Senior slump can haunt HS students

Joan Franklin
On College

Question: Now that my applications are completed, I feel a bad case of senioritis coming on. Is that a problem?

Answer: I wish I could assure you that senior slump won’t come back to haunt you, but in fact there are too many scenarios in which students have been hurt by senioritis.

The final, and often forgotten, component of your college application is having your high school submit your final transcript to the college that you will attend in the fall. Colleges will look to ensure that your academic record is consistent with the pattern and grades you submitted when you applied.

I have known students who received a letter from the admissions office requesting an explanation for plummeting grades during the second semester of their senior year. While those students were not put on academic probation or asked to attend summer school, they placed their admission in jeopardy of being revoked.

I have known other students who were penalized for dropping second semester classes if they indicated on their application that they were, in fact, completing those classes in the later part of the year. Since colleges may not receive final grades until the summer, students may find themselves with few options if they are forced to change plans.

In fact, according to a recent article in the New York Times, the University of Washington revoked acceptances in the summer for 23 previously accepted applicants with poor second-semester grades. They also sent 180 “warning letters,” expressing unhappiness with students’ declining academic efforts.

However, my biggest fear when I hear of senioritis is not so much that colleges will change their minds after an admission offer, but that students will have little leverage if they are deferred or waitlisted from the college of their choice. Should this happen, you want to be sure that you will have the grades in your favor come April 1, when you try to head to the top of the waitlist.

In a similar vein, students should continue to actively participate in extracurricular and volunteer activities and should maintain their leadership positions when possible. When communicating with schools at which you have been waitlisted or deferred, it may help to inform admissions offices of your extracurricular undertakings in addition to reiterating your strong desire to attend.

Another reality few students consider, especially as they are in the process of applying to college, is the possibility that they might want to transfer. While students should strive to choose a school that will be a good fit, it is never a bad idea to leave one’s options open. The transfer process is much more difficult for students who need to explain a poor second semester performance.

On the other hand, the second half of senior year can be a wonderful time to take a part-time job, pursue an internship or indulge a passion through volunteer work. Some students may find themselves eager to pursue interests that cannot be found at their high school and will elect to take evening classes at the UW or learn a second (or third) language.

In fact, you may be surprised how much extra time you find that you have, now that the applications are behind you. The next three months can be a wonderful hiatus. Many students report that they have more energy to devote to family and friends before heading off to college. Enjoy the end of your senior year. Take a deep breath and relax … just not too much.

Joan Franklin can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or

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