THE BLOG

We Must Inoculate Against Senioritis

03/10/2014 05:44 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2014
  • Rebecca Joseph Associate Professor, California State University, Los Angeles

You would think colleges would send out senioritis alerts to remind those of you who have been accepted that you still have work to do. But they do not.

Freshman through junior years get you in; senior year performance keeps you in. So I will share a few stories to help illustrate the importance of staying in once you get what you want!

Meet David and Samantha, two high school seniors admitted to major universities during their senior year of high school. David got in early decision; Samantha, regular decision.

Afterward, both caught a bad case of senioritis. David got Ds in several third-quarter classes, while Samantha's GPA plummeted during her spring semester. David did not have a back-up plan; Samantha had said "no" to the other schools that had offered her admission.

David brought his grades back up, but his college told him he was not ready and deferred his admission for a year. Samantha's college told her to take summer classes to make up for her low grades and put her on academic probation.

Be careful. Pay attention to your academic performance during your senior year. I have heard countless tales of seniors who get caught drinking, cheating or doing pranks -- many have lost or are close to losing their coveted admissions spots.

High school counselors, teachers and parents need to band together and put seniors on high alert. We could give them senior year "flu shots," as many believe spring of senior year is a time to relax. It is not.

While colleges recognize this, they do not want students on their campuses who self-destruct the few months before matriculation.

So how do we inoculate seniors who check out or want to party their way through the spring? Here are some practical possibilities:

1. Implement senior year grade checks.

It's time to be as proactive as possible in checking seniors' grades. Right now, who is keeping track? For second semester senior year, everyone needs to work together. If teachers notice a drop in grades, they should communicate automatically with counselors and families. Parents need to check in weekly through online portals and email teachers monthly. Counselors should let teachers know that they want to know if grades are slipping.

2. Send out regular "colleges are watching messages."

Seniors need to receive ongoing messages about keeping themselves "college material" throughout second semester. They need to know that everything they do can and most likely will be reported to a college.

3. Encourage spring engagement and involvement.

Many seniors end their leadership in activities in winter. Find ways to keep them engaged in senior service projects and other activities. Seniors projects and internships are a great way to keep students focused and even help them find new academic and career interests. A lack of structure can lead to a lack of care.

4. Hold senior meetings.

As we begin to work with our juniors, we need to continue working with our seniors. We can hold workshops on preparing for college, for leading healthy lives in college, and more.

5. Hold seniors accountable.

Counselors, teachers and parents can ask seniors to make a plan. At the end of first semester, they can write a mock apology letter to a college and explain an action that could get them removed. This kind of experience may awaken some seniors.

6. Communicate with parents.

Schools and other college access professionals could send out bi-monthly communications to parents asking them to check-in on their seniors. This is the time of year for vigilance, not relaxation.

We don't need more Davids and Samanthas. Every spring I get calls from crying students and their families. Colleges don't have time for students who end high school with a whimper. Let's help seniors end with a bang.

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