Ask the Comedian

 

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