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Articles / Applying to College / Senioritis vs. The Final 10K

Senioritis vs. The Final 10K

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Jan. 16, 2014
I remember the first time I ran a marathon. I had trained long and hard for it. The challenge of running 26.2 miles among fellow competitors was something to be cherished and my imaginations about doing that spurred me on during my nine-month training program. I needed something to keep my legs and mind focused while I was out there doing my 10, 15, and 20-mile training runs in all kinds of weather.

Thinking back on those days of preparation (I've done four marathons, including Boston), I recall my dedication under all kinds of circumstances, some not so enjoyable. One particular nasty winter here in the Northeast, I found myself on a narrow, icy back road on a near-zero-degree day, working to get in a meaningful 15-miler. That was the first time I ever saw tiny stalactites of ice hanging down from my eyebrows. But, that was okay in my book, because I had my eye on the goal: the marathon. I would do what it takes to get to the finish, both in my training schedule and on marathon day itself.

“So, Dave, why are we having to endure your saga about marathon training in an article about senioritis?" you ask. There's a simple answer: Finishing your senior year is a lot like finishing a marathon. You have to be aware of the dreaded “wall," that last 10K that separates you from the finish line. For all of you seniors, either those of you who have been accepted through Early Decision or Early Action, or those of you waiting to hear the results of your Regular Decision applications, the months from January through graduation are your final 10K. Don't hit the wall.Beware senioritis!

For those of you who don't know the term, Wikipedia defines senioritisas “… decreased motivation toward studies displayed by students who are nearing the end of their high school, college and graduate school careers." That decreased motivation can also be caused by burnout … just too much educational pressure, after 12 (or more) years of school. Anyway, I'm here to warn you about the consequences of turning off your switches, or even letting up during the the final handful of months of your senior year.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons for caution and why your college admissions goals are at risk.

Tanya Abrams, writing in The New York Times' The Choice blog, notes 7 Reasons to Avoid Senioritis. Here are some excerpts:

Your Admission Offer May Be Rescinded

Somewhere in all those college admission letters, after the “congratulations'' part, is a sentence to the effect that admission is conditional upon the student completing high school with the same academic and personal achievement on which the offer was based … And they mean it. Each year, colleges rescind offers to students whose grades plummeted after they were admitted …

Your College Is Watching You

Colleges require final grades for accepted students. Many students believe that only the first half of senior year “counts." Not true …

If You Were on Honor Roll When You Got In, You May Be Expected to Stay There

Colleges expect you to continue your current course schedule and maintain the level of academic and personal success demonstrated in your application. Colleges look to your application, especially your transcript, to determine if you are an appropriate academic match for the college — and vice versa …

You May Have to Explain Why You Slacked Off

Far more common than revocation of admission is a warning letter, expressing disappointment and asking for an explanation …

You May Have to Start Your College Search Over Again

Bad grades are not the only possible pitfall. Some students lose their admission offers because of plagiarism, cheating, drunken misbehavior or arrest …

Senior Year Should Help You Transition to College

… With applications in, seniors should take time to savor their final months of high school and enjoy family and friends. But they should also be using this important time in their lives to practice balancing academics with other commitments, and not fall victim to the “senior slack" …

Admission Officers Would Rather Not Target You

… every letter of acceptance has the sentence about the offer of admission is contingent on successful completion of high school work …

The College Board also has some thoughts about that final 10K of high school:

… Colleges may reserve the right to deny admission to an accepted applicant should the student's senior-year grades drop. (Many college acceptance letters now explicitly state this.) Admission officers can ask a student to explain a drop in grades and can revoke an offer of admission if not satisfied with the response.

And because the colleges do not receive final grades until June or July, students may not learn of a revoked admission until July or August, after they've given up spots at other colleges and have few options left …

… Colleges expect seniors to complete courses they enrolled in, including high-level courses. Many college applications ask applicants to list senior-year courses, with information about course levels and credit hours. College admission officers are interested in academic commitment and course completion … remain excited, active and focused throughout [your] senior year …


Think this can't happen to you? Think again. Bottom line on this issue: Be who you are consistently. If you were good enough to get into that cool school early, then keep showing them that you're still that same person. Your mid-year report will expose any cracks in your academic resolve, and your year-end grades will finish your profile's portrait. Keep up the great work that you've done so far. When you finally see that finish line, you'll know that all those miles and stalactites were worth it.


Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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