After months of preparing for the college admissions process, hitting 'submit' on that last college application can feel like collapsing across a huge finish line. What many students fail to realize, however, is that completing applications isn't the end of the journey - it's just the beginning.
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USA, Washington State, Bellevue, Interlake High School
USA, Washington State, Bellevue, Interlake High School

It's the seasonal affliction that all high school seniors and parents are warned about. Many high school seniors, fresh off of winter break and finishing up the last of their college applications, begin to lag. Missing class, not doing homework, getting lower grades on assignments they would usually ace - all signs of the ever-present 'senioritis.'

It's not hard to understand why many seniors crash second semester. After months of preparing for the college admissions process, hitting 'submit' on that last college application can feel like collapsing across a huge finish line. What many students fail to realize, however, is that completing applications isn't the end of the journey - it's just the beginning.

Yes, colleges notice.
At IvyWise, we want to make sure students know that colleges look at all four years of high school grades - including your full senior year transcript. While you may have only provided the first semester report, if you're admitted to a college, they will request to see the last of your grades. A significant grade dip second semester is a huge red flag - is this student really committed? Can he or she follow through? Maybe this student isn't mature enough after all to handle the demands of a college curriculum.

It can affect acceptances.
Yes, colleges can rescind acceptances. If a student gets into a highly selective college, then drops from an A to a C or D average spring semester, that college will seriously reconsider if that student is prepared for college in the fall. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of rescinded acceptances every year. Just because a student got in doesn't mean he or she is home free ¬- colleges reserve the right to take it away if the student doesn't live up to his or her academic responsibilities.

While a rescinded acceptance is the worst-case scenario, it's not the only possible consequence of poor second semester grades. Students who experience a grade dip after acceptance might still be able to attend, albeit on academic probation. This usually means they have to achieve a certain GPA during their first semester on campus. While it's a second chance, it can put added pressure on students already adjusting to college life.

It's important to remember that colleges aren't out to catch students slacking. They realize that students are under a lot of pressure and that they're human - it's okay to slip up a little bit. If a student experiences a slight grade dip in one or two classes the admissions office isn't going to send a SWAT team to confiscate his or her acceptance letter. However, it's important for students to realize how a lackluster performance second semester of senior year can affect their college experience.

It can affect financial aid.
While some students' acceptances may be safe after a grade dip, some financial aid might not be immune. For colleges that award merit aid, those last semester grades can be a big factor as to who gets what. Take this example from one university: Merit aid at this institution was based in part on class rank, so some students who were awarded aid based on their class rank at the time of applying lost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per year because their class rank on their final transcript dropped significantly. Many merit scholarships are also based on GPA, so if a student's GPA suffers during the last semester, they'll pay for it - literally.

Avoid it.
So what's the cure for senioritis? While scare-tactics like the threat of rescinded acceptances and lost financial aid are the usual go-to, it's important to remember that battling the spring semester slump is a marathon, not a sprint. While it's necessary to highlight what's at stake, students need to arm themselves with the tools to combat the temptation to slack, not just the threat of consequences.
  • Set small goals. Rather than focusing on the large, long-term goal of not getting an acceptance taken away, students should set smaller, more manageable goals throughout the semester. Get a 90 or above on the next calculus exam. Finish my history report a week early so I can get feedback from my teacher. Set aside an hour every week to prep for AP or IB exams. By breaking down grade goals into smaller chunks, students can focus on one task at a time.
  • Improve study habits. By now most seniors have a good handle on how to study and prepare for tests, but there's always room for improvement. Students should schedule study time directly into their calendars so they can hold themselves accountable. Form study groups with peers when reviewing difficult material. Focus on consistently reviewing material for a test, rather than cramming the night before. Not only will these study habits help combat senioritis, it will also prepare students for the rigors of a college curriculum come fall.
  • Take some time to relax. Often the pressure to succeed can be the biggest factor causing students to slack. An overwhelming course schedule coupled with the lingering effects of a grueling college application process can cause students to shut down. It's important for students to take some time to recharge. Spend time with friends and family. Set aside some quiet time to read a favorite book or focus on a personal project that's been put off. Students should embrace downtime and use it to relax, reset, and prepare for their next goal.

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