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You’re a senior. You have worked hard for three years, taking tests, completing projects and preparing for college admission. It’s tempting to just get through college applications and relax before you head off to college. Don’t do it.
Taking it easy during 12th grade — or developing senioritis, as some call a senior-year slump — is likely to do more harm than good. Although your goal is in sight — graduating from high school and entering college — school isn’t over yet and college admission officers are still paying close attention to your performance.
Senior-Year Grades and College Admission
Many students mistakenly believe that preparing for college ends after the 11th grade or the first semester of senior year. However, senior year — the entire senior year — is actually of particular interest to colleges.
Many college applications require you to list your senior courses, including information about course levels and credit hours. It will be obvious to admission officers if you've decided to take the year off.
As part of the application process, many colleges include a midyear grade report form. Your counselor completes this form with first-semester grades and sends it to the colleges to which you've applied. It then becomes a crucial part of your application.
If You Are Accepted
Often, college acceptance letters include warnings to students such as "Your admission is contingent on your continued successful performance." This means colleges reserve the right to withdraw your offer of admission should your senior year grades drop. Colleges ask high schools to send them the final, year-end transcripts of the students they’ve accepted. Again, a senior slump will be obvious.
Staying Focused Your Senior Year
Senior year is your opportunity to strengthen your skills and broaden your experience, in school and out, to prepare for all the challenges ahead. A successful senior year can help launch you on the path to a successful future.
As Stanley E. Henderson, associate provost at the University of Illinois, explains, “Just as you would want to be in top condition for the start of an athletic season, so, too, do you want to be in top condition for the academic season … The habits you form now — your academic strength conditioning — will either help or hurt you in your transition from high school to college.” (College Counseling Sourcebook, 6th edition, College Board)
Maintain a Challenging Course Load
To gear up for college, take the most rigorous courses available, and be sure to continue taking college-track subjects. Consider taking AP® courses and exams, which can also earn you credit at many colleges.
Colleges check your transcript not only to make sure that you’ve maintained your grades but also to see if you dropped any classes in your senior year. They want to make sure that there have not been any major changes to your academic program.
Stay Active and Involved
Your continued involvement in activities, sports and volunteer work helps you stay active and focused throughout your final year. A great internship or career-focused job opportunity may motivate you to start considering your career options. Meaningful and significant experiences help prepare you to make informed decisions about your education and career goals.
Try Out College Early
If you're interested in pursuing a subject further, and have excelled at your high school classes so far, consider taking a class at a local college. This challenge can help you avoid sliding into an academic slump, and stimulate your interest in the possibilities of college.
In many areas, schools allow students to spend their last two years taking classes in both college and high school. Early exposure to college classes introduces you to the rigor of college work while easing your transition from high school.