Preparing for College

Explaining Middling Mid-Year Marks

Question: A college just sent a letter to my child requesting additional information- specifically, mid-term grades. This school is a "reach" academically, and his mid-year grades were mixed but not stellar. Should my child send an email to the admissions counselor (or the dean who sent the letter) with some sort of explanation about the grades, or just send them along? Thank you.


The best bet is probably for your son to suck it up and send the grades without comment. Admission folks are pretty jaded when it comes to the typical mixed-grades excuses (“I was out with the flu in February,” “The robotics tournament ate up more time than I’d expected,” etc.) So your son should avoid sounding whiny, even if the flu really did set him back (as it does most of us) or if the robotics victory was hard fought.

However, if your son has a real humdinger of an explanation for his so-so semester (Grandma died, Dad disappeared, etc.) it’s worth mentioning. He can also try a little humor to put a grade or two perspective (e.g., “My 81 in AP Calc won’t wow anyone in your admissions office, but we’ve nicknamed our teacher Hard-hearted Hannah for good reason, and my grade puts me squarely in the middle of a competitive class and doesn’t come close to reflecting my effort.”)

This type of addendum may work for one class or perhaps even two but won’t carry much clout if your son offers excuses for EVERY grade.

Another route to take would be to ask the guidance counselor to send the grades (most counselors send a mid-year report anyway, though some tend to get backlogged). Then you can also ask the counselor to offer up excuses where appropriate (“Mr. Avery is stingy with the A’s”). These always sound a bit more legit when coming from the counselor and not from the kid.

(posted 2/26/2013)