Admissions

Senior Year: January to June

Let's talk about the final leg of your high school career -- that long haul from January to June. Or maybe January to May, if you graduate in May ("January to June," though, is a better alliteration).

From a college admissions perspective, this period of time applies not only to those of you who have been accepted Early Decision (ED) or the various types of Early Action (EA), but also to those of you awaiting your Regular Decision (RD) outcomes over the coming several months. I'm talking about the dangers of senioritis. Let's define that term.


Senioritis is a colloquial term mainly used in the United States and Canada to describe the decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college, and graduate school careers. It combines the word senior with the suffix -itis, which technically denotes inflammation but in colloquial speech is assumed to mean a general illness ...

... In some more serious cases where students allow their grades to drop quite significantly, universities and high schools may rescind offers of admission. Those who experience senioritis are often shocked when colleges and universities send them a letter the summer before their fall semester starts telling them that they can no longer attend the college due to failure in the academic rigor that they promised in the interview or application process ...

 

... senioritis in high school may still cause the incoming college freshmen not to be as adequately prepared for the rigor of college level studies, and may decrease their ability to gain entrance scholarships. Because Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other advanced classes generally do not have their final exams until early May, they provide a challenge to seniors who are battling with senioritis issues, since most college and university admissions are decided in March and April and students in advanced classes have to overcome the pull of senioritis during the time gap between those two events. In addition, some advanced classes have tests, projects, and other major things relevant to the curriculum spread throughout the second semester; thereby ensuring that students remain busy with a constant stream of deadlines.

Every year, the College Confidential discussion forum has numerous threads along the lines of "Will my acceptance be revoked?" I'm always surprised every late spring and summer when I see these threads because it's fairly common knowledge that colleges don't like to see students they have accepted and enrolled suddenly getting Cs and maybe Ds when before they were solid B+ and A students. I'm pretty sure that all of you -- well, maybe nearly all of you -- reading this know better than to slack off, grade-wise.

 

Let's face it; the long haul of education from pre-school up through kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school can be a real grind, a marathon of sorts. That's especially true for high academic performers who excel not only in the classroom but also in their many extracurricular activities.

I've run a few marathons in my day, including Boston. When I've been training for those 26.2-mile endurance events, I've often thought of an analogy between a marathon and a K-12 educational career. There are some similarities. First of all, it can seem endless. It's better not to think about how far there is to go but, rather, about how far you've come. Also, there's the famous "Wall" with 10K to go. That's where your muscles have burned almost all of their glycogen and the lactic acid is sending waves of fatigue across your body, not to mention your mind. Don't give up before you finish!

Those final January-to-May/June months of senior year and the final 10K of a marathon. That period can open the door to senioritis. Don't let that happen to you.

 

In searching for some good advice (beyond my own, which I have discussed before) about how to avoid the seductive threat of fading away academically, I rediscovered this New York Times The Choice blog post, which notes 7 Reasons to Avoid Senioritis. Here are some excerpts:

Your Admission Offer May Be Rescinded

Somewhere in all those college admission letters, after the “congratulations’’ part, is a sentence to the effect that admission is conditional upon the student completing high school with the same academic and personal achievement on which the offer was based ... And they mean it. Each year, colleges rescind offers to students whose grades plummeted after they were admitted ...

 

Your College Is Watching You

Colleges require final grades for accepted students. Many students believe that only the first half of senior year “counts.” Not true ...

If You Were on Honor Roll When You Got In, You May Be Expected to Stay There

Colleges expect you to continue your current course schedule and maintain the level of academic and personal success demonstrated in your application. Colleges look to your application, especially your transcript, to determine if you are an appropriate academic match for the college — and vice versa ...

You May Have to Explain Why You Slacked Off

Far more common than revocation of admission is a warning letter, expressing disappointment and asking for an explanation ...

 

You May Have to Start Your College Search Over Again

Bad grades are not the only possible pitfall. Some students lose their admission offers because of plagiarism, cheating, drunken misbehavior or arrest ...

Senior Year Should Help You Transition to College

... With applications in, seniors should take time to savor their final months of high school and enjoy family and friends. But they should also be using this important time in their lives to practice balancing academics with other commitments, and not fall victim to the “senior slack" ...

 

Admission Officers Would Rather Not Target You

... every letter of acceptance has the sentence about the offer of admission is contingent on successful completion of high school work ...

The College Board also has some thoughts about that final 10K of high school:

... Colleges may reserve the right to deny admission to an accepted applicant should the student's senior-year grades drop. (Many college acceptance letters now explicitly state this.) Admission officers can ask a student to explain a drop in grades and can revoke an offer of admission if not satisfied with the response.

And because the colleges do not receive final grades until June or July, students may not learn of a revoked admission until July or August, after they've given up spots at other colleges and have few options left ...

... Colleges expect seniors to complete courses they enrolled in, including high-level courses. Many college applications ask applicants to list senior-year courses, with information about course levels and credit hours. College admission officers are interested in academic commitment and course completion ... remain excited, active and focused throughout [your] senior year ...

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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. When you finally see that finish line, you'll know that all those miles and stalactites were well worth it.

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Don’t forget to check out all my admissions-related articles at College Confidential.