Do Colleges Look at Senior Year Grades?

Thursday, September 15, 2022
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The Oxford dictionary defines senioritis as:

 “A supposed affliction of students in their final year of high school or college, characterized by a decline in motivation or performance.” Seniors have long-believed that once those college applications are in, it’s OK to hit the snooze button on all their high school obligations. The truth is that it’s probably OK to relax and breathe for a bit.  After all, you’ve just survived the protracted stress of college applications. But here are some good reasons not to relax too much.

Mid-Year and Final Senior Transcripts

Every college and university will receive a copy of your first and second semester grades.  Technically, all schools require that you maintain certain standards (e.g., a 3.0 cumulative GPA for the University of California) to preserve your place in the freshman class.  

An acceptance letter typically includes a caveat emptor, like this acceptance letter from the University of Florida:

“I understand all offers of admission are conditional, pending receipt of final transcripts showing work comparable in quality to that upon which the offer was based, as well as honorable dismissal from the school.”

In reality, this conditionality tends to be more stringent with more competitive schools, programs, and scholarships.  

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Many seniors will apply for scholarships and financial aid during the second semester of their senior year.  Not only will these sources of aid look closely at your senior year performance, the package they offer you is often conditional on you meeting certain benchmarks for performance (like maintaining a good GPA, continuing to play varsity sports, etc.).  

AP Classes

If you’re taking AP classes, you’ll want to get a “pass” (3/5 or higher) so that you can transfer credit to college.  (You don’t want to have to take the same class again as an undergraduate!)


Some college acceptances and scholarships require that you continue participating in extracurriculars – particularly in varsity sports.  

By senior year, you have usually earned a position of some status in your extracurriculars, like “team captain” or “editor-in-chief”.  Those titles are great for applications for financial aid, summer programs, part-time jobs, etc.  You can ask your coach or faculty supervisor for a letter of recommendation.

And if you plan to pursue the same extracurricular in college, you’ll obviously want to gain as much experience as possible while still in high school.

Waitlisted Applicants

If you’re waitlisted, you’ll want to actually work harder in your classes and extracurriculars to get that green light.  Unfortunately, waitlisted students have to defer your senioritis until summer!  

Rescinded Admission for Graduating Seniors

On somewhat rare occasions, admissions departments will actually rescind an admission after the graduating senior has already declared intent to enroll.  We know that you – fair honors students – won’t be in this group.  But if you’re curious, here’s the deal:

The surest way to lose your acceptance is to get in trouble with your school or the law.  Any kind of cheating or falsification on your college application is guaranteed to get you the boot.

 An “F” in any class will also jeopardize your acceptance.  A “D” may have the same impact.

A “C” in a class may not be fatal, but any downward trend in your performance can trigger an administrative review, consisting of the following levels:

  1. The admissions office will send a letter to you/your school and ask for an explanation.  In this case, a phone call and/or letter of explanation should be sufficient.
  2. The college can choose to admit you on academic probation, which means that if your freshman-year grades don’t meet a certain standard, you can be expelled.
  3. The college can rescind your application.

Social Media

What you do outside of class senior year can matter, too.  You’ve probably already heard that over a third of college admissions officers review applicants’ social media accounts.  But can social media jeopardize your acceptance?   

In one well-publicized instance in 2017, 10 students admitted to the 2021 class at Harvard had their admissions rescinded for participation in a sexually-explicit Facebook chat.  And in the wake of the 2020 George Floyd protests, over a dozen schools rescinded acceptances based on racially-inappropriate posts on social media. 

Technically, your acceptance while still a senior in high school means that your conduct – from the moment you receive your acceptance letter -- must be governed by the college’s code of student conduct.  There are well-publicized stories of seniors who lost their opportunity because of inappropriate social media posts. 

Looked at positively, this means that your college already sees you as a member of their community!  That’s a pretty good feeling to carry you through senior year…