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Do Senior Grades Count for College?

“But I already submitted my application, how will they know?”

Countless seniors have shared some version of this thought with me, especially if they were very conscientious and submitted all their applications for the Early deadlines.  The answer lies in the world of, what if?

What if the dream school for which the application was painstakingly prepared and submitted well in advance of the ED deadline, and where the school promises a decision by Mid-December, decides not to decide? There are three outcomes possible in the ED process, not two: Admit, Deny, or Defer—to defer a decision on the application until the Regular Decision round.

If the decision is deferred, that’s when seniors have an opportunity to take a borderline application and turn it into a stellar one. At that point the student should send an update somewhere around late January to say, look at my stellar grades, look at the success of the project I started to tell you about in my application, look at the awards I have earned since I submitted. All those can tip the balance for a borderline application.

Or, what if that same school decides your application is pretty good, but given all the Pass/Fail classes forced during COVID-19, they’d like to see your mid-semester progress reports. Yes, those that you routinely ignore because they’re missing information, or you were late on a couple of assignments and you’re sure you can make them up. That report can be the difference between admit or deny.

“I didn’t apply early, so none of that can happen to me. Surely the second semester doesn’t matter! My grades won’t even come out until after I commit to a school and send in my housing deposit on May 1st.”

Ok, that one I’m making up because if one of my students got to that point, I didn’t do my job. But the thought does occur to many students. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, what if? What if your dream school puts you on the waitlist? Every year hundreds of students get into their college of choice after the May 1 commitment date. Capitalizing on that opportunity can depend on the waitlist update.

The action should be the same: send an update reiterating your willingness to accept a spot if it is offered, and give the school strong academic and community involvement reasons to decide to take you off the waitlist instead of someone else.

Lastly, there is the possibility of rescinded admission. Most colleges offer admission to students based on “continued academic performance”. This one happens much less often, but it does happen. It happens to students who get severe senioritis and drop from being A students to C students without a reasonable explanation. It is an indicator to the colleges that the student is not prepared for the rigors of the college classroom, and they decide to give the opportunity to someone who is ready, eager, and willing (see the paragraph above).  

So yes, everything still counts senior year—keep your foot on the gas.