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Do Colleges Look At Senior Year?

By Lisa Freedland

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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and Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Reviewed by Bill Jack

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: March 14th, 2024
Do Colleges Look At Senior Year?

We understand: After three long years of working hard throughout high school, you must want a break. However, this raises the question: Do colleges look at senior year grades? Generally, you’re better safe than sorry – so we’d recommend keeping those grades up! Keep on reading to get a better understanding of how senior year grades can impact your college acceptances. 

Will senior year affect my application?

Well, it depends. The important thing to know is that colleges do look at your senior year grades. So, a weaker performance in senior year than in previous grades can impact your application and college admissions decisions.

You might wonder if this still applies to you if your college applications are due before your grades are finalized. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is yes. It is not uncommon for colleges to request your final grades for senior year (for both semesters!). Let’s take a look at what to consider each semester. 

First semester of senior year

Your first semester grades will typically be requested as part of a mid-year report. If your grades drop significantly or if your course load is noticeably different (easier) than in previous semesters, this may reflect badly on your application (and possibly harm your chances of admission).

Second semester of senior year

While your second semester grades won’t necessarily have an impact on your admission decisions (as you’ve likely already received them by this point), they are still very important. Colleges will be looking to see that you’ve kept your grades up and have continued involvement in your extracurriculars. They want to see that students are still putting effort into school at this point.

A reminder about extracurriculars…

On the topic of extracurriculars, it’s important to stay involved in yours throughout senior year as well! Besides displaying your passions and individuality, continued involvement in extracurriculars can lead to impressive accomplishments. This will help you further develop relationships with any advisors or coaches (which can sometimes  lead to amazing letters of recommendation!).

So, what are some specific ways that your senior year grades can impact your academic future? Let’s see.

Senior year and scholarships eligibility

Planning on saving money on college and applying to scholarships? Start by learning about common college scholarship requirements, and remember, It’s in your best interest to keep that GPA up! Many scholarships, though not all, have a minimum GPA requirement of some sort. So, letting your GPA drop significantly may render you ineligible for some scholarships you otherwise would have received. 

Another reminder about first semester senior year grades!

If applying to scholarships around or during your senior year, your first semester grades will likely be taken into consideration when considering whether you should be awarded a scholarship or not. If your senior year grades show poor performance, scholarship committees may feel as though this will translate to college as well. They will choose to select another applicant who they feel will thrive at university.

Advice from an Admissions Professional

Keep your grades up – all the way to graduation.  Your high school GPA can help open doors to additional scholarship opportunities.  Also, utilize the resources in your local community.  Check-in with your high school guidance office, service organizations, charitable nonprofits, and other connections you may have.

Jon Teichman

Assistant Director of Admissions, Upper Peninsula - First Year Students

Northern Michigan University

Stay involved senior year!

Besides just scholarships, a low GPA or a decrease in school involvement may impact your chances of receiving college grants (as these are often merit-based). Also, for those of you looking into your university’s honors programs, poor performance in senior year may disqualify you from joining.

See Also: Top scholarships for high school seniors

Reasons to keep up your class rank

Valedictorian or salutatorian goals

It’s true that high schools and colleges are moving away from class rank. However, if your school still ranks, maybe you are going for valedictorian or salutatorian. In that case, even a minimal GPA drop could take away your chances of landing those top spots at your school. Thus, it is of great importance to keep your GPA as high as possible (just don’t stress yourself!). 

Automatic admission to some college/university systems

Contrary to common opinion, there are more reasons to aim for a high class rank than bragging rights. Some public university systems, such as those in Texas, will automatically grant admission to high school students within a top (e.g. 90th) percentile of their class. Low grades in senior year may move you out of this high percentile, rendering you ineligible for automatic admission into your state’s public universities.

There are some specific reasons to keep your grades high during your second semester of senior year. Let’s take a look.

The significance of second semester 

As we mentioned before, your second semester grades (and other activities) will not impact your initial college admission decisions. However, they can impact a variety of other things, including rescinding admission offers and getting off the waitlist.

Can colleges rescind admission offers?

While we don’t want to fear-monger, we want to make it clear that it is very rare to get your college admission offer revoked. In the few cases that a student’s admission is rescinded, it is typically because students have failed a class (or a few), or performed significantly lower than in previous semesters. An example is having most of your A’s turn into C’s. On the other hand, if you have had a few A’s turn into B’s (or even C’s), you will probably be fine. However, it ultimately depends on your university, as each has different standards for what they will accept.

What can I do if I think my admission might be rescinded?

If you fear rescinded admission, contact your school’s admissions office. Ask them any specific questions you have (and get your grades up!). While some universities will contact you themselves if they notice a drop in grades (as a sort of warning letter), others place students on academic probation for their freshman year rather than rescinding them.

If something troubling in your life has caused a drop in grades, you can also let your school know what has happened – they may be more understanding this way and less likely to rescind.

Ultimately, a college offer is just that – an offer. Until you get to campus, it is in your best interests to continue trying in school (and if you’re a senior, you’re almost there anyway!).

The waitlist and senior year grades

Now, on a more hopeful note, there’s also positive reasons for you to keep your grades up in senior year! One of these is to potentially get off the waitlist of a top-choice college of yours. 

Just like receiving college acceptances, getting off the waitlist is also difficult. To stand out amongst other waitlistees, finishing up your senior year strong (both academically and through extracurriculars) can help you stand out and increase your chances of finally being accepted!

When selecting students for their universities, admissions committees are looking for students both very likely to enroll at and most qualified to attend their school. Thus, a lackluster senior year performance may indicate that:

a) Getting off the waitlist isn’t a priority for you

b) You may not be ready for college.

So, remember to try your best! And if you want to even further prove that you want to attend a school you’ve been waitlisted at, consider sending the school a letter of continued interest! 

What do you include in a letter of interest?

A thoughtful letter of interest should include the following:

  1. A “thank you for reading” to the reader and a confirmation that this specific school is the place for you. If the school is a top-choice for you and you would attend if admitted, let them know!
  2. Any new information, including updates on extracurricular activities, awards won, improvements in GPA, or projects you’re working on.
  3. If you’ve visited the campus, say so! Let them know what you liked/loved.
  4. Include specific “Why us?” details about why the school is a great fit for you.
  5. Thank the reader one more time and then thoughtfully close.

See also: How to write a letter of continued interest

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Colleges often request first semester grades as part of mid-year reports
  • While rare, colleges will revoke admission for students who fail classes or have a significant drop in grades
  • If on a waitlist for a first choice college, it is in your best interest to send a letter of interest with an update about recent grades and achievements 
  • It’s in your best interest to keep your grades up throughout senior year!
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about if colleges look at your senior year

What happens if you get an “F” in senior year?

Besides the possibility of having your college revoke your admission offer, getting an F in senior year can have other consequences as well. If you receive an “F” in a class required for graduation, you may not be able to graduate on time. While some schools will still let you attend your graduation ceremony, you would still have to attend a summer class to finish your requirements before officially receiving your diploma. So, at all costs, try to avoid getting an F!

What high school grade do colleges look at the most?

Generally, colleges look at your junior year grades the most. This is because when you apply during the fall of your senior year, your junior year grades are the most recent and updated grades that the college has access to. Therefore, junior year grades provide them with a general sense of your academic capabilities thus far.

What GPA do valedictorians have?

Typically, students who have an unweighted GPA of 4.0 are considered for valedictorian. Keep in mind that  some schools use a 5.0 grading scale, so required GPA depends on the specific high school.

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