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Colleges Combat Senioritis With Warning Letters

“Dear Student:

We recently received your final high school transcript. While your overall academic background continues to demonstrate the potential for success, we are concerned with your performance during the senior year.” -excerpt from Texas Christian University’s “Fear of God” letter

“[That’s] not something a high school senior wants to hear about,” senior Clint Dunn said. “Yeah that’s crazy. Nobody wants to hear that.”

Dunn had just heard about an increasing tradition among private colleges — the sending out of “Fear of God” letters. A 20-year-old tradition that most seniors aren’t aware of. The ones that have learned about them, are concerned. “Fear of God” letters are sent to high school seniors who have let their grades fall after they’ve gotten an admission letter from a college. For a drop from A’s and B’s down to C’s all ask they ask for s for an explanation. They get more serious when the grades drop even lower than that.

When the student’s grades nosedive from A’s and B’s all the way down to D’s — or worse — they add in a paragraph to the letter. A paragraph that usually goes something like this:

Student, please understand that your admission to TCU is in jeopardy. If I do not hear from you by the above date, I will assume you are no longer interested in TCU and will begin the process of rescinding your admission. *

Without a valid explanation, the consequences are severe. The college will either put you on academic probation, if you’re lucky, or they’ll fully rescind your admission and you’ll have no school to go to when the fall semester starts. Around 35 percent of schools across the country have rescinded admission from students.

“We’re one of those schools that is pretty serious about running through the tape,” Dean of Admissions at TCU Raymond Brown said. “If you’re in school we expect you to do well in school and there are some students who take the entire senior year off or part of the senior year off and we need to have some kind of explanation for that. In some cases there’s not a good explanation…when that happens we will absolutely rescind admission.”

These letters are meant to combat the trend of seniors letting their grades fall in the last semester of their senior year during a bout of ‘senioritis.’ TCU is known for using these letters, but they are certainly not the only college to use them.

“It’s a letter we write to students whose grades have slipped considerably,” Vice President of Enrollment Nancy Benedict from Beloit, a small private school in Wisconsin, said. “In the summer when we get a final transcript we review all of them and if we have seen a significant decline in the students performance, we do one of two things.”

They’ll either rescind the students admission, or they’ll put them on academic probation. If a student is put on probation, they’ll have to keep a GPA of higher than 2.0 in order to stay in school. If it drops below that, they’ll be kicked out.

Over a third of the colleges in the country have rescinded admission to students — an alarming trend that has upset some high school seniors like senior Joe Bahr.

“Most kids have, for their first three and a half years of high school, proven that they can be good students,” Bahr said. “I feel like second semester should be a time to just really relax and enjoy.”

Next year many seniors will go off to different colleges and will leave the friends they made in high school behind. This has many wanting to enjoy the few months they have left with their friends before leaving, taking their focus away from school. With a loss of focus in school, grades have a tendency to slip and seniors slip into ‘senioritis.’

“I was at a Notre Dame event and the director of admissions was there and he just said enjoy your senior year,” Bahr said. “Don’t worry too much about your grades — keep doing well, just do not let your grades slip by a point on your GPA.”

A small drop in grades second semester senior year is commonly seen and even accepted by teachers and students. It’s something that East teacher Mrs. Bonjour has noticed.

“I’ve taught seniors for years and years and it happens every year,” Bonjour said. “Nobody gets to claim they thought it up. It’s…the anticipation of moving on to the next phase of life.”

Even though many students see this anticipation as normal, Brown sees a more negative side to it.

“Senioritis is not a real world phenomenon,” Brown said. “How did this even happen? How did this even start? At what point did people say, you know it’s okay to become a slacker for a semester. Is that okay in the real world? Mmm, I think not.”

TCU and many other private college’s beliefs are that if seniors stop trying at the end of high school and they’ll fall away from their normal studying habits. They say ‘senioritis’ will make it much more difficult for students to start up again when they start their freshman year of college. Especially since many schools make this year difficult to try to ‘wash out’ some of the bloated freshmen class.

“When you arrive on the doorstep of your college in the fall, you’re unprepared for the work ahead, and it’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to be different,” Benedict said. “It’s like being a good athlete, you have to stay in training.”

The colleges that send these letters want to make sure that the incoming freshmen will be able to handle college. These letters carry a heavy feeling with them, especially with a name like “Fear of God” letters. But these letters aren’t meant to hold this kind of negative, almost scary connotation with them.

“My attempt on this is to let you guys know, ‘Hey we care,’” Brown said. “We care about you. We want you to do well. We expect you to do well and, so, run through the tape. Don’t be messing around.”

He explains that these letters aren’t meant to scare students into keeping their grades up their senior year. They’re meant to check up on his future students.

“Let’s say we send out 120 of these [letters] each year,” Brown said. “There’s not nearly that many who have senioritis. These are kids who took a course that was just way too tough for them. In the vast majority of cases, it’s not an issue of senioritis, it’s an issue of life getting in the way — something legitimate getting in the way.”

*excerpt from TCU’s “Fear of God” Letter

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