How To Prevent Burnout as a High School Senior Applying for College

Student Wellness
January 28, 2020
High School Seniors Have A Lot To Juggle…

AP classes, SATs, extracurricular activities, and maintaining a social life while completing college applications is enough to make any student’s head spin, especially high school seniors. Unfortunately, all this busyness in a senior’s life can quickly turn into a bigger problem: burnout.

Burnout is a serious problem at any stage in life, but it can be detrimental during your senior year, because the negative side effects of burnout can be reflected in the quality (and success) of your college applications. Your senior year is so important for many reasons, but above all it’s your last chance to show colleges why you deserve to attend their schools. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease your stress and anxiety as a highschool senior and, ultimately, finish your high school career without suffering from burnout!

What You’ll Find In This Article:

What Is Burnout?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “burnout,” burnout is the build-up of stress and anxiety that leads to feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control. Rather than happening all in an instant, burnout slowly increases and builds over a long period of time. Most high school seniors who battle burnout typically have an overloaded schedule which leaves them feeling scatter-brained and unable to devote enough attention to their priorities.

The first sign that a student is struggling with burnout is shown in a sudden lack of motivation for classes, extracurricular activities, and any other school-related commitments. Getting up and going to school every day becomes increasingly more difficult for the student, and staying committed to their goals feels nearly impossible.

For example, let’s say a high school senior is involved with Student Government, is the captain of a sports team, and takes several AP classes. Combine this heavy workload with SAT study sessions, finding time to work on college applications, and maintaining a social life, and it’s easy to see how this student could be on the fast-track to burnout.

In a full-fledged case of burnout, a senior’s class performance will begin to slip, which could cause a dip in their GPA and disrupt their progress on college applications. This student is acutely aware that there’s simply not enough time in the day to give 100% effort to all of their commitments. Over time, their overwhelming schedule will take a toll on their mental health and overall wellbeing , causing exhaustion and eventually burnout.

However, burnout isn’t permanent; there are ways to reverse course and take back control of your day-to-day life.

If you feel burnout building your senior year, it’s not too late to start implementing some healthy habits into your daily routine. These habits will help you prevent the kind of stress and anxiety that leads to burnout, and finish your high school career strong!

Five Classic Symptoms Of Burnout

When it comes to preventing burnout, you’ll need to know how it typically manifests. Overall, there are five classic symptoms of burnout. If you experience any of these symptoms frequently, it may be time to re-evaluate your workload and employ some self-care practices into your daily routine.

These are the most commonly cited symptoms of burnout:

  • Dreading going to school
  • Constantly feeling tired or lacking motivation
  • Being irritable or angry without cause
  • Thinking your schoolwork and applications don’t matter
  • Frequently suffering from physical symptoms like headaches or an upset stomach

One of the first tell-tale signs that a normally enthusiastic high school senior is experiencing burnout is when they start dreading going to school. Not looking forward to school almost immediately leads to a lack of motivation, which can result in frustration as school-related priorities continue to pile up on their to-do list.

Once a student becomes unmotivated with school, it’s only natural that they will lose motivation with their college applications as well. Being unmotivated doesn’t always equate to laziness either; you may still be doing your best to work hard, but your stress and anxiety are getting in the way of your goals. This kind of anxiety can even manifest itself in the form of physical pain, like headaches and stomach aches.

You may be thinking that you can handle burnout towards the end of your senior year because by that point, all your college applications will be finished and your future will be set. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Burnout can still affect your future at college, even as you are nearing the end of your senior year.

When you apply for college, admissions officers usually request mid-year school reports from your counselor. If burnout makes your grades suddenly drop, an admissions officer will see this fluctuation on your mid-year report and may reconsider granting you admission. As a result, senior year is a sensitive time for burnout to occur; this is why it’s vitally important for seniors to know how to prevent or combat burnout.

How To Prevent Burnout When Applying For College

Experiencing burnout during the college application process can take a serious toll on the quality of your college applications. Your struggles with motivation and focus may be reflected in your essays, grades, and SAT scores. Even worse, burnout could affect where you get accepted.

When your college applications hold high priority, preventing burnout is still possible; all you need are some practical tips to help you change up your routine, focus on your health, and set healthy boundaries for yourself.


If you don’t already have a plan for completing your application, draft a checklist that breaks your application down into chunks. Set aside a realistic amount of time every day to work on a certain part of your application.

By breaking your to-do list down into sections, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed. This will also help you balance your college application workload with your normal homework and study sessions. Instead of “finish my applications,” you can take the process one step at a time.


Make time for self-care habits like eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep every night. Numerous studies have shown that eating nutritious foods and exercising three times a week for at least 30 minutes contributes to one’s mental health, and you can take advantage of that to help lessen feelings of burnout.

Plan your schedule out in a way that allows six to eight hours of sleep every night as well. While eight hours is ideal, a busy schedule can make that goal difficult to attain. As long as you aim for at least six hours of sleep every night, you’ll be giving your brain the rest it needs.


One of the primary reasons high school seniors struggle with preventing burnout is due to their constantly growing list of priorities. As your senior year progresses, you may be presented with more and more opportunities to participate in school activities, sports, and clubs. When these opportunities present themselves, make sure you consider your current workload and priorities first; before committing to another project.

There could also be moments when you get invited to a school event, but you already set aside time to work on your college applications. Saying “no” in moments like this is the difference between feeling rushed or at ease with your senior year goals.

Learning to say “no,” especially during your senior year, is one of the most vital habits you can cultivate.

Learning to set healthy boundaries for yourself will serve you well in the future, because it will help you learn how many responsibilities you can handle at once. If saying “yes” to too many opportunities jeopardizes your health, well-being, and your progress on your college applications, you should consider saying “no” to anything that doesn’t serve you and your goals for your senior year.


A helpful tool that can help you regain some motivation is to detach yourself momentarily from the current circumstances that are bringing you stress and anxiety. Imagine yourself next year at your dream college, and how all the hard work you did during your senior year led to that moment. This puts all of your work into perspective; even if it’s hard now, it’ll pay off in just a few short months.

All your AP classes, extracurricular activities, and college application efforts will pay off in the future, so don’t give up!


If all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted family member, friend, or counselor. Getting an outside perspective can be invaluable, and can help you formulate a solid plan for overcoming your burnout. They can help you determine any clubs or classes you can do without, develop a college application checklist, and help you prioritize what is most important at this stage in your senior year. Of course, sometimes just having someone to listen is all you need as well!

This is also one of the many services WeAdmit offers students through our network of counselors; re-prioritizing is a necessary part of any busy season in your life, and our counselors can help you manage your current priorities and see where you could use a little space to breathe, all while staying on track with your applications.

Preventing Burnout

While burnout is common among high school seniors, it’s simply not the best way for a student to finish their most important academic year. So, to combat these overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety, it’s important that you educate yourself on the common symptoms of burnout. If you sense yourself becoming increasingly unmotivated and negative towards your schoolwork, it may be time to start making some adjustments in your daily routine.

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, and set aside plenty of time to rest. Learn to say no to unnecessary opportunities as they come up, especially if your workload has stretched you too thin already. Look at your current commitments and ask yourself what your priorities really are, whether that be activities, clubs, or sports.

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional college counselor like the ones here at WeAdmit. Our specialty is customizing a college application plan to fit your life and your specific circumstances. If your schedule is getting in the way of you creating a stellar application package, then it’s time to re-prioritize and make room for that in your daily schedule.

Regardless of how busy you are, there are plenty of adjustments you can make to ensure that you’re spending enough time on your applications and not wasting time under the dark cloud of burnout.

After All, You’ve Made It This Far, And You’re Almost Ready To Begin Your College Career!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.