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Articles / Applying to College / What Are the Consequences of Dropping Some Second-Semester Senior Classes?
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 7, 2020

What Are the Consequences of Dropping Some Second-Semester Senior Classes?

What Are the Consequences of Dropping Some Second-Semester Senior Classes?

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I'm thinking of taking a half day for spring semester of 12th grade, which starts in two weeks at my school. I have taken all my required classes for graduation and would be dropping two electives (AP Human Geography and Honors Sociology). The problem is that when I submitted my schedule/transcripts to colleges, I had four classes listed for spring semester (at my school that's a full day, we do block scheduling) and I'm thinking of dropping down to two. My counselor said some schools don't like to see seniors leave halfway through the day unless they're going to do a job or something. I'm not, I am just burned out. Will colleges consider it a lie on my applications that I said I'll be taking four classes if I actually only take two?


Your counselor is right! The college folks expect seniors to take the same classes in the spring that were listed on their applications. They expect all candidates to ASK about making changes BEFORE they are made. If you are applying to selective colleges (especially the VERY selective ones), then it's likely that dropping two classes in the spring (including an AP) could hurt you. At less selective schools, it may not ... but you should still contact admission offices first to inquire. If you make the revision without "permission," you might find that the college you plan to attend will rescind your acceptance ... and that won't happen until around July, after the admission office has received your final transcript, when it's quite late to make other plans.

Since you're burned out now and don't want to take more than two classes this spring, I suggest that you find some OTHER worthwhile endeavor to counter the burnout. As your counselor noted, this could be a job or it could be a volunteer position or some sort of independent "capstone" project (such as writing poetry, doing art work, composing music, reading all the books by your favorite author, etc.) Because you need to contact colleges NOW, you may not have time to finalize this activity before you reach out to them. But when you email the colleges to ask for the green light to drop two classes, your email should include the plan that you INTEND to follow, even if it's still vague ("I'll be working at a paid job to make money for college and gain employment experience," " ... pursuing my own oil painting, "... volunteering at a hospital," etc.) There's no guarantee that the admission officials will approve your change, but if your plan is connected to an intended major, it will increase the odds of good news.

Alternatively, if you truly feel that your mental health is at stake if you remain in school full-time, then it's possible that a letter from a school counselor or outside therapist will help you gain approval to drop two classes. However, if that letter goes to colleges that have not admitted you yet, it's conceivable that they WON'T admit you (fearing that you won't be ready for a challenging college curriculum in the fall). Although it can be legally dicey for admission officials to cite mental-health issues as a reason to deny an application, the colleges are not obligated to provide ANY reason for a denial, so you shouldn't use mental health concerns as a justification for dropped classes unless they are genuine.

Admission officials won't consider it a "lie" if your new agenda isn't congruent with the details on your application. After all, teenagers (and even the rest of us) change our minds all the time! But, even so, if they feel that your new schedule is less rigorous than your original one, you might forfeit an acceptance, and you don't want that to happen.

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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