Slacking during senior year makes college life more difficult

March 01, 2004|by ROSE RENNEKAMP

Senioritis. Senior Slump. Senior Slack.

It doesn't matter what you call it, if you know a high school senior, you know what it means - taking it easy in those last few months of high school before stepping into the "real world." It may seem harmless to relax a little after almost 13 years in school, but senioritis can be serious, and it can seriously endanger your teenager's chance of succeeding in college.

What's the worst that can happen? That acceptance letter, the one you wanted to frame and hang on the wall, could be worth nothing more than the paper it's printed on. Last summer a North Carolina high school graduate made headlines when his family sued the University of North Carolina for taking back its admission offer.

The student, who got the highest score possible on his college-entrance exam and graduated with a 3.5 high school GPA, no longer was eligible for admission after he slacked off during his last semester of high school. For him, senioritis meant missing more than three weeks of classes and, instead of his usual straight A's, the student finished the semester with C's, D's and even a few F's.


In the lawsuit, the court sided with the university, saying the student was required to keep up his attendance and grades to qualify for admission.

UNC isn't the only school to take back admission offers. Colleges from Virginia to California say they will withdraw an offer - and have done so - if a senior doesn't work hard all year long.

The prospect of being denied admission isn't the only reason students should try to fight senioritis. When they slack off before heading to college, they simply won't be ready to buckle down and study once they get there. According to national data compiled by ACT, more than one in four college students don't return to the same school for their sophomore year. Some of these students leave because they aren't prepared to tackle tough college coursework.

The epidemic of senioritis is so serious that it has led many schools, states and policymakers to take a close look at what should be done to keep students involved throughout their senior year. The National Commission on the High School Senior Year issued a report in late 2001 calling for a serious overhaul of the senior year. In Colorado, lawmakers have even debated whether that state should drop the senior year of high school entirely.

There are several things you can do as a parent to help your student avoid falling into the senior slump:

  • Don't let him slack off or miss classes because he "deserves it." No matter how hard he's worked throughout high school, his entire senior year still is important.

  • The commission on the senior year suggests applying what your student is learning in school to community service or an internship. You should encourage your teen to find something related to a field in which he may find a career, not just a part-time job to make a paycheck. Keep in mind that while work experience can teach your teen valuable life skills, it also can become time-consuming and get in the way of his schoolwork.

  • Make sure your student prepares for a challenging senior year before it even begins. The commission suggests more than just the advanced classes your student can take at his high school. Find out if your high school allows dual or concurrent enrollment - those are classes at local colleges or universities that allow your student to earn both high school and college credit. The classes will give your student a true taste of the hard work required in college courses.

  • Don't let him drop challenging classes after he gets a college acceptance letter. If your student drops a class that he listed on his college application, he has an obligation to let the college know. After all, he was admitted based on his past accomplishments, as well as what he is expected to accomplish during his senior year.

Senioritis may sound like some terrible disease, and sometimes that's what students say it feels like. But if you help your teenager make plans to challenge himself throughout his entire senior year, he can beat it. And you'll both be glad when he does.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. For more college and career-planning information, visit, or send e-mail to Rose at

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