Parents across the country have heard of it. High school teachers dread it. It’s a phenomenon that seems all too common among 12th graders who are in their final semester of high school.
Most students at this point have been accepted to college. They’ve received financial aid awards. And they may have even determined where they’re going to attend and committed to that school.
In other words, to them, it feels as though they’ve reached the metaphorical finish line. This can result in a decline of motivation and effort for the remainder of their time in high school. Seniors may just seem like they’re slacking off to their parents or teachers, but senioritis can come with real consequences for the college-bound.
Can “Senioritis” really impact college acceptance? The short answer is, “Yes”.
Colleges do look at a student’s final high school transcript. Colleges care about all four years of high school grades.
According to Kat Cohen on Huffpost.com:
“Yes, colleges can rescind acceptances. If a student gets into a highly selective college, then drops from an A to a C or D average spring semester, that college will seriously reconsider if that student is prepared for college in the fall.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of rescinded acceptances every year. Just because a student got in doesn’t mean he or she is home free – colleges reserve the right to take it away if the student doesn’t live up to his or her academic responsibilities.”
While a rescinded acceptance is the worst case scenario, there can also be less severe consequences for grade slippage second semester of a student’s senior year. Cohen goes on to say, “While some students’ acceptances may be safe after a grade dip, some financial aid might not be immune. For colleges that award merit aid, those last semester grades can be a big factor as to who gets what.“
When a college’s merit scholarship is based on the student’s GPA or class rank, a dip in GPA the final semester of high school could mean a drop in the scholarship amount awarded. For scholarships with a minimum GPA requirement, this could mean loss of the scholarship entirely before the student even gets to college.
These changes could certainly make a college less affordable than you thought when your student decided to accept admission!
Why is Senioritis So Prevalent?
For all students, the 13-year journey that started with Kindergarten is coming to an end. A new, more “adult” life is on the horizon, and it’s easy for students to look ahead to that and lose focus on the present.
For students who applied to competitive colleges, the stress is winding down as they pick their schools. They have spent so many months focused on college applications and scholarship applications that there is a high probability of burnout. They need a break and may just want to let up on trying so hard to excel. Some students have the natural motivation to push hard through the end of Senior year and others just don’t have any more to give.
So what can you do if you believe your student has a case of senioritis? According to Jessica Velasco of JLV College Counseling:
“If parents or students notice symptoms of senioritis, it should be addressed immediately. It is a good idea to figure out what is causing the senioritis and make changes if necessary.
If senioritis has already made changes to a student’s record, it is recommended students meet with their teachers or school counselor to discuss their concerns and create a plan to address the issues. This will include determining if the change is large enough to notify the admissions committee at the college or colleges the student is considering attending.”
Depending on how much time is left until the end of their last semester, the following tips may help in dealing with your student’s diminishing focus:
Make a List
Have your student make a list of everything that still needs to be done to finish off Senior year, tackle them one at a time, and check them off when they are complete. This will provide organization and a way to see what’s behind them and what lies ahead.
Change your Mindset and Set Small Goals
Instead of focusing on a rescinded college application or losing a merit scholarship, remind your student to focus smaller; like finishing the English assignment or studying for the Government test. These are measurable and short term goals that your student can control right now.
Keep all due dates and deadlines on a calendar or whiteboard in a visible place. This keeps them from being “out of sight, out of mind.” It may also help to do a countdown of days until the end of the semester.
Take Time for Fun
Urge your senior to stay involved in fun activities and to take time to go out with friends and enjoy the end of their high school experience. There needs to be a balance – not all work or all fun, but a manageable split between the two.
For any merit aid awarded by your student’s chosen college, look up the GPA and/or class rank requirements to make sure your student understands where they need to finish out the year.
Try to come up with something fun or rewarding if your student needs to take final exams at the end of the semester. Not all high schools require Seniors to take finals second semester and some only require it for GPAs below a certain level. For others, it will not be optional and the students will need to push through this final round of intensive studying.
Try to make it fun. Offer a special outing after so many hours spent seriously studying, host a study night for a group of students and feed them well, plan a celebration dinner or a spa day when finals are over, or something else to look forward to when this last milestone is completed.
Although senioritis can impact college acceptance, that would only apply for the most extreme cases. A decline in grades at the end of Senior year is more likely to cause a drop in any merit scholarship that the college is offering. Make sure your student knows that their chosen college will require a final transcript. Also, make sure you and your student know the requirements for any merit money being received and keep them in focus through the end of senior year.
As a parent, it’s easy to get frustrated if you see your senior lacking motivation in the second semester. Make sure they understand what the potential consequences of slipping grades could be, but what they need most of all at that point is your support. Let them know you understand how they feel and that you want to help them push through to the end.
Your student has worked really hard for the past thirteen years to get to this point. You now get to cheer them on through the last leg of their primary education marathon, across the finish line and onto their next adventure in college!