Help your child make senior year count

High school seniors have worked hard for three years, taking tests, completing projects and preparing for college admission. When senior year rolls around, some students just want to get through college applications and relax before they head off to the college of their choice.

Also known as senioritis, taking it easy senior year may be a nice break for your child, but is likely to do more harm than good.

Not only does senioritis jeopardize your child’s chances for success later on in college, it also can affect her grades—and college admissions officers pay close attention to her performance senior year.

College admission

Many students mistakenly believe that prepping for college ends after the 11th grade. However, the senior year—
the entire senior year—is actually of particular interest to colleges.


Many college applications (including the Common Application) require your child to list her senior courses, including information about course levels and credit hours. It will be very obvious to the admissions officers if she has decided to take the year off.

Many colleges also include as part of the application a form called the mid-year grade report. Your child’s counselor completes this form with first-half grades and sends it to the colleges. It then becomes a crucial part of the application folder.

If your child is accepted

Many college acceptance letters include warnings to students such as “Your admission is contingent on your continued successful performance.” This means colleges reserve the right to deny your child admission should her senior year grades drop.

Mary Lee Hoganson, college counselor for Homewood-Flossmor Community High School, Flossmor, Illinois, writes: “It is not at all rare for a college to withdraw an offer of admission when grades drop significantly over the course of the senior year. (I have a folder full of copies of these letters.)”

Helping your child through senior year

Senior year is your child’s opportunity to strengthen her skills and broaden her experiences, in school and out, to
prepare for all of the challenges ahead. With your encouragement and support, and the help of her teachers, your
child’s senior year will help launch her on the path to a successful future.

A challenging course load

Your child should take the most rigorous courses available, and be sure to continue taking college-track subjects. She should consider AP courses, which also can earn her credit at many colleges.

Pursuing activities

Your child’s continued involvement in activities, sports and volunteer work will help her stay active and focused
throughout her final year. In addition, a great internship or career-focused job opportunity can help motivate your
child to start considering her career options. Meaningful and significant experiences will help prepare her to make
informed decisions about her education and career goals.

Try out college early

If your child is interested in pursuing a subject further, and has excelled at her high school classes so far, she should consider taking a class at a local college. This challenge can help her avoid sliding into an academic slump, and stimulate her interest in the possibilities of college.

Another option in many areas is middle college or early college high schools. These schools, normally located on
community and four-year college campuses, allow students to spend their last two years taking classes in both college and high school. Early exposure to college classes introduces students to the rigor of college work while easing their transition from high school.

Explore all options

Your child’s continued commitment to challenge herself and grow will help her to maintain momentum and make
smart decisions about her future. Your child should discuss all her education options with her counselor to create a
plan that puts her on the right track for success throughout her high school years and beyond.

Sources: National Commission on the High School Senior Year, The Lost Opportunity of Senior Year: Finding a Better Way – Summary of Findings, 2001.
Barth, P., Haycock, K., Huang, S. and Richardson, A., Youth at the Crossroads: Facing High School and Beyond.
Washington, DC: The Education Trust, 2000.