Guard against late spring ‘senioritis’

With the iconic Furman Bell Tower in the background, students spend a relaxing afternoon beside the campus lake. Photo by Jeremy Fleming, Furman University


For many high school seniors, these final few weeks of the school year are their idea of heaven.

The pressure is off because they know where they’re going to college next fall. While they still need to show up at school, they think the grades don’t really count, so they hang out with friends  – and for many, summer break starts with the arrival of their first acceptance letter.

Many seniors and conflicted parents feel the students are entitled to a little down-time. Is senioritis a rite of spring? It shouldn’t be, according to many admissions administrators.

Every year, there are hundreds of cocky kids who mistakenly believe their college acceptances are ironclad. When final grades are reported and their admission is revoked because they failed to maintain their grades, they are more than dismayed. Almost all colleges have a sentence in their acceptance letter that states, “Your admission is contingent on your continued successful performance.”

Senioritis can be expensive, too. Underperformers can lose scholarships and financial aid packages.

Research has demonstrated that the senior slump has serious consequences. Slacking off from core skills during the final months of high school has been shown to place students at a disadvantage when it comes to being prepared for college and also leads to poor performance on placement exams.

Parents should guard against their own “senior slump. ” You’ve coached and cajoled for months – stick with it, but you can turn it down a notch.

Mini-anecdote: I was working with a student a few years ago who had been accepted Early Action to her first-choice school, a very selective university. Her grades through junior year had been straight A’s. In senior year she had one B in an AP course in first semester, and then she ended the year with two more B’s.

She received a letter from the school requesting an explanation for the “drop in grades.” She explained that second semester she had gotten involved in theatre, which had always been something she had always wanted to do. Unfortunately, she and the admissions representative weren’t able to connect for a few weeks due to vacations, and she didn’t know until mid-summer that her offer hadn’t been revoked. All ended well, but it was a lesson that colleges take their commitment to continued performance seriously.


  • Keep your students engaged: Insist they do more than just show up. They should complete all assignments and continue to participate in classes and extracurricular activities.
  • Understand expectations: Talk with teachers and check in to make sure your child is keeping up. You and your child still have time to make the next few months productive.
  • Examine extracurriculars: Take a critical look at all activities that compete with academics. This time of year, seniors are often more interested in making money and feel free from the pressure of first semester. They want to work nights and weekends, and while the work ethic is admirable, if their grades are suffering it’s not worth it.
  • Strive for balance: You need to encourage but not push, to scrutinize but not pry, to offer support but not smother them.
  • Get a grip: Know when to let it go. If they are doing well, and you feel confident their college acceptance is not in jeopardy, celebrate their accomplishments. You’ll get more mileage out of a compliment than nagging.


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions