The first half of your senior year of high school is tough–you have college applications to balance while trying to squeeze in quality time with friends before graduation hits in a few short months. Here are a few strategy key points to keep you on track with your eyes on the prize (that elusive admissions offer from your dream school!)
Do a reality check with your current GPA
Where do you fall with respect to the profiles of typically admitted students? If your grades are better than the average admit, you should feel free to submit your transcript before the first batch of senior year grades is released. If your grades are right on the bubble or are lower than those of the average admit, however, you should seriously consider waiting and applying with your first round of senior fall grades–showing serious improvement here might be your best bet in terms of securing admission, and it’s one final component to your application that you have substantial control over.
Don’t slack off
If your grades are flying high above those of the average admit, congrats–but don’t forget all of the good study habits you’ve developed or let your grades slide too far. Of course, it’s fine to take it a bit easier than you did during, say, a really tough junior year, but use this general rule of thumb: grades should decline by one letter maximum, or two letters in exceptional cases (i.e. an A student who gets a C+ in calculus senior year will not compromise his or her chances, but the other grades for that term better be Bs and above.) An A student who earns an uncharacteristic D during senior year may have to write a letter to colleges explaining the dip in performance. Even in those cases, one bad grade probably won’t lead to a student’s admissions offer being rescinded, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry–especially after years of hard work.
Stay committed, not over-extended
After you’ve pressed the “send” button on your applications or even received an admissions letter or two, you might be tempted to cut back on some of the extracurriculars that have cost you precious sleep for the past three years. It’s okay to stop participating in activities that you have little to no interest in–of course, we don’t advocate participating in these sorts of things in the first place–but take care not to lose so much steam that you end up quitting everything halfway through senior year. You want to be able to look back on your entire high school career and feel proud, knowing that you worked hard and made a difference. While quitting extracurriculars or giving up leadership positions likely won’t matter to colleges, it very well might matter to you down the road. Be sure to practice good self care during these final months of high school, and if that means scaling back, then go for it–just make sure that you don’t end up compromising the things you really care about.
Many of the students we work with have had densely-packed and at times stressful high school careers, and it’s definitely not wrong to want to take a step back and relax before the next phase of life begins. As always, moderation is key–there is a huge difference between settling for a couple of B+s and risking a failing grade in a class you simply don’t want to study for. You’ve made it this far–don’t give up now!