After working hard for four years of high school, taking the SAT, completing who knows how many applications, and finally receiving your college acceptance letter, it’s tempting to treat your college admission as the go-ahead for full-force senioritis. But before you slack off completely, remember that it’s still possible for colleges to rescind your application after you receive your acceptance letter. If you don’t believe it, then those of you who stopped reading your letter after “Congratulations!” should take another look. If you read carefully, it probably says something along the lines of your admission being “conditional on the successful completion of the final year of high school.”
To decipher what this really means, Her Campus spoke to experienced collegiettes, high school seniors, and a college admissions expert about post-admission college rejection and ways that it could happen to you.
1. Stop caring about your grades
Colleges won’t usually rescind your application for a slight slip in your grades, but letting them plummet is another story entirely. “A college’s acceptance is conditional on completing the senior year at the same level of performance as when the student was admitted,” says Christine VanDeVelde, author of College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step. “A significant change in the academic record, such as a notably lower grade in one or more classes, might make a college reconsider.”
But how would your college even find out about your grades dropping? “Colleges receive an end-of-the-year report from your guidance or college counselor, and they can tell when you took your case of senioritis a bit too seriously,” says Lily Herman, co-founder of The Prospect, a college admissions website. “Colleges take different actions depending on the severity of your grade slippage. Sometimes, if your grade dropped significantly in only one class, the college will put you on academic probation, in which case you’ll need to prove yourself by earning good grades during your first semester. However, an overall drop in grades could very likely result in your acceptance being rescinded.” According to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), colleges say final grades are the reason for revoking admission 68.7 percent of the time.
If it’s too late to reverse a slipping GPA, however, don’t sit around hoping the school won’t notice. Instead, be proactive! “San Diego State University states very clearly on their website that seniors cannot receive below a C in any class, even gym, or they have the right to rescind a student’s acceptance,” says Nicole Gilmore, a student at the school. “Earlier this year, I had a 68 in my calculus class and was freaking out, so I contacted an adviser at SDSU to let them know. It turned out that they were happy I was honest with them instead of trying to hide the grade, so they let it slide.” If worse comes to worst, be completely honest and ask an academic adviser if there’s anything at all you can do to preserve your admission at the school.
2. Break the law
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you care about enrolling in college, absolutely avoid doing anything illegal—even if you think “it’s a one-time-only thing” or that you’ll “never get caught.” “Suspension for drug or alcohol use might make a college reconsider,” says VanDeVelde.
3. Get in trouble with your high school
School rules should also be treated with extreme caution. “A lapse in judgment or integrity, such as cheating, plagiarism, or any disciplinary action for behavioral issues, might make colleges reconsider,” says VanDeVelde.
Also, be careful of what you post on Facebook and Twitter. “During my junior year of high school, there was a scandal in the senior class involving a Gossip Girl-esque Twitter account,” says Herman. “The colleges of the seniors involved received notices along with the high school's end-of-year report saying that they'd been through a disciplinary hearing and had sanctions brought against them.”
Never give anyone (students, teachers, administrators, or otherwise) a reason to put something on your record. “The seniors’ acceptances were not rescinded, but one or two of the ‘ringleaders’ were put on strict disciplinary probation by their respective colleges,” says Herman. “Basically, if they were caught doing anything wrong or illegal during their freshman year of college, they'd be expelled.”
In the case of college admissions, your high school record is just as important as your criminal record.
4. Go crazy during pre-frosh weekend
If you’re invited to visit the university after your acceptance, display the behavior of someone who deserves to be a student there. Students are a direct reflection of the university they attend, and any misconduct during accepted students (“pre-frosh”) weekend is a red flag in admissions officers’ eyes.
“There can be severe consequences for behaving badly at a pre-frosh or admitted students weekend event,” says Herman. “To some extent, university administration officers are aware that current students will try to get the pre-frosh intoxicated during their stay. But going too far can lead to poor results.” Think about it: does a college really want a student who doesn't even respect the school enough to behave before she is even a student there?
Annie Pei from The University of Chicago saw others make poor pre-frosh weekend decisions before her freshman year. “During my senior year of high school, two or three accepted students got their acceptances rescinded because they drank so much at a party held by one of the frats that they were sent to the ER,” she says.
Rather than be tempted by underage drinking, stick to alternative ways you can have fun and be social during pre-frosh weekend by exploring the campus and the surrounding community. If you do decide to go to a party, stay sober while you dance the night away with your host or pre-frosh posse. The Big Brother eye of the admissions office is still watching over you, so treat admitted students weekends as another phase of the interview process. Disciplinary issues are no joke, so be on your best behavior.
5. Quit your extracurricular activities
Once you’re accepted to college, it’s tempting to trade in the extracurriculars that led to your acceptance for extra hours at the mall with your friends. However, many colleges may require your guidance counselor to submit a short update on your involvement along with your end-of-the-year transcript.
“Extracurriculars aren't usually the only reason that a college rescinds an acceptance,” says Herman. “But combining a general lack of motivation with poor grades could paint the picture that you totally slacked off after getting into college.” Don’t change who you are as a student just because you’re no longer impressing colleges with a resume. Fulfill your commitments in any clubs or groups you’re involved in so you can not only maintain your acceptance, but also leave a legacy at your high school before leaving one at your college!
What to do if you receive a warning
If you’re in trouble with the university, you will most likely first receive a warning letter. Especially in the cases of slipping grades or lack of extracurricular involvement, the school will probably ask you to explain your situation or reasons for a slip-up in academic performance. “If a student experiences a decline in GPA or a disciplinary issue, let the college where you've been accepted know about it with a phone call—the sooner the better,” says VanDeVelde. Avoid excuses and take the responsibility to own up to your mistakes. Explain what you’ve done to solve the issue as well as all that you’ve learned from it. If your drop in performance is due to a difficult family situation or extended illness, you may need to write a letter or submit documentation explaining your situation.
Once you’re accepted to college, don’t let senioritis blow your chances at an incredible four years and a college degree. You’ve worked hard for this long, so keep it up, future collegiette. You’re almost there!