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Senioritis: Consequences Can Be Worse than You Think

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After three long years of doing homework, completing projects, and taking tests, high school seniors are ecstatic to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Most seniors have already taken their entrance exams and their submitted college applications, so once the big news arrives many decide to take it easy for awhile. They know where they’ll be going to college the following fall, so taking extremely easy courses and skipping school sounds a lot better than stressing out til the end, right? The habit, jokingly referred to as senioritis, isn’t a debilitating disease like the name implies, but it can cause problems when you least expect them!

Senior Year … Time to Take it Easy?

College applications are due by November at the latest, and some seniors even apply for early admissions decisions prior to that. Most college applications— including the Common Application which is accepted by nearly 400 colleges and universities in the United States— require students to list and describe the courses they’ll be taking during their senior year, but plenty of seniors mistakenly believe that anything they do once they’ve submitted their college applications doesn’t matter.

Sounds good in theory, but it’s not always the case.

An October 10, 2006 San Francisco Chronicle article by Tanya Schevitz reported that the University of Washington in Seattle decided to review the files of over 5,000 incoming freshmen for the first time. They wound up revoking the admissions offers sent to 23 of the students, and sent warning letters to 180 others:

“When they say, ’I’m taking a fourth year of language, I’m taking AP (Advanced Placement) this and AP that,’ and when you see their final transcripts, it is underwater basket weaving and intro to breathing … you wonder if you are on the same planet,” said Admissions Director Philip Ballinger. “They don’t look the same. You were duped.”

In that same article, California State University enrollment director Jim Blackburn explained, “We want the students to be prepared. The biggest reason students fail in college is their preparation in secondary school.” California State University has been trying to reduce the number of freshmen needing remedial courses, and the school rescinded dozens of acceptance letters at each of their campuses for that reason.

Why are Colleges Suddenly Checking Up on Seniors?

Most college acceptance letters include warnings to students to let them know that their admission is dependent upon their continued success throughout high school, which means that the schools reserve the right to deny admission if your senior year grades take a nosedive, but revoking admissions offers seems to be happening with a bit more frequency.

A May 6, 2009 piece in USA Today explains why.

The 2009 college admission season had a record numbers of applications despite students’ dwindling economic resources, and colleges aren’t sure how many students are going to be able to accept their offers. Due to this uncertainty, many colleges are accepting more students than they did in the past … but should more students actually accept admissions offers than the school had anticipated, they’re more likely to revoke the offers made to students who didn’t maintain their grades or students who fell behind in some other way.

The records of students that have been placed on college wait lists will also be reviewed before final decisions are made. Should you have your heart set on getting accepted to the school that wait-listed you, it’s in your best interest to avoid slacking off.

Why The Sudden Urge to Be Lazy?

It seems ironic that students who have gone above and beyond academically for most of their lives suddenly want to let things slide and not care that they fall behind, but it seems to be common practice … because they know they can usually get away with it.

When I was in high school, the overall semester grade for each course (the grade that appeared on our transcripts) was calculated by averaging three grades: the two report card grades from the two nine-week quarters, and the semester exam grade. This system meant that a failing grade on your mid-term or final exam would easily jeopardize your overall semester grade: even if you had earned an A on your report card during each quarter, a D or F on the exam would significantly lower your overall transcript grade.

This system was enough to keep most serious students on their toes throughout high school, but seniors weren’t required to take final exams during the last semester before graduation as long as they hadn’t accumulated more than five absences per quarter. This meant that the final transcript grade was calculated by averaging the grades from two nine-week quarters – as long as you weren’t absent more than five times per quarter.

This policy caused most seniors to skip school every other Friday to give themselves shorter weeks.

Avoiding Senioritis

Parents, teachers, and college admissions officials are probably rightfully more concerned about senioritis than seniors themselves, so what can be done?

A March 23, 2010 Washington Post piece profiles Ronald Maggiano, an award-winning teacher in the Social Studies Department at West Springfield High School in Fairfax. Maggiano says he has a cure for senioritis, so he decided to try out his ideas with his own students.

Maggiano put all of his students into cooperative learning groups and told them that all assignments for the rest of the year would be completed by the group working together and sharing information. This puts peer pressure on the kids to actually get something done, and Maggiano claims that his new approach is working so far.

The easiest approach to avoiding senioritis is realizing that your actions do have consequences. Your lower grades or less-than-perfect attendance might not affect your college admissions decision, but you’ll be in for the shock of your life when you get to college in the fall after “taking it easy” for the final months of high school and the summer.

Make the most of your final years of high school by challenging yourself as you always have and enjoy spending time with the friends you may no longer see after graduation. On top of that, make your teachers and your parents proud!

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San Francisco Chronicle

USA Today

Washington Post


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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