6 months ago
Admissions Advice

Will repeating a year of high school look bad?

So, my school informed me that there is an opportunity to completely retake my Junior year. My grades this year were crud (mainly due to the fact that for the first part of the school year we used an online program that didn't teach us anything) and there's a lot of stuff I want to do but I missed the deadline for it (National History Day and Scholastic Art and Writing Awards). My school is also opening an archery team and I got an instrument so I can join band.

I really want to do this, but I'm scared of how this will appear to colleges. Will it be ok to redo my Junior year so I have a stronger college application?

EDIT: I am currently looking at colleges that have a 60% acceptance rate. The most selective schools I am looking at are Grinnell, Carleton, and Middlebury. They are reaches, I know.

@McKellarr6 months ago

What colleges are you looking at?

Earn karma by helping others:

1 karma for each ⬆️ upvote on your answer, and 20 karma if your answer is marked accepted.

3 answers

6 months ago

Considering that you are one of hundreds of thousands of HS kids whose grades and ability to take standardized tests were affected by COVID-19 you can either roll with the punches (move forward with 12th) or attack this opportunity to do over 11th grade with optimism, conviction, and determination. I would choose the latter.

During this application cycle, the huge takeaway that many 12th graders learned was that they made assumptions that there would be a great deal of forgiveness from the top colleges they were applying to. Perhaps it was due to the media, the schools themselves, college counselors, and other websites for giving students false hope. Nevertheless, many people didn't anticipate the rise in applications, yield rates, and preference for test scores in spite of the review of their holistic application. It was a bad situation for application readers as well since they received hoards of applications with missing grades, gaps in learning, and no test scores. Thus the lesson is that the most prepared students who checked all the boxes fared the best. At my HS, there were record low numbers of seniors who got into reach schools, most of the best students had to settle for targets.

If you ask a random sample of seniors if they could do over 12th grade and re-apply knowing what they now know about this new paradigm of applying within a global pandemic, I believe many would request a "do-over" or seek an opportunity to repeat a grade or to take a gap year so they could present a better version of themselves. One that would have better grades, test scores, ECs, honors, and the opportunity to apply to more scholarships. That is just my opinion.

In order to succeed in life, you have to master how you deal with disappointments and failure. Some plow forward without looking back while others take time to reflect and start over. It's like you're working on a painting and you're 100 hours into it but you have a bad feeling that its' not going to be a masterpiece or representative of your best work. Do you a.) spend another 100 hours to finish it and move on to the next thing or b.) Start over because during this process you made some mistakes and recognize what you need to do to fix these mistakes and want to paint a better painting.

I'm not writing this response strictly for you but for the wider audience of HS students that might have had a slip-up or made a complete debacle of their 9th, 10th, 11th, or senior year. How you survived COVID-19 doesn't define you and each and every one of us had a different experience. For some, we watched 1 or more parents lose work or a source of income, for others we watched a family member get ill or die. Or perhaps we got COVID and not only missed a lot of schools but are still living with the long-term effects of the virus, whether that is sustained mental illness or physical symptoms. For me, I had suffered all 4 things at the same time. I miss my grandfather and only could say goodbye on the phone before he died.

My point is that whether you are 15 or 17, you have a good 60-75 years of living ahead of you. It doesn't matter in the big picture if it takes you 5 years to finish HS or 5 years to finish college. It's not a race unless you make it a race. Time is on your side to make it right and live the kind of life you want to live and create the experiences you want to create for yourself.

If it's important for you, not your friends, family, or other influencers, to get into the best college you can, then do this for yourself and the rest of the world doesn't matter. My personal story doesn't matter. I will share however that I decided to take a deferred admission to Columbia this week, I'm not 100% sure I will go through with it but I just wanted to say I have regrets about not having a normal HS experience for the past 3 full semesters. I don't have to do this. But I also always thought I would have normal 11th/12th-grade years so I'm doing this for myself. And I'm taking my own medicine. I don't really care if takes me an extra year to finish college. I will be better for the experience.

I wish you and all the other CV students thinking about repeating a year the very best.

6 months ago

I would talk to your counselor about this topic since this is very important. I would suggest that you and your parents meet up with your counselor to discuss the pros and cons of retaking your Junior year. Ask for the counselor's input and maybe your teachers as well. I'm sure that there will be a handful of students repeating their Junior year since online school was rough. Best of luck!

6 months ago

In short, yes. But since this is the situation now, let's brainstorm and decide what next steps to take. How crud is "crud"? Were you failing? How was your GPA in past semesters? In many college AOs' perspective, and reasonably so, they're going to want to know how you ended up in this situation and what steps you took to get out of it. Having poor grades is a process, not a sudden surprise, so they're going to want to know how you tried to spot and address the issue early on in the year. In other words, students who are doing poorly often know they are doing poorly; now they want to know why that problem persisted for the entire year. Did everyone (literally everyone) do poorly this year, or was it more like a lot of people did poorly? If it's a significant problem, you might ask your school counselor if they're going to write something about it in their recommendation letter to help explain it.

Whether you decide to repeat the year or not, you're going to need a really good reason for why this happened. Especially if you decide to just keep the grades. Put more bluntly, you're basically going to need a sob story of an excuse to explain yourself. In my opinion, "the online program didn't teach me anything" is not going to cut it. It sucks, but part of college is knowing when to seek help and study independently because many college professors ALSO will not teach anything. So AOs probably aren't going to be very impressed. Now, you could play with wording to make them more sympathetic: "the lack of interpersonal connection between student and teacher left me at a loss" or something like that.

I'm also a little concerned that you missed all these deadlines... out of curiosity, what happened? And while late is better than never, it's a little concerning that you're joining so many activities after completing your junior year. For example, band usually isn't the kind of thing people say they've done for one year by the time college apps come around. In this sense, you might want to consider repeating and then explaining that "you needed more time to develop yourself and your interests".


Community Guidelines

To keep this community safe and supportive:

  1. Be kind and respectful!
  2. Keep posts relevant to college admissions and high school.
  3. Don’t ask “chance-me” questions. Use CollegeVine’s chancing instead!

How karma works