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Articles / Applying to College / Will Mid-Year D and F Mean Rescinded Acceptance?

Dec. 22, 2017

Will Mid-Year D and F Mean Rescinded Acceptance?

Question: My son has already received acceptance from a few schools but seems to have dropped the ball in 2 of the 3 AP classes he has signed up for in the senior year (a D in one and F in another) . His GPA prior to commencing senior year was ~ 3.2. No extenuating circumstances to explain the drop. He just seems to have been over confident and slipped up.  This has never happened in the past.

Question is: if the accepting school asks for a mid year transcript, should we send a letter of explanation (admitting what happened and indicating how he plans to catch up) along with the official transcript or are we better off waiting till year end and/or till being asked for an explanation - with the hope that his grades will improve in the interim. He is definitely clocking in more time now to catch up. Also, will this lead to his acceptance being rescinded? Thanks for your feedback!


If any college requests mid-year grades from your son, then he MUST send an explanatory letter. Although there may be no compelling excuse for his downturn (e.g., no divorce or drug abuse at home, no death in the family ...), he can always say that he put too much time into his extracurricular activities or got carried away with a wholesome hobby like reading or coding or chess (he shouldn’t say video games!). He should also insist that he learned a valuable less about time-management and insist that his FINAL grades will prove it.  Then, of course, his final grades need to be much better!

If the colleges that already accepted your son do not request mid-term grades directly from him (and they probably won’t), you should find out if his school guidance counselor been asked to send these grades. And if there are applications still pending at colleges that don’t send out their decisions until the spring, then it is highly likely that they WILL ask the counselor for a mid-year report. Moreover, some counselors routinely send mid-year reports to ALL colleges on a student’s list, whether requested or not. So, if you haven’t done so already, you need to talk to the counselor to find out which—if any—of your son’s target colleges will receive mid-year grades.

As noted above, any college that receives your son’s mid-year report (whether he’s been accepted already or not) should get a very apologetic letter from your son.

A D or an F as a mid-term grade is not likely to lead to an acceptance being rescinded now, but it can definitely lead to a rescinded acceptance over the summer if the student’s FINAL transcript doesn’t show major improvement. So your son would be wise to not only put his nose to the grindstone to bring up those bad grades but also he should schedule a meeting with his teachers to tell them that he is serious about improving and to ask for their suggestions on what he should be doing.  He doesn’t want those teachers to judge him on his first-semester performance. He needs them to give him the benefit of the doubt in the coming semester. So if they know that he is committed to making a turnaround, and if he doesn’t just say it in an initial meeting with them but also shows it in his work, then they probably WILL give him that benefit of the doubt and not just write him off as a slacker. (If any of these teachers offer “extra help” sessions, your son should go, even if he feels that he’s back on track and can get by without them. His attendance will send a clear message that he is buckling down.)

As a parent myself, I’m sure that this is a stressful situation for you, but if your son is also frightened by his first-term performance, it sounds like he will make the required changes in the spring semester.

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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