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The College Conversation: Making the grade before college

The College Conversation

June 05, 2010|Lisa McLaughlin

Here's a conversation starter: Low end-of-year grades can spell disaster when it's your child's turn to apply to colleges.

Actually, they can also be devastating for those second-semester seniors who are itching for college to start. As the end of the school year approaches, encourage your children to keep pushing through that last final exam. If they need convincing, use the following ammunition to back you up.

It's clear that grades and rigorous classes matter in college admissions, but what's often overlooked is the importance of second semester grades.

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Colleges like to see a student finish the year strong. It shows perseverance and commitment. It also gives them a sense of how serious the student will be during the spring semester of college — a time when weather improves and outdoor activities beckon.

Let's look at the impact of second-semester grades by high school year.

Ending the freshman year with low grades can affect your child's ability to take higher-level classes in subsequent high school years. In other words, a "C" in ninth-grade English makes it difficult for a student to be recommended for honors English in the sophomore year. By not taking honors English in 10th grade, your child will be ill-prepared for AP English in 11th grade, and you know what that means for 12th. Not advancing into higher-level classes will make it tough to gain admission to the more selective colleges. There's a real domino effect when freshman-year grades suffer. If your child claims that freshman-year grades don't matter to colleges, nip that myth in the bud. Most out-of-state colleges and private universities will use freshman year grades in their GPA calculation for admission, even though the UC and CSU systems won't.

Sophomore year is the first real indication to the colleges about a student's academic potential. As courses become more rigorous, they want to see a clear, upward grade trend. I always tell my clients that sophomore year lays the foundation for success in the later high-school years.

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