Preparing for College

Beware Senioritis

Were you admitted to college already? Some of you may have gotten the good news via Early Decision or Early Action. What a great feeling that is! Now that you're guaranteed a seat at what may well be your first-choice school, it's time to relax and enjoy the rest of senior year, right? Not so fast there. Think again about lapsing into that seductive realm known as Senioritisville.

Getting a fat envelope from a college in December is kind of like getting married. Now you're on a honeymoon with your beloved institution of higher learning. Trouble is, though, just like some newlyweds on their honeymoon, things can go south in a hurry when some aspects of your true nature emerge. Like what, you ask? Well, there's always that temptation to "exhale" and let some things slide. For example, you may have been holding on in that AP Physics or Calc class by the skin of your teeth, studying like a maniac to max out your first quarter grades to send in with your ED/EA app. Now that you've been accepted, maybe you feel that your death grip on all that work might be able to loosen a bit. This is where trouble may enter Paradise.


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It is a fact that colleges have been known to revoke the admission of students who cool it, academically, after they have been accepted. Of course there are other non-academic reasons for the revocation of an admission, such as criminal behavior, but the point of my post today is to warn of slacking off in the classroom.

Shauntel Lowe, in Lemon Grove Patch, makes a good case about the dangers of senioritis.

How to Avoid Getting Kicked Out of College Before You Begin

A poor academic performance in 12th grade could doom high school seniors' chances of getting into their top-choice schools.

High school seniors may not realize it, but that college admissions letter they haven't even received yet could be slipping away right now.

Both the University of California and California State University systems issue what are known as "provisional" admissions letters each spring, typically in March. A big, bold "Congratulations!" may tell students they're in, but it's the fine print that spells out how to stay in.

"For the admitted first-time freshmen, SDSU requires the students to complete all in-progress or planned courses in their senior year with "C" or higher grades and maintain the overall grade point average that was reported on their application for admission," said Beverly Arata, San Diego State University director of admissions, in an e-mail.

That means coasting through the senior year—the primary symptom of the oft-contagious condition called "senioritis"—could leave would-be college freshmen scrambling to find new schools in the fall.

The terms vary in describing the consequences of not meeting the admissions standards—admissions "rescinded" or "canceled"—but the message is the same: You were in and now you're out.

SDSU rescinded the admission of 114 first-time freshmen for the fall of 2010 and averages about 140 each year, Arata said. UC San Diego cancels about 40 admissions each year.

"We don't want students to all of a sudden find out that they've been admitted and develop senioritis," said Mae Brown, UC San Diego director of admissions. "We want them to maintain that same level of academic commitment because ... [we] want them to be ready and prepared to do challenging academic work."

The UC system requires students to maintain a "B" or 3.0 GPA average in their senior year—a higher standard than the CSU system—and not receive any D or F grades.

The admissions requirements are also spelled out in the online Steps to Enrollment for SDSU and on the UC admissions website. But what may catch some students off guard is the timeline for finding out they can no longer go to the school they wanted.

Admissions decisions—based on sophomore and junior year grades—come out in the early spring, but it's not until the late spring and early summer that colleges find out students' senior year grades when final transcripts are sent in.

SDSU requires students to send in transcripts with grades from their 12th grade first semester by the "intent to enroll" deadline of May 2. The second transcript, with second semester grades, is due by July 15. Recission letters are sent shortly after each deadline, enabling students to make other education plans, Arata said.

All transcripts are due to UC San Diego by July 15 and admission cancellation notices go out typically no later than the first week of August, Brown said.

"It's difficult because clearly some students would have turned down offers from other campuses and now they're feeling as though they have no other options, but that's why we're very clear in the letter of admissions. These are our expectations," Brown said.

Students can write letters of appeal to SDSU and UC San Diego to explain the drop in grades, but they shouldn't expect a senioritis diagnosis or preoccupation with extracurriculars to help them regain admission.

"Clearly, there are students who've had some type of extenuating circumstance that has occurred. We're not heartless," Brown said, citing a family death or severe illness as possible compelling arguments.

Brown also added that it's not just grades but also academic rigor that must be maintained in the senior year. Students who applied with a background of honors and Advanced Placement courses shouldn't suddenly begin taking an easier workload in the senior year, as this could affect their acceptance into the university.

"We're admitting students without any indication of what their senior year grades are," Brown said. "Our expectation is that you maintain the same level of academic rigor that we used to make the initial offer of admission."

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Think this can't happen to you? Think again. Bottom line on this issue: Be who you are consistently. If you were good enough to get into that cool school early, then keep showing them that you're still that same person. Your mid-year report will expose any cracks in your academic resolve, and your year-end grades will finish your profile's portrait. Keep up the great work that you've done so far. Don't let a bad honeymoon lead to divorce court.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.