- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

Warning to area college-bound students battling a case of “senioritis”: Colleges, including those in the Washington area, are requiring end-of-the-year transcripts from their prospective students and some are revoking acceptance offers if those transcripts show an unexplained drop in grades.

William Conley, dean of enrollment and academic services at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, said high school students whose performance declines in their final semester can lose scholarships, financial-aid packages or admittance to the college.

“Admissions officers understand that second-semester seniors will let off their academic accelerators. So, what we look for is when they slam on the brakes and do little or no work, resulting in D’s or F’s. That’s when offers of admission are withdrawn,” said Mr. Conley.

Small grade drops during the final semester can be expected, but emphasis on social or extracurricular activities to the detriment of scholastics raises concern.

Of the 1,200 high school students whom Hopkins admits each year, 12 to 15 present transcripts that reflect serious cases of senioritis, Mr. Conley said.

Mr. Conley said the university examines borderline applications, then sends letters requesting explanations and warning the students about their academic performance.

The admission offer is rescinded if the student’s response is unsatisfactory. This has happened only three times in the past three years at Hopkins.

Georgetown University has repealed several admission offers in recent years, said Julie Green Bataille, special assistant for public affairs.

Georgetown reviews students’ year-end transcripts to ensure standards are met.

Mrs. Bataille said the admissions department has received more than 16,000 applications from high school seniors and will send 3,000 initial acceptance letters this spring.

If a problem arises in the final transcript review, the university asks the student for an explanation.

“In rare cases, that might mean we revoke initial admission if their academic status changed or if for some reason they do not offer a reasonable explanation,” Mrs. Bataille said.

The University of Maryland also contacts students when achievement drops.

This week, the admission offices at College Park have been making final decisions on initial acceptance letters for the fall semester.

More than 23,000 high school seniors have applied for fall admission, and the school will accept fewer than half of those for the freshman class, said Shannon Gundy, senior associate director of the office of undergraduate admissions.

Maryland will release its admission decisions on Thursday.

The university will send follow-up letters to remind next year’s freshmen “to maintain the same level performance their senior year as they provided during the application process,” Miss Gundy said.

High school counselors are reminded to forewarn students about senioritis.

Andrew Fragel, dean of admissions at Fairfax’s George Mason University, said significantly fewer than half of the 13,000 applicants will receive letters of acceptance.

He said 20 to 30 applicants typically encounter an academic slump during the last half of their senior year.

George Mason will review those academic records and either rescind the acceptance or advise the student that they are under scrutiny.

Allowing academic performance to slip can undermine a student’s preparation for higher-level college work, said Cristan Trahey, acting director of admissions for American University in the District.

Thousands apply for college, and only a few are accepted to the school of first choice. Sharon Alston, director of admissions at American, said students should take advantage of the opportunity they have been given rather than throwing it away for a carefree senior year.

American has received more than 15,500 undergraduate applications, the largest in the university’s history, but only about half of these applicants will be admitted.

“Getting into college is extremely competitive and students can’t give up on academic excellence just because they received an initial acceptance letter,” Miss Alston said.

Colleges are more willing to accept grade deflation if a student has an explanation, such as a death in the family.

Linda Sanders-Hawkins, associate director of admission management and enrollment at Howard University, said the school places a hold on registration for incoming students who submit questionable transcripts.

To remove the hold, the student must provide a written explanation to the school administration. If the explanation is unsatisfactory, she said, the administration “may suspend the student’s matriculation.”

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