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Articles / Applying to College / Explaining Middling Mid-Year Marks

Feb. 26, 2013

Explaining Middling Mid-Year Marks

Question: A college just sent a letter to my child requesting additional information- specifically, mid-term grades. This school is a "reach" academically, and his mid-year grades were mixed but not stellar. Should my child send an email to the admissions counselor (or the dean who sent the letter) with some sort of explanation about the grades, or just send them along? Thank you.

The best bet is probably for your son to suck it up and send the grades without comment. Admission folks are pretty jaded when it comes to the typical mixed-grades excuses (“I was out with the flu in February,” “The robotics tournament ate up more time than I’d expected,” etc.) So your son should avoid sounding whiny, even if the flu really did set him back (as it does most of us) or if the robotics victory was hard fought.

However, if your son has a real humdinger of an explanation for his so-so semester (Grandma died, Dad disappeared, etc.) it’s worth mentioning. He can also try a little humor to put a grade or two perspective (e.g., “My 81 in AP Calc won’t wow anyone in your admissions office, but we’ve nicknamed our teacher Hard-hearted Hannah for good reason, and my grade puts me squarely in the middle of a competitive class and doesn’t come close to reflecting my effort.”)

This type of addendum may work for one class or perhaps even two but won’t carry much clout if your son offers excuses for EVERY grade.

Another route to take would be to ask the guidance counselor to send the grades (most counselors send a mid-year report anyway, though some tend to get backlogged). Then you can also ask the counselor to offer up excuses where appropriate (“Mr. Avery is stingy with the A’s”). These always sound a bit more legit when coming from the counselor and not from the kid.

(posted 2/26/2013)

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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