You Can’t Spell Calculus Without 2 Cs

We have a joke in our office that one cannot spell calculus without several Cs. This is primarily a reference to the difficulty many students face when they enroll in calculus. Oftentimes, top-notch students meet their first C in the dreaded calculus course. But all joking aside, 2 Cs has another meaning in our office; it’s the benchmark of a “significant downturn in academic performance”.

At William & Mary, as at many other schools, offers of admission are contingent upon continued high levels of academic and personal conduct. So once final transcripts are received, any student who shows a decline in performance, marked by two or more Cs, any D, or any F, receives a stern warning letter from his/her regional dean asking for an explanation. That student’s file is then reviewed by the committee to determine whether or not the offer of admission stands. While it is obvious that admitted students do not enjoy receiving these letters, believe me, I do not enjoy sending them. Currently I have a decent-sized stack of folders on my desk for students who have succumbed to “senioritis” and failed to finish with the strong academic record they had demonstrated at the time of admission. So in an attempt to decrease the size of the stack of folders on my desk in future summers, here are a few helpful hints.

1) Finish strong. Easier said than done I know but it’s the easiest way to avoid receiving that dreaded thin envelope over the summer (and as well all know a thin envelope from an admission office rarely bares good news). All the fun you have senior year which comes at the expense of your grades won’t seem to be worth it all when you have to justify to an admission officer why you should still be allowed to attend college the following fall.

2) If you do falter, be proactive. Send the admission office a letter before the final transcript is received notifying the committee of what happened and why. This goes a loooooooooooong way towards demonstrating maturity and responsibility.

3) If you do receive the thin white envelope asking for an explanation for a downturn in academic performance, take it seriously. Probably 90% of the time, my colleagues and I are merely looking for the student to take responsibility and to think critically about what happened. The day that I had to rescind an offer of admission was my absolute worst day on the job in five years. Myself and my colleagues are not out to get you, we just want to assist in teaching you a valuable lesson about personal responsibility and commitment.

Categories: Academics, Admission, Faculty & Staff Blogs

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