Mid-Year Reports

Mid-year reports are sort of the “other shoe" of college applications, and they're coming due right around this time of year. If you go to Google and search for the term “college mid-year report," you'll find this definition (for those of you unfamiliar with the term):

The Mid-Year Report is an application form that a school counselor typically submits to colleges once a student's first semester (or first trimester) grades are recorded on the transcript. The form itself is usually submitted along with a most recent official transcript.

How important is the mid-year report? Well, it serves more than one purpose. First, for those who have been accepted in the early (ED/EA) application rounds, it provides a window into your ongoing (primarily) academic and (secondarily) extracurricular performance. Colleges keep a close eye on their admits and this is one way to spot any early signs of senioritis, which we have discussed here before.

Of course, for those Regular Decision RD) applicants, it provides colleges with additional, hopefully positively supporting, evidence of an applicant's worthiness. Obviously, applicants want to present the strongest possible case for their admission quest. The mid-year report offers that opportunity.

Also, the mid-year report offers applicants, those already accepted or in the RD pool, to go beyond mere academics in “marketing" themselves to the admissions committee. Some mid-year report forms pose an open-ended question, something along the lines of, “Anything else you would like us to know?"

This is a wide-open door through which to walk some special information that can augment your formal application or present some entirely new, impressive facts about your profile. Augmenting can include adding some finer points to what you have already put forth.

For example, say one of your ECs involves composing and performing your own original music. On the mid-year report form, if asked, you can state the latest and greatest manifestations of that talent: “I had a chance to perform a group of my songs at a teen coffee house gathering over Christmas and was approached by a man who represents young musicians. He said that over the summer he could find me some performance gigs at various venues in my region where young people gather. I was encouraged by his enthusiasm for my work."

A statement like this can provide significant extra emphasis to your case for admission (if you're an RDer) and can further support your ED/EA admission. Keep in mind that the way in which you present this additional information can affect its effect. Take your time in how you present it. I always advise my clients to view any opportunity to provide a narrative of any length on the mid-year report the same as an essay response. Thus, the more care you put into it, the greater impact it's likely to make.

Some think that the mid-year report can tip the scales in favor of getting into a school. Nancy Griesmer notes:

… With the surge in applications submitted this year and the relative comparability of credentials among applicants, the midyear report is taking on greater importance. It's no longer a “pro forma" document simply to be filed after admissions decisions are made.

For example, a student whose grades at the end of junior year fell just shy of what a college expects can show improvement or document an extension of an upward incline begun earlier in the high school career. An added boost in GPA might also help with scholarship dollars for schools using a grade factor for allocating merit money.

Most midyear reports also provide counselors with the opportunity to bring colleges up-to-date on additional achievements, scores, or distinctions since the original application was filed. Be sure to let your counselor know if there's anything worth reporting to the schools receiving these reports and ask that the information be included along with grades on the document forwarded to your colleges.

Note that the midyear report can be an important “marketing" opportunity for your counselor to support your candidacy …

Posters on the College Confidential discussion forum also have some real-world comments about the mid-year report. One poster asks:

– how important is the mid year report for admission decisions? will a drop in GPA keep you out?

the varsity sport i played this year caused me to have a hard time in ib physics, as i would constantly miss that class for games and such. also, the season ended in november and our semester ended in mid december, so i didnt have much time to raise my grade. will this be frowned upon?

A quick reply came from an honest-to-goodness admissions officer:

– The mid-year report matters and is one of the documents we look at extensively when make a ruling of your academic abilities and academic promise. Since we focus on trends, the mid-year report provides us with a record of your most recent performance in high school and the best estimation on whether you will succeed once you arrive as a freshman. As always we factor in grades along with the rigor of the curriculum and a student's extracurricular commitments.

Many say that junior year performance is most important — I actually feel that junior year and mid-year senior year should be weighed equally …

Following this exchange, other CC posters engage the admissions officer, who responds with some solid-gold insights:

– [applicant] My midyear report will be excellent (for me at least). I have my toughest course load ever (6AP's) have 90% or above on all of them. However, now in my senior year I have received these great grades. I think it is because now I am challenged more and have been motivated to do much better. I have also had to study for SAT's and have been doing sports very well (all county/all conference honors). I plan on participating in varsity athletics at JHU (the coach is aware of my interest)! My grades have had an upward trend since freshman year of harder course load and better grades. Is it too late for me to be getting my better grades so late in my high school career?? How will they be factored?

– [admissions officer] … you ask some good questions, but as I have said before I will not comment on an individual's chances for admission. Making a judgment on a student's chances based on a paragraph of information is just not something I will ever do. you ask some interesting questions and I am glad you are starting the college search as a junior. I do suggest you check out the Hopkins Insider blog in the next few days.( I will post my next entry and it will focus primarily on how we read applications at Hopkins and what we look for. Check back and I think the information I provide will really shed some light on what we really do with your application.

And I will also say, that clearly an upward trend in performance in rigor is much better than a stagnant or downward trend.

– [applicant] I have a question regarding class rank. Let us assume, just for “hypothetical" purposes, that I go to a competitive, small private high school with about 100 kids in each grade. The school does not report exact rank, but does provide rank to the nearest 5%. Would I, being in the top 15% and having taken the most difficult courses, be at a disadvantage when compared to students who go to large public schools where the 15th ranked student is in the top 5%? I should probably note that nearly 30 students in my graduating class have, “hypothetically," 1400+ SAT scores or the ACT equivalent …

– [admissions officer] No seriously, class rank is such an arbitrary academic measure these days that all Admissions counselors look at the specifics behind a given rank and factor in the specifics of each individual school. We are much much much more concerned with your overall performance, your academic trends, and the rigor of your courses, then your class rank.

There are specifics about your “hypothetical" situation that would make reviewing class rank differently and therefore possibly irrelevant …

Great stuff! You can follow the rest of these exchanges (67 posts in all) here. This is the kind of superior information that makes College Confidential the best free resource of college information on the Web.

To see what an actual mid-year report looks like, here's a sample of the one used by Bucknell University. Of course, as with most requirements, there are always exceptions. The University of Pennsylvania has this happy notice on their freshman applicant checklist:

– Midyear Report (not required if admitted to Penn Early Decision)

Bottom line, then: Carefully check your colleges' deadlines for mid-year report due dates and whether or not they require one for you, if you were admitted early. Most colleges will not remind you that the report is due, so avoid the situation of an incomplete application.

Most of all, though, don't miss an opportunity to put your best marketing foot forward, if you get one. You get a single shot at college admissions. Be sure to hit the target!