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Articles / Applying to College / Making Up for a Weak Junior Year

Making Up for a Weak Junior Year

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Nov. 8, 2002

Question: I dented my GPA with a weak junior year but am doing really well now as a senior. My mid-semester grades are due out in mid-November. How can I get colleges to see the “new,” more mature me? If I apply Early Action or via Rolling Admission, might I be rejected outright or will colleges get the improved grades in time?

Most colleges will wait until they have those November grades in hand before making a decision, butâ€"depending on exactly when the grades will be available and the college's decision deadlineâ€"you could be taking a risk by applying Early Action. There is also little advantage to applying to a Rolling Decision college right now when your improved transcript is only weeks away.

However, if you are itching to launch an application before then (especially an Early Action one), then you shouldn't hesitate to get the information you need right from the horse's mouth. In other words, first determine exactly when those November grades will be finalized. Secondly, contact your target college(s) and tell them precisely what you’ve told us. Ask directly if grades posted on, say, November 15, will be taken into consideration in their Early Action decision process. If the answer is no, or even, "Well, that could be right on the bubble," then you would be wise to postpone your application and wait for the regular decision pool.

Keep in mind, too, that favorable Early Action decisions (which are not binding) are usually tougher to come by than either Early Decision okays (which are) or Regular Decision admissions. So, even if EA schools do get those strong senior grades, they may be reluctant to jump all over a candidate who had a weak junior year and will wait to evaluate you until they have seen their full range of applicants.

When you ask your senior teachers to write references for you, it's always a nice idea to present them with a cover note along with the recommendation forms. It's fine to mention your rising record in the note and ask your teachers if they, too, will mention it in the letters they write.

Finally, if you do forge ahead with Early Action or Rolling Decision applications, you should stay on top of your counselor and make sure that he or she gets your new grades to colleges ASAP. Many colleges will accept grades right over the telephone, as long as they come from the guidance officeâ€"not from you! Your school will have to follow up with something official in writing, but a phone-in report will at least get the ball rolling and make sure that target colleges will see the New You as soon as possible.

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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