Jul 12, 2017

‘Senioritis’—coming to a high school near you

For high school counselors and teachers, the symptoms of “senioritis” are all too familiar—an 'I don’t care attitude' characterized by lack of motivation and general bad behavior.

It usually strikes some time shortly after seniors receive college acceptance letters. And for those with early results, symptoms may start appearing as soon as mid-December.

School administrators report that the onset of senioritis usually coincides with warm weather and only becomes epidemic once the last Advanced Placement test has been completed.  It tends to be very contagious among second semester seniors, who are “so over” high school, they put social before school.

The CDC doesn’t track senioritis.  But judging by the uptick in daytime activity at the mall—before, after, and during school hours—it seems that many high school 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, dropping out of extracurricular activities, failed tests, and way too many lapses in judgment or integrity. You can chart outcomes on a graph: as absenteeism increases, grades decline.

And devoting class time to Snap Chat, Instagram and Twitter may signal senioritis is out of control.
For extreme cases, a strong dose of discipline is required as students mindlessly indulge in troublesome behaviors including but not limited to pranks, truancy, substance abuse, or totally inappropriate postings on the Internet.

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 school counselor. For an interesting reference, UC Santa Cruz spells out their terms and conditions in excruciating detail on their website.

And here is an example from the University of Michigan of how the warning works
As an admitted freshman, the University of Michigan expects all aspects of your academic performance and conduct in your senior year to be consistent with the record you presented upon admission. Any significant decline in your academic performance, such as three or more C's, any D's, E's or F's, may be cause for revoking admission. Declining grades or a significant change in curriculum may also be cause for revoking admission. Although senior year grades are reported directly to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) and reviewed, it is your responsibility to advise OUA of any serious decline in grades or changes in course selections previously entered on your application.”
 Failure to live up to expectations can have painful consequences such as
  • a rescinded offer of admission,
  • placement on academic probation before you even begin college,
  • delayed or second semester start,
  • remedial coursework,
  • a mandatory gap year to grow up,
  • loss of Advanced Placement credits or
  • reduced financial aid.
No kidding, these things happen.  Seniors who earn D’s during second semester may find they have no college to attend in the fall or suffer a serious loss of scholarship dollars. And those who blow off Advanced Placement exams stand to lose course credits worth a significant amount of money or a fast pass to early college graduation.

Statistics related to revoked admissions are notoriously difficult to obtain—no one really likes to talk about it. A few years ago, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) reported that 1 in 5 or about 22 percent of colleges surveyed revoked offers. And the average number of offers revoked more than doubled from 10 to 23 per school in one year.

In an interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said the Office of Admissions usually sends warning letters to admitted students if they detect a “pattern of lower grades” or a failure.  Students are asked to provide an explanation, after which a decision is made on an appropriate course of action.

And it can be really costly*:
Your case has been reviewed by the Dean of Emory College and myself. I am sorry to inform you that our decision is to revoke your admission to the Emory College Class of 20--. I realize this turn of events is of great disappointment to you. On behalf of the Admission Committee, I want to extend our sincere appreciation for your interest in Emory. Should your interest in Emory persist, you may apply again to Emory College as a transfer student next year. Please note that we require one full year of college work and have a postmarked deadline of June 1st for transfer. Lastly, I offer you my best wishes for a productive, and above all, rewarding college career. Sincerely, Dean of Admission for Emory University.”
One local family was put to the test tracking down an errant son who took off for a mission trip to a remote part of South America immediately after graduation.  On receipt of a final grade report containing two “C’s,” the boy’s prestigious university sent an email demanding an immediate explanation with a clear threat that revocation of his admission was possible.

The young man was eventually located and provided access to internet services which he used to email a detailed explanation and apology to the college. He entered his freshman year on academic probation.

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

In March, the University of Virginia 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…

*From a collection assembled by Kevin J. Kuczynski, Warren Consolidated Schools

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