With the holidays just around the corner, first semester is…almost over. For seniors, this is a time of mixed emotions: inexplicable coma-inducing stress as finals sneak up like sadistic ninjas…and tear-inducing joy as the label “second semester senior” becomes less a myth and more an ever-looming reality.
This GIF sums up emotions fairly well:
But as the year goes on and spring seems just around the corner, you might think: How important are my grades, really?
Especially for early action applicants, the pressure to do well in school lessens considerably after an acceptance. Suddenly, first semester grades may seem irrelevant. Suddenly, you’re falling asleep on classes. Suddenly, you’re booking trips to Fiji in the middle of January. Suddenly—
Alright, here’s the real deal:
First semester senior grades vary in importance from person to person. They are not as important as, say, junior year grades, but they’re still worth caring about.
The Midyear Report
Many colleges ask for something called the midyear report. “What is the midyear report?” you ask, as you recline on your pile of tardy notices.
This is a transcript of your first semester grades sent out by your school counselor! Many colleges require it, but there are also many institutions which do not. On the Common App, you can check which schools actually require a midyear report under the “School Forms Required” section. For all other colleges, you can just visit their website!
Just a warning, though: Don’t feel safe just because your college doesn’t require a midyear report. Many high schools have policies which require that counselors send off midyear reports to all colleges you are applying to…even if the institution does not require it!
Context, context, context!
So what is the actual purpose of the midyear report? Colleges don’t want to see you slacking off senior year! As mentioned before, these grades will vary in importance depending on the context of the application. Take a look at these three applicants, for example:
Since Joanna has had an upward trend so far—despite bad freshman year grades—colleges will be paying additional attention to her first semester senior year grades. Because trends of improvement are so important in admissions, it’s extra important to concentrate during the first semester of senior year if you had spotty grades as an underclassmen. This will prove that you’re academically competitive, regardless of your past.
Darwin has had a fairly consistent record, so the midyear report isn’t as important in his application. This does not mean first semester grades are pointless and he can go book that flight to Fiji, however! If a college—and especially a more prestigious institution—requires the midyear report, chances are they will be looking at your grades. In Darwin’s case, however, unless this semester’s grades are extreme outliers, his midyear report won’t hold nearly as much weight as Joanna’s.
Theodore’s midyear report will also be more important in his application. Like Joanna, Theodore’s grades show a pattern of change…but Theodore’s isn’t as positive. In his case, the midyear report will be important for admissions officers because it’ll determine if his performance junior year was a small slip-up or part of a larger trend.
Obviously, these three characters don’t come close to encompassing every possible applicant scenario, but you get the idea! There is no concrete answer to “how important are my first semester senior grades?” Everyone’s file will be different.
A good rule to live by is this: just try your best!
ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT. It’s groan-inducing for a lot of seniors, I know! After all, isn’t senior year supposed to be fun?
Still, though you should enjoy your last moments of high school, don’t relax so much that you totally forget about your grades.
Allowing your academic performance to suffer can lead to a rescindment of your acceptance—or even academic probation for your freshman year of college. That would just…Well, that would suck.
So, hang in there! Don’t automatically fall into paranoia because your first semester grades aren’t perfect, but don’t give up on school, either!
Enjoy the holiday season!