The October Surprise

This may seem like a Captain Obvious point but I’m going say it here and now, because it needs to be said.

I’ve gotten four-five questions from high school seniors about their current (12 grade) grades, as in whether they “count,” is it OK to take it easy, can I drop an AP, etc.

The answer: they COUNT.

Especially this year, more than in non-pandemic years.  Thousands of high schools went Pass/Fail at the end of last year, the final quarter of 11th grade for Class of 2021 students, removing a key chunk of data for admissions officers.

But even back in “normal” times, Senior Slump, Senioritis or whatever you want to call it was a myth. Meaning, admissions officers care deeply about how much kids challenge themselves, also known as rigor…

…Especially in senior year.

If an applicant pushed himself with a challenging course load in 11th grade, but coasted in 12th, that will count against him at each college he applies to.

For the record, the big three academic factors in college admissions, in order of importance, have been and continue to be:



Standardized test scores.

(Yes. Standardized test scores.  Hundreds of thousands of kids took the SAT and ACT in September and October thus far. They count.)

A fair amount (that’s code for “I’m too lazy to actually research this”) of colleges have pushed back their application deadlines, particularly of the early variety (Early Action, Early Decision, Restricted Early Action, Single Choice Early Action, Double-Secret Probationary Super Early Action).


I’m speculating, but were I a betting man I’d say the reason has to be to give admissions officers more time to scrutinize grades from 1st quarter of senior year…

…and to review September and October SAT and ACT scores.

Note:  I’m definitely going against the grain here. This is not a mainstream theory, but it feels obvious to me.

On another, tangentially related note, I’m also quite capable of discussing UAPs (formerly known as UFOs) and paranormal activity.

But that’s not important.  The point here is to make sure you don’t take the foot off the gas pedal in 12th grade until after you hear back from all colleges.  Even then, you still have to keep your GPA at a non-embarrassing level.

If you want us to do your financial aid applications accurately and strategically so that you get the MOST you can get in financial aid and merit aid, we’re taking on 2021 clients through the end of the weekend, then shutting down (temporarily).  Here’s where the info:

-Andy “Being Fitted for a Tin Foil Hat” Lockwood

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