How low can you go?

Despite what may seem like an end to the stress and pressure that is said to plague the lives of seniors, seniors admitted early now face the question: how low can you go?

“No one tells you exactly what kind of drop will get you kicked out,” said Alex Gortman ’07 who was admitted early to Columbia University in December.

However, as Dean Beth Slattery explained, the number of seniors who actually get so-called “rescinding letters” is much fewer than common perception.

“Very few early kids get a letter [concerning] their grades,” Slattery said. “And most of those do not become revocations.”

The issue lies in the statement that students  admitted early are required to sign before accepting their admissions offers. Although it varies between institutions, it usually involves a promise to enroll as well as an agreement that grades will “remain commensurate” with those  submitted.

“Typically, it would be a steep decline in grades,” Slattery said. “Disciplinary issues might also be another reason.”

Despite what may appear to be strict scrutiny on the part of admissions officers, Slattery explains that most understand how seniors could be “burnt out.”

“It can be incredibly disappointing,” she said, speaking from her experience as associate director of admission at USC, “when a kid that you went to bat for in admissions committee develops ‘senioritis.’”

At USC, Slattery said the office sent out letters remarking on declines in grades and letters revoking admission. She said about six students of the roughly 3,000 who made up each incoming freshman class at USC would be asked to explain a “precipitous” drop before the admission was revoked. Slattery noted that these numbers might be lower at other schools because of USC’s relatively large class size. In terms of a student’s actual GPA, senioritis does have the potential to prompt a response from college admissions offices if the drop is serious compared to the student’s academic history, Slattery said.

“A kid with straight As through [first semester of senior year] who starts getting straight Bs might raise questions in the admissions office,” she said.

Slattery also pointed out that multiple Cs or Ds and Fs appearing on a transcript would be likely to prompt action, although schools are always interested in seeing an explanation for the drop. Some schools monitor students for a semester or two to see if their situation improves before taking further action. The threat of a rescinding letter is not the only incentive seniors have to continue working until commencement.

“I’m not so much worried about [a rescinding letter] as I am worried about losing the respect of my teachers,” said Dii Zaller ’07, who was admitted early to NYU in December.

“I don’t want them to think I did it all for an application.”