Your child’s seat in the first-year class at XYZ College has been secured via the all-important deposit, and your household is now being bombarded with electronic and snail mailings about the fall. Orientation for student, parents, families. Advisor outreach. Fall course selection. Housing. It seems to never end.
Your high school senior is exhausted, of course, having weathered the intense drama of the preceding months (in some cases, years) of the infamous college application process. But now it’s behind you all and time to turn to the graduation celebrations.
But what happens between May 1 and the day they walk across the stage and move their tassel from right to left may astonish you. As if aliens have inhabited your kid’s body. They don’t want to do any more homework. They don’t care about the looming final exams, papers, or projects. In fact, all they seem to want to do is sleep and play video games or be on social media. What happened to your previously gung-ho, energetic, focused teen?
The alien that has inhabited their body is the senior slump, aka senioritis.
Should you care?
I have seen colleges revoke admission even after the deposit if the senior slump was bad enough. Have I seen it often? Absolutely not. Everyone in higher ed knows what the senior slump is. But if the final grade falloff is dramatic enough the college might contact the incoming freshman to have a conversation. You see, they figure, they have a long wait list of people who really, really want that letter of admission that your child got, so they can be pretty fierce about the final grade report.
On the other hand, we are now in the era of Trump. What the heck does that have to do with your kid’s senioritis? Ever since the infamous executive order came out about tougher immigration, most colleges have been reeling. Would they attract enough international students to fill the coffers needed to keep the school running? (International students mostly pay full freight, so colleges count on them financially. A lot.)
Finance people have been scrambling to come up with plan b, c, and d to cover the cost of operations and personnel. Not to mention capital improvements, new faculty, and the list goes on and on and on. So, if they haven’t or even if they have “met their numbers,” they may very well not want to lose any students. Every summer, there is the so-called “melt,” students who say on May 1 that they are coming in the fall but who change their mind because they get off a wait list at a more preferable institution or decide to go to college abroad. That makes the summer even trickier for the admissions and finance folks.
So, my guess is that the Trump effect will mean that students and parents can rest a bit more easily if senioritis has made an appearance in your home. It definitely comes with a risk. Just less of a risk than it did pre-Trump.
By the time the deposits are made, everyone is exhausted, hopefully exhilarated, and ready to be done with the whole darned thing. The tension, stress, and ups and downs are almost inevitable these days. But now you have committed! You have purchased the swag. Time to relax. Well, in a way.
After the upheaval that has lasted for months or even years, it may seem impossible to return to so-called normal life, but that’s exactly what high school seniors' parents now have to do. You may not even remember what it felt like, you’ve been so swept up in the tsunami that is the college application process. But think back on the days when your child was just a sophomore or a junior and recall the things you did then that you haven’t done in a while. I bet there are a few. Like going to the movies or taking a drive. Or maybe you just want to sit still for a few minutes and enjoy a glass of wine.
It is now time for the whole family to hit reset. Like a computer that is acting strangely that is magically restored to normal functioning after hitting the infamous reset button that restores the default settings.
Amidst the preparation for finals, graduation, celebrations, and the summer, this is a great time to:
You have likely sacrificed a great deal to get your child into college. You have done yeoman’s work in the past few months (years, really!) securing your 17 year-old a place in a first-year class. Now it’s time for you. It’s the old adage that you can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself first. This is your time.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.