In the same way that you and I are notorious for slowing down our cars when we see a policeman parked on the side of the road, seniors are just as prone to putting their efforts on cruise control once they get their acceptance offers. In some ways this is just human nature. Seniors have often been running on fumes and now they can relax and recover. The admission offer has always been the carrot that has fueled a lot of the motivation to study hard and excel in school.

What many students and parents fail to realize is that there is language in the offer indicating that it is a conditional offer that is contingent on the student finishing the year in the same way they presented themselves when they were admitted.

I was touring a major university recently with one of their admissions officers leading the tour. The AO (admissions officer) told me how a student was shoplifting and they revoked his offer. Plagiarism is academic theft and I’ve seen students lose their offers for cheating on a high school test. Recently I was talking to a friend who also is a college counselor and he told me how he was heartbroken because one of his students had a stellar academic and character record but he went to a party, got inebriated, sexually assaulted a woman, and had his college admission revoked.

It isn’t only egregious lapses of judgment in character that lead to decisions being rescinded. The more selective the school is academically, the more it will scrutinize the final transcript to see if the student has finished well. From my experience, schools show a lot of grace in instances where grades tank. A straight-A student who becomes an A/B, or even “straight-B student” in the second semester is unlikely to lose their offer, but you don’t want to chance it.

A college may put you on academic probation before you even begin college and who wants to deal with that?  Who wants to have trust breached and feel as if they are being surveilled in a way that belies trust?

Another thing students need to know is that they can’t just get into a college and then drop a couple of their more rigorous courses. The cardinal rule here is that if you are admitted to a college and you are thinking about dropping an advanced class, or even going from five major classes to four, you first need to get the permission of the admission office in writing that this is acceptable to them. Once again, the more selective the school is, the more this sort of thing really matters.

The tendency for seniors to slack off is so widespread that there are three different names for this behavior. Some people call this “senioritis.” Others call it “senior slump,” and others refer to it as “senior slide.”

If you find your grades are tanking, reach out and talk to the admissions office. You are much more likely to get grace if there is a plausible explanation and if you communicate your resolve and your plan to turn things around. I would only do this if your slippage is at least one full letter grade, but other college coaches differ on this.

I was talking to a client recently and he said something profound. He said, “There are some things that are more important than money and one of them is my name, my reputation.” How you finish your senior year will impact your reputation. It will impact what your new college advisor may be told about you. Remember, you only get one shot at a first impression.

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