Seniors Speak: The Antibody against Early-Onset Senioritis (SSS)

Designed by Sohum Gupta

One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Esther Mathew (Georgia Institute of Technology ’22), who loved being a part of INspire, LEAD, and Mod 21 during her time at IMSA.

As a survivor of the 2018 Senioritis epidemic, I would like to provide posterity with my road to recovery. Though I am not by any means an expert in the field, I believe that the patient perspective and advice is valuable for any individual going through this rough time.

Pathogen Information

Scientific Name: Apatheza senioritis

Common Name: Senioritis, SSS

Incubation Period: 0-3.5 years of entering high school, varies widely, case-dependent

Description: This pathogen affects everyone differently. It is largely caused by a deterioration of mental health and apathy caused by stress from relationships, extracurriculars, homework, lack of adequate sleep, lack of confidence, stress of college applications, and more. Often the disease resides in the patient for 3.5 years before detection during the second semester senior year, hence the coining of the terms Senioritis and SSS.

Symptoms: tiredness, apathy, headaches, loss of motivation, moderate loss of fine motor skills required to complete homework more than 24 hours in advance

Luckily, the body creates antibodies to fight against this malignant disease. Below, I describe the main three mechanisms of the antibody, IgPRO.

Antibody (IgPRO) Information

  1. Find something you love and people who will love it with you.

This protein binds to the apathy PAMP of the pathogen (shout-out to all my MAD peeps). No, but actually, this is a surefire way to fight any apathy that may set in during your IMSA career. The more you love something, the more effort that you will put into it. This mechanism leads you to choose extracurriculars that you love, providing an effective outlet for stress. Most of your closest friends will be in these groups.

When I came to IMSA, I was sure that I would be a part of the robotics team and math team. Three months in, I was comfortable, but I did not know if I was truly enjoying myself. That was when I learned about Mod 21 a cappella. It was not something I had done before, but I love singing, and I thought I would give it a try. After all, in the words of Lilly Singh, “success begins outside of your comfort zone.” After my first practice, I knew that I had found my home on campus. Belting out improvised versions of Pitch Perfect songs with people from all different backgrounds brought us together like nothing I had ever experienced before. Throughout my three years, my seniors trained me to be the leader that I am today, my section made me into the silly person I am today, and the group made me into the loyal friend I am today. The people who you surround yourself with shape who you are, so surround yourself with people who you aspire to be like. Discover your common interests, and introduce new things to each other. Your friends could be the ones who will help keep you on track or derail you completely, so choose wisely.

  1. Build a support system.

If you are going through a hard time, or you just need someone to talk to, make sure you have lines of communication available for any situation. This could be your parents, friends, RCs, school counselors, or external counselors.

Prior to this year, I have never sought the help of my school counselor. I did not even think about the option until I was practically forced to. There is a definite stigma behind mental health, even on such an open campus as IMSA. I am unbelievably happy that this stigma is being addressed by StudCo’s efforts with Mental Health Initiative (MHI) Week and activities centered around a topic each month (eg. Sexual Assault Awareness Month). I can honestly say from my experiences that even if you feel an inkling of unhealthy stress or discomfort, talk to someone. Mental health can spiral out of control in no time, so catching changes in their beginning stages and processing confusing experiences with a trusted individual is incredibly important. After meetings with Kevin, one of the IMSA school counselors, my mind is clear, I know my action plan, and I have coping mechanisms that grow continually. There are professionals in mental health for a reason. There is no way that you will ever have all the answers. No one does. Work towards answers with someone who will support you at your worst and celebrate with you at your best. The road to recovery is rocky, so do not take it alone.

  1. Go out of your way to be an actual person… who is not sleep-deprived. (When necessary, fake it till you make it).

Sleep children, please sleep! Sleep affects your mood, your productivity, and your happiness. Even if you are not getting the recommended eight hours, at least get five to six. Count your REM cycles! Give sleep cycle alarms a try! Some people say that this method allows them to feel refreshed when they wake up.

However, if your workload requires you to pull an all-nighter (*highly* do not recommend, as with everything in this article, by personal experience.), fake it till you make it, buddies. Smile! Talk to people! Get outside of your bubble! I am not telling you that you should act happy all the time or cover up problems, but just smiling brings your mood up and lifts up others.

The best people I have met on campus are those who have gone out of their way for me, or those who I have gone out of my way to befriend. Kathy from Sodexo always checks in on me whenever she sees me in line. “How are you today, Esther? I haven’t seen you in a while! Anything interesting happen today?” Just this check-in alone brightens my day and encourages me to check in on others, and the chain continues. As Mohandas Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Every time I walk by security, I say hello to Heather. She is a friendly army soldier and officer who flashes a smile to stressed IMSA students and enjoys spending time with her husband and toddler. Heather is always ready to have a conversation with students, so tell her that you read an article about her! Ask about her training days for the army. She might even show you an official memorandum! (Did you know that memorandum is the same thing as a memo? Heather taught me that!) The moral of the story is that the IMSA campus would be a happier place if students were not as sleep-deprived, but let’s be the happiest sleep-deprived campus there is!

I hope that this analysis has shed some light onto the IgPRO antibody against early-onset senioritis. Do not get me wrong, if caught after receiving a college acceptance letter, SSS may be a blessing, not a curse. However, the mechanisms of the antibody are crucial for anyone with the pathogen… so all IMSA students. Don’t just survive SSS, thrive.

About the Author

Chandana Tetali
Chandana Tetali, originally from Naperville, IL, now resides in 06CDQ. Though formally the Editor-in-Chief ('17-'18) of the Acronym, other titles for her include The Master Procrastinator, "Shandonna," Charmander, Sinnamon Roll, and the second half of the Best Roommate Pair on Campus.

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