May 25, 2011

Get a Grip on Senioritis

It usually strikes some time shortly after seniors receive college acceptance letters. For those with early decisions, it may occur mid-December. But for most, symptoms of senioritis coincide with the first spring flowers and reach fever pitch by the time the last Advanced Placement test has been completed.

And judging by the level of activity in my suburban DC neighborhood—before, after, and during school hours—it seems that a significant number of local college-bound seniors are succumbing to advanced stages of what can be a crippling disease.

Although easy to catch, senioritis is hard to cure. Symptoms include skipping class, neglected homework, failed tests, and way too many lapses in judgment or integrity. You can chart outcomes on a graph: as absenteeism increases, grades decline.

In extreme cases, a strong dose of discipline is required as students mindlessly indulge in troublesome behaviors including but not limited to pranks, truancy, and substance abuse.

And there are consequences. Colleges accept students on the condition that grades and behavior will remain acceptable.

Decision letters contain carefully worded statements that usually read, “Your admission is contingent on continued successful performance,” meaning the last official part of your application process will involve a review of your final transcript as well as a report from your guidance counselor. Failure to live up to expectations can have a number of very painful results such as

  • a rescinded offer of admission,

  • placement on academic probation before you even start college, or

  • a reduction in merit-based financial aid.

No kidding, it happens.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reports that 1 in 5 or about 22 percent of colleges surveyed revoked offers in 2009—up from 21 percent in 2008. And the average number of offers revoked more than doubled from 10 to 23 per school in 2009.

Sadly, colleges have more incentive than ever to take back an offer. With record-breaking applicant pools, unexpectedly high yields, and huge waitlists, schools have lots of enthusiastic applicants happy to take the places of previously-admitted students who dropped key academic classes, let grades slip, or otherwise got in trouble.

UVa invited several thousand students to be on their wait list and not all have been released yet. You can bet a bunch of those kids would jump at the opportunity to grab a spot regardless of how it becomes available.

Most seniors will finish the year knowing they’ve completed a job well-done. This warning is not for you.

For those who haven’t quite managed to turn in your last three English assignments, please come home from the beach now…

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