Early Decision and Senior Grade Decline

Question: My daughter has always been a straight-A student and applied Early Decision to an Ivy League college. It now looks like she will have several B’s on her first-quarter senior-year report card. Her transcript was mailed before the grades were posted. Will the college see them anyway?

There are no clear-cut answers to that question. Most colleges will tell you that they do make every effort to have all available data before a decision is made and will contact guidance offices to solicit new grades if they are available shortly after application deadlines. However, busy deans, fighting mounds of paperwork and brief reading periods, will sometimes base their determinations only on what is right in front of them.

If several students from your daughter’s school with seemingly similar records are applying to the same place that she is under the Early Decision option, that will increase the odds that an admission staff member will call the pertinent counselors to round up as much information as possible in order to get the best sense of how these classmates compare with one another.

Likewise, there may be other “flags” in your daughter’s folder that will make a call to the counselor a sure-thing. For instance, if she attends a high school with limited AP or even honors offerings and is only encountering these challenging courses in her senior year, admission folks will want to know if she was able to rise to the occasion and will be likely to go out of their way to obtain senior grades.

While your daughter may get lucky and receive an affirmative decision without her senior grades factoring into it, you would be wise to tell the counselor to expect a call from a college official in search of a transcript update. Ask the counselor to please put your daughter’s slight downturn in the best possible light: that is, to emphasize the strength of her cumulative record, to point out (if appropriate) that she is taking the most demanding classes available, and to offer assurances that, if she has not put forth her finest effort so far this fall, she will be back on track before the semester ends. (Then you can spring into action on the homefront to make it happen! Good luck.)