Finally! Your senior year of high school is about to begin, but it doesn’t even count, right? After all, colleges only look at your grade 9 through 11 transcripts, right? For your early action and early decision colleges, the choice of who gets in and who does not will be made before your 12th grade transcript is even available, right?
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
It is a basic human tendency to look beyond tomorrow all the way to the horizon, which in your case translates to “college.” But if you neglect the importance of 12th grade, you could be shooting yourself in the foot and, in effect, nullifying three years of hard work. For many schools, the 12th grade first-quarter or the first-semester grades will be made available to colleges in time for them to make even their early round decisions. Even more important to consider is that it is a mistake for you to count on your early round college or colleges as being sure bets. Even if you do get into an early action college, you will want to wait to see what other options come along in the regular round.
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to treat your 12th grade as an offramp to college. Nonetheless, many students will choose easy “gut” classes so that they can relax in 12th grade and hang out more with friends as they mentally prepare to enter college. But here are some things to consider:
- If you are generally an “A” student, lower grades in 12th grade will decrease your GPA, thus making you a less attractive candidate for all colleges, not just your first-choice colleges. This is especially true of ultra-competitive colleges, where each seat attracts 10 to 20 highly qualified students.
- Poor grades in 12th grade can also affect your ability to transfer, should you decide to do that once you get to college.
- Poor grades also indicate to colleges that you have decided to “kick back” in 12th grade which diminishes your ranking in some of the most important personal characteristics that colleges look for. These include academic rigor, academic excellence, character, and self-challenge.
- Taking easy classes in 12th grade can have the same effect. Colleges will absolutely notice should you decide to take classes that have nothing to do with your anticipated major or academic passion. Basket Weaving and Photography may be fun and may also be easy A’s, but unless you have indicated an interest in going into the basket weaving or photography fields in the future, taking such courses will reflect extremely negatively on you.
- Taking high-level, and/or challenging courses that relate to your anticipated academic pathway will be viewed by colleges in an extremely positive light. For some colleges, the choices you make in 12thgrade are the best indicators of your likelihood of success in higher education. Furthermore, taking AP level courses, and the associated AP tests in May of your senior year, can help you earn graduation credits and/or the opportunity to test out of basic level college courses thereby enabling you to take more focused, interesting classes in college.
In conclusion, the choices you make in 12th grade are among the most important ones you will make during your entire high school career. Take the opportunity to solidify or improve your academic record, to prove to colleges that you are the kind of student who sees challenges as opportunities, and to boost your appeal to colleges as a student of significant character, academic curiosity, and intellectual fortitude.