How Senioritis Can Earn You a “Fear of God” Letter


Think you’re safe if you’re already accepted into a college? Guess again.

If you’re slacking off your senior year and your grades are slipping, it could be that the college you thought you’d call “home” in the fall could withdraw your offer. Sometimes this comes in the form of a “fear of God” letter, like this one from T.C.U. that was quoted on the NY Times Choice blog:

Dear Joe:

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.

Joe, 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


Don’t start celebrating before you cross the finish line like this guy:

Does it sound like I’m trying to scare you? I am. Why? Because I really want you to make it to college. Oh, and one more thing.

It almost happened to me.

True story: my senior year of high school I was way more interested in doing Drama and Debate than Pre-Calculus, so when 5th period rolled around I would ask Ms. Turino if I could miss class “just for today” and I’d promise to make up the work. Ms. Turino was pretty lenient and there must have been more than a few “just for todays” because when I got my progress report in March I didn't have a C in her class, or a D. No. I had an F… actually, 0.69 on a 4.0 scale.

I almost cried. My dreams of spending weekends strolling through rooms at the Art Institute, devouring deep dish pizza at Giordanno’s, and studying with some of the best Theater artists in the world were suddenly gone. Poof.

So things got real, fast.

"What can I do?" I asked her, my voice probably cracking.

"Nothing. It’s too late.”


“Sorry. You haven’t been here.”

I left class that day a little broken. And then I got to work.

First, I begged Ms. Turino to let me make up my assignments, to let me prove to her I wasn’t a slacker. Eventually, she agreed to let me make up some of the work. [In retrospect, this was incredibly kind of her and though I thanked her then, I'd like to thank her here, again.] I completed extra credit assignments, studied harder than ever before and got A’s on the rest of my tests.

I escaped Pre-Cal my senior year with a C. I still feared, up until the last moment, that I’d get the “fear of God” letter for Northwestern. Fortunately, I didn’t. But looking back at how much I gained there, it would have been an absolutely devastating letter.

What am I saying to you? Avoid the devastating letter.

If you're reading this in the spring of your senior year and you're in danger of failing (or getting anything other than As and Bs), here are a few tips:

How to Avoid Getting the “Fear of God” Letter Your Senior Year

  1. Check in with your teachers or guidance counselor ASAP to find out what your current grades are.
  2. If you don’t like what you hear, ask your teacher(s) what you can do to bring your grade(s) up.
  3. Create a to-do list that actually works.
  4. Try a one-week social media fast.
  5. Close this webpage and get to work.

How Parents and Teachers Can Help Motivate a Student with Senioritis

  1. Copy and paste the “fear of God” letter above into a blank MSWord doc.
  2. Google image search the college where your student has been accepted and put a logo from the college into the header of the doc.
  3. Change the name “Joe” to your son/daughter/student’s name.
  4. Print it out and tape it on a door, laptop, or somewhere they’re bound to see it.
  5. Hide and wait.


Written by Ethan Sawyer – In addition to being the College Essay Guy, Ethan is a writer, teacher, speaker, and voice actor. He has worked at Elite since 2003 is also the coordinator for the Elite Community Scholars Program, a program very close to his heart. You can email him at The views expressed in this blog post are Ethan's and don't necessarily reflect those of Elite Educational Institute.

Posted on February 15, 2014 and filed under College Admissions.