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How much will my grades affect college admissions if my grades dropped junior year?

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I got really good grades freshmen and sophomore year (mostly A's with one or two B's.) Junior year was really tough for me. I took many rigorous AP classes and I had a lot of extracurricular activities to juggle at the same time. Before I even had the chance to bring up my grades, COVID hit, and now my transcript shows that I have 2 C's from junior year. I am a senior now so I know that I can not do anything about my grades from previous years, but will that heavily affect my college admissions?

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You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands if not a million high school seniors who feel like there is something wrong with their application file because of COVID-19. Many do not have a single test score either SAT or ACT to show and many others do not have any real grades for Spring Junior year to show either. Most have gaps in their ECs because there have been no sports for 2 semesters nor any hands-on clubs either. As a result of COVID-19, many students like you feel like they were sucker-punched and now have to go through applying to college even though their application is missing some key ingredients. It's like a mad rush to make a 5-course dinner that you are going to judged on by strangers who don't know you and you already burned your butter and overcooked your seafood and you just lost a contact lens as well. WE, other 12th graders, and the parents as well feel for you.

I'm not an admissions officer but I feel that most AOs already know that their applicants are going to have something missing or odd on their applications. Therefore they are going to be more flexible this cycle than any previous cycle in history. Over 400 colleges have made Standardized test options and some colleges like CalTech made them completely blind. MIT even made the Subject tests blind as well. Also, they all know that COVID-19 affected every classroom in America differently. Some schools still opted for grading and the students have some sad marks and some schools went Pass/Fail so those kids received ZERO grades and all the kids that took like 5 or 6 AP or IB classes got a P instead of 4.85 GPA last Spring so imagine how bad they feel if they were counting on their GPA going up a notch, instead it stayed flat.

This cycle, all AOs will be paying attention to the COVID-19 essay prompts and the additional information prompts so if the colleges you are applying to have those prompts, be honest, thoughtful and explain your anomaly to them in the most accurate way. Some kids are going to underplay this and others are going to make up some exaggerated circumstances because they are desperate and greedy. Do not do that. It's like the government handouts, some people didn't apply because they were too proud and others like a whole bunch of rappers filed fake claims for fake companies and received 1.7 million dollars in or something like that. But they are most likely going to jail.

In the meantime, work very hard and try your best. Quarterly and mid-year grades still count, so if you are on track to get great grades that will show an upward trend which is important to all AOs. There is not much you can do about the past so don't dwell on it. Focus on moving forward and continue to challenge yourself each day. Everything will work out the way it's supposed to.

Best of luck with this application cycle.