“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moent you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist
This one’s going to be just a little controversial…
To all second semester seniors in high school reading this (whether you are one of my students or were sent this by one of my students with the email subject: “Look at how crazy my guidance counselor is!!”), I have some advice for you that your parents may or may not appreciate:
You have ~3 months left in your entire high school career. Stop trying so hard in school. Get some B’s. It’ll be good for you.
I can see the student reactions already:
Students: “Holy shit Mom, Jack says I don’t have to go to school for the rest of the year and in fact I should play video games all day and party all night.”
Hey Seniors, let’s pump the breaks for a second here. If you stop attending school and play video games all day, that would, in fact, be bad (synonym: “not good”). I do not recommend doing this. But I do recommend, if you have been a diligent hard-working student over the last seven semesters (like many of my students have been), to take a step back, “chill” a little more, spend some more time with friends and family, and as Thich Nhat Hanh
suggests, truly appreciate the moment. If this results in you getting some B’s instead of your typical straight-A’s, I think the tradeoff is 100% worth it…
The truth is, in high school, some semesters of grades matter more than others. Colleges always talk about wanting to “see an upward trend” in grades. And they are, with some minor exceptions, right. Here’s the ranking of high school semesters in order of importance:
Junior Year (2nd Semester)*
Junior Year (1st Semester)*
Senior Year (1st Semester)*
Sophomore Year (2nd Semester)
Sophomore Year (1st Semester)
Freshman Year (2nd Semester)
Freshman Year (1st Semester)
And at the very bottom, well below freshman year:
Senior Year (2nd Semester)
*NOTE: Junior year is typically more important than 1st semester senior year because, if a student applies Early Decision or Early Action, then zero grades from Senior year are included in the application. Additionally Junior year is typically when students take standardized tests.
As my students know, I am an efficiency guy. I also am not afraid to provide somewhat unconventional advice to my students if I think it will help. With that in mind, here’s my thoughts:
If you are a SSS (second semester senior): It is simply inefficient, from a getting-into-college perspective as well as a I-want-to-get-the-most-out-of-life perspective, to apply the same amount of effort in the classroom as you did your previous seven semesters.
- Early Decision/Early Action students: If you’ve accepted admission at one of your ED/EA schools and know you will be attending, you’ve been finished with the college search for awhile now. If you are lucky enough to be in this boat, I am sorry I did not write this article for you earlier. Update: your first semester senior year grades really didn’t end up mattering either…
- Regular Decision students: If you are waiting for regular decision admissions, those schools only account for your first seven semesters: Most people know this. Now, here are some of the common questions & concerns I receive:
COMMON QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT THIS PHILOSOPHY:
“Wait but if my grades drop, won’t my school rescind my decision??!!”
- Your grades have to drop tremendously for a school to do this. And even then, they will likely provide you with a warning letter if your mid-semester grades drop far beyond their liking. In all honesty, schools hate to do this: rejecting a student after they have accepted them hurts their yield. Plus, the school then has to spend time, money, and resources replacing you.
“Wait but if I am waitlisted, don’t I need to send in my second semester grades??!!”
- If you are waitlisted, schools typically recommend you send in any updated grades. With that said, updated grades are low on the list of factors admissions takes into account when they accept students off the waitlist. Factors that are exponentially higher on that list: a) Has the student demonstrated interest? And b) if accepted, will the student attend? Everything after these two factors is nearly inconsequential. If a school has waitlisted you, they have already deemed you academically qualified to attend their University. Now it’s time to demonstrate your interest.
- Shameless self-plug: My students enrolled in my proven waitlist program (month of April) have a waitlist admission success rate more than 10x the national average.
“Wait but isn’t high school more than just getting into college? Shouldn’t I continue learning, developing, maturing? And isn’t the best way to do that to give my very best in school through the rest of the year?”
- I think you will learn and develop more as a person this Spring if you give more attention to living in the present moment. Fully embracing some of these last times, these last memories, with your high school friends will do far more for your growth than studying 8 more hours to bump your Honors English test up from an 86 to a 93.
A note to parents reading this–at the end of the day, you know your child far better than I do. If you think your child may be susceptible to the “slippery-slope” form of thinking–if they are not getting straight A’s, they will get straight F’s–then this suggestion isn’t for them. This suggestion is for the dedicated high school student who has worked hard for seven semesters and has the ability to dial-back her workload without completely neglecting school obligations. It is a fine line–some students can handle it, others can’t. Most of my students this year can absolutely handle this recommendation, so I figured this article would be helpful:
“So with this extra free time, what should I do??!!”
This was fun…
Looking back on these photos only confirms my beliefs about second semester senior year: the memories you will form, the friendships you will solidify truly will stay with you for a lifetime. I remember these events like they were yesterday–these friendships, these memories were truly that impactful on my life
Will you remember your grade on that English test?
Jack Delehey is the CEO and Founder of Delehey College Consulting, a boutique educational consulting firm designed to help high school students excel in and out of the classroom. To contact Jack, you may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org