It’s getting to be that time of year.  High school seniors are so DONE with school.  Graduation is so close, it feels like they can reach out and touch it.  They are down to their last few months with friends – often lifelong friends – who will scatter in all directions come fall (maybe even summer).  Time is precious, and priorities are conflicted.  “Good thing,” they think, “my college admission letter is safe in hand.  At least I don’t need to worry about THAT any more.  Now I can relax.”  Well, not really.

Each summer I have the sad responsibility of rescinding admission for students who have experienced a serious downturn in senior year performance.  Sometimes this means that they fail key core classes, without which they no longer meet minimal academic expectations.  Sometimes it simply means that their senior year grade point average is significantly below the GPA that they presented at the point they were admitted.  Either way, their performance moves from an admissible level to an inadmissible level.  And we simply cannot ignore it.   In all fairness to the students who maintain their performance throughout senior year, and in fairness to the students we denied earlier in the application cycle, we simply cannot look the other way.  In addition, we know that serious downturns in performance often continue into freshman year in college.  A downturn in performance automatically makes a student “high risk.”  There’s no way we can condone the performance, and ignoring it would do just that.  We have to rescind.

Believe me, we understand the angst that this causes for students and their families, and rescinding admission is not a decision we make lightly.  Rescinding admission means a mad scramble to make alternate plans at short notice.  Choices are often limited.  And, well, it’s embarrassing. 

But it happens.  It happens virtually every year.   It happens all around the UW System (and at private colleges too, I imagine).  Yet, there still seems to be a general perception (among students, at least)  that senioritis is OK…as long as your college admission letter is safely in hand.

If you are a school counselor reading this entry, feel free to cut and paste this into your next senior newsletter.  Tell your students you got this from a 25+ year admissions veteran:  senioritis is NOT acceptable, and the impact can be significant.  Tell your students that we will be requesting final high school transcripts after graduation, and we will be examining every single one of them.  And if we see a serious downturn, we will have no choice but to respond accordingly.

The best cure for senioritis is a dose of reality.

On another note, and I would be remiss not to mention this:  some students encounter legitimately traumatic experiences during senior year that have a negative impact on performance…things that are beyond their control, and disrupt even the most determined efforts to succeed.  In those cases, school counselors can help by letting us know what is going on.  Whether it’s UW-Green Bay or another school, if there’s something we should know about that has impacted senior year performance, give the admissions director a call or drop an email.  Help us to understand the background, and tell us your opinion about how the student would have performed had the event/situation not impacted performance.  Having this perspective can make a world of difference.

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