Texas Christian University is apparently very annoyed about senioritis, the common affliction that causes high school students’ grades to decline during their last semester, after they’ve been admitted to college.

According to an article by Tanya Caldwell in the New York Times the dean of TCU, Raymond Brown, recently sent an angry letter to about 100 of the 1,825 incoming freshmen who had low final grades. It read something like this:

We recently received your final high school transcript. While your overall academic background continues to demonstrate the potential for success, we are concerned with your performance during the senior year, particularly in calculus. University studies are rigorous and we need to know that you are prepared to meet T.C.U.’s academic challenges. With this in mind, I ask that you submit to me, as soon as possible but no later than July 31, 2012, a written statement detailing the reasons surrounding your senior year performance.

Please understand that your admission to T.C.U. is in jeopardy. If I do not hear from you by the above date, I will assume you are no longer interested in T.C.U. and will begin the process of rescinding your admission.

Please realize that your personal and academic successes are very important to us. I look forward to hearing from you.


Raymond A. Brown


The appropriate response to this letter is a little unclear, however. The scared high school student would understandably be tempted to respond that he’s sorry for the lapse and promises to work harder and do much better in the future as a high-achieving Texas Christian University student. But is this the right way to approach the situation?

If the dean is serious, and his concern is really that “you are prepared to meet T.C.U.’s academic challenges” what’s really the problem?

The student who responds that he got lazy and stopped doing work because it didn’t really seem to count anymore, well he doesn’t seem that sympathetic, but there’s no reason to think he can’t meet T.C.U.’s academic challenges. He’s worked hard before; he’ll do it again as soon as it seems to matter.

In contrast, however, the student who responds that his grades suffered because his grandfather recently died and his family lost its house due to financial troubles sure looks sympathetic, but he’s actually indicating an inability to deal successfully with stress and adversity.

So which response is better? And how low do grades have to drop before the college rescinds the offer?

Apparently the letter above is the one the dean sends to honor-roll students who eared Ds and Fs their final semester.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer