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Could My College Acceptance Be in Jeopardy?

May 14, 2018

Don’t let senioritis jeopardize your plans for college.

Picture this scenario: You’re a second-semester high school senior, and graduation approaches. You’ve put in four years of hard work, kept your grades up, excelled at sports, volunteered, took the SATs (and maybe the ACT, too). Your efforts are rewarded by getting accepted to college. At last! You pick a college and send in your enrollment deposit.

So, now it’s time to celebrate and blow off some steam: You participate in Senior Skip Day...and maybe a little more. You don’t bother to turn in a few papers, fail a couple of exams, or stop taking part in your extracurriculars. So what if your grades slip a little or you get caught goofing off—your college admissions team won’t rescind your acceptance because of senioritis, right?

Not necessarily. With college admissions becoming more competitive than ever, many admissions and financial aid counselors now look at a student’s entire transcript and personal record (including after an acceptance letter is offered). And many universities and colleges reserve the right to withdraw acceptance or scholarship money should anything problematic show up.

The Potential Pitfalls of Senioritis and Bad Behavior

Before you let senioritis kick in, consider the terms of your college acceptance letter. Your college may require an academic transcript for all four years of high school, including your final grades senior year and proof of graduation. If your grades slip below a required minimum GPA, you may no longer be eligible for any merit-based scholarships you’d been awarded. If you were relying on scholarships to pay for college, this may leave you scrambling to find other means of payment instead (e.g., student loans).

Additionally, if your transcript shows a wild discrepancy in your grades (e.g., failing a few classes your senior year of high school), you may receive a warning letter indicating academic probation for your freshman year of college, or possibly revoking your acceptance entirely.

And even if your grades stay in tact, colleges may also look at your personal behavior to ensure your conduct aligns well with the student body and campus culture. In a 2017 Kaplan survey, nearly 400 college counselors acknowledged that students’ social media accounts may be taken into consideration during the admissions process. So if your social media feeds indicate a predilection for pranks, underage drinking or using illegal drugs, or other conduct that doesn’t gel with the college’s code of ethics, your acceptance could turn into a rejection. (Just ask Harvard.)

How to Stay in Good Standing

Senioritis is widespread: Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors know and understand that seniors are completely exhausted. (In solidarity: They are, too.) It’s completely expected for you to let your hair down a little. But to safeguard your college plans—and not erase four years of hard work in just a few months—keep your celebrations within reason.

While it’s tempting to slack off at school, don’t assume your acceptance letter is a binding agreement: Hold up your end of the bargain by maintaining the minimum GPA needed for your college’s admission requirements and any merit-based scholarships you’ve received. Show up to class. Turn in your assignments. Study for and take your tests.

Socially, use good judgment. Any partying (especially partying that’s documented on social media) may come back to haunt you. Anything that could get you suspended (or worse, arrested) is fair game for a college to give you the boot.   

What to Do If You Get a Warning Letter

Let’s say your grades have slipped and your college follows up with a warning letter. What should you do? Don’t ignore it: Follow up with the admissions and/or financial aid counselors (preferably in writing) to determine next steps.

If your senior year is still underway, you may be required to bring up your grades before graduation. If you’ve already graduated, you may be required to enroll in a summer course and/or keep a minimum GPA during your freshman year. You may need an additional reference to vouch for your commitment and seriousness of purpose. Regardless of what is recommended, follow the requirements to the letter.

The second semester of your senior year is the end of an era, and an emotional time. It’s perfectly natural to want to cut loose before going to college. But always keep your future plans in mind, and don’t lose sight of your hard work up to this point. Enjoy this time and honor your current commitments, knowing an even bigger adventure awaits you this fall.