August is the month of lazy days and last chance vacations. It’s also when college students get ready to leave for campus.

For new high school seniors it’s time to begin getting their college applications organized.

A topic that concerns many of our clients is this: Just how important are the grades a student earns in the senior year of high school?

First semester senior grades vary in importance from person to person. They are not as important as, say, junior year grades, but they’re still worth caring about. If your student is applying Early Decision or Early Action, many colleges will require a mid-year report.

A mid-year report is a transcript of first semester grades sent out by the school counselor. Though many colleges require it, there are also many who don’t. On the Common App, students can check which schools actually require a mid-year report under the “School Forms Required” section. For all other colleges, a visit to their website will tell you.

For example, Princeton’s website says the following about senior year grades:

It is important that you continue to excel in your classes during your final year of high school. If you are admitted, your counselor is asked to send us your final grades for the senior year with the Final Report. Admission is conditional upon your successful completion of the senior year.

But I offer this warning: Don’t let your student feel safe just because the college doesn’t require a mid-year report. Many high schools have policies that require counselors to send off mid-year reports to all colleges applied to… even if the institution doesn’t require it!

So what is the actual purpose of the mid-year report? Colleges don’t want to see their applicants slacking off senior year! As mentioned before, these grades will vary in importance depending on the context of the application.

The higher the GPA the better because it increases the chances of getting a better student aid award.

Also, the website College Vine reminds students to stay active and diligent in extracurricular activities as well:

Don’t ignore your responsibilities as club president or team captain; in fact, senior year is a great time to excel in all your leadership roles, as that can help you snag glowing recommendations or collect impressive accolades just in time to add to your application.

So, it is important for college-bound students to resist that senioritis that claims so many of their classmates. Your students have worked so hard to get to this point in their academic lives. Sure, it’s important to have fun as they prepare to leave their high school years behind, but it is equally important is to complete their remaining responsibilities at a level commensurate with institution to which they will soon be enrolled.

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