Mid-Year Report Delays Generate Confusion

By Joseph Kratz, Editor-In-Chief

By Annie Stamp, Sports Editor

Every third week of February, a box of county-generated mid-year reports is placed on the desk of Mrs. Suzanne Lokke, Falls Church High School’s transcript assistant.

High school transcripts and mid-year reports are an integral part of the college admissions process. While some counties transfer them electronically, you can find FCPS transcripts in the back of a mail truck, crawling towards colleges weeks after they are due. In the meantime, students are inundated with notifications from colleges that their applications are incomplete, generating stress, anxiety, and, oftentimes, panic.

A student’s transcript provides a convenient, abbreviated measure of a student’s academic successes, failures, and growth. It is an incredibly important document because colleges weigh grades and course rigor in their admissions processes.

Mid-year reports are similar documents that report on the grades of college applicants at the end of the first semester of their senior year.

At the end of a senior’s first semester, FCPS generates physical mid-year reports: they are a required document for nearly every college admissions process. The inherent issue is that Fairfax County’s first semester comes to an end too close to when mid-year reports are needed.

“We don’t get to run our own mid-years,” said Mrs. Renee Foster, college and career center specialist. “They come from the county, and they have their own set delivery time, and we are at their mercy.” However, Mrs. Foster stresses that Falls Church is committed to turning those mid-years around in less than 24 hours. There were around 750 college applications submitted by the class of 2019.

With these harsh deadlines, many have questioned why the school does not use an electronic system to transfer mid-years quicker. Mrs. Foster speculates that FCPS does not submit mid-years electronically — like the county submits senior transcripts — over concerns about sensitive information and records.

“We were one of the last counties in Virginia, let alone in the area, to send transcripts electronically when students first request them,” said Mrs. Foster. Ms. Jessica Grenfell, the Director of Student Services, reported that FCPS is beginning to move to online Common Application, transcript, and mid-year submissions.

The class of 2019 isn’t the first to run into these issues. Previous graduating classes have also run into difficulty communicating with colleges and counselors.

“It was such a process, and I repeatedly had to reach out to my counselor to make sure they [the mid-years] were going in,” said Carly Boyd, graduating class of 2018.

This continuity among classes is explained by tradition. FCPS provides high schools with a series of dates on which they can have their students’ mid-year reports generated. Ms. Grenfell said that when she came into her current role as Director of Student Services, there had been a tradition of selecting one of the later dates. The rationale behind this is that late grade changes can be accounted for before they are printed.

If grades are changed after the county has produced a student’s mid-year report, Falls Church High School has to print out a new hard copy that is not formatted the same way the county mid-year is. The mid-year produced by Falls Church look much more akin to the initial transcript. This was where Rice University ran into issues with Cole Wendrowski’s (12) mid-year. They believed it to be a second copy of his initial transcript, and they therefore marked the mid-year absent. Ms. Grenfell and Mrs. Lokke hold that if they had really looked at it, it would have been apparent that it had the mid-year grades.

Ms. Grenfell did admit that Student Services could have been better in addressing the fact, to students, that mid-years submitted by the school are different than the one’s generated by the county.

One of the most extreme examples of the issues that this small time-frame represents is Cole Wendrowski’s application to Rice University. “Rice did not review my application because they could not understand the mid-year transcript,” Cole said, “and thus marked my application incomplete.” When approached by Ms. Grenfell and Ms. Wendrowski, Rice University said that they do not disregard applications based solely on transcripts, but they also said that there was no appeal system to their admissions process.

“If they had submitted [the transcripts] online or earlier,” Cole said, “they could have dealt with the Rice issue during the process and fixed it.”

Student Services maintains that mid-year reports were sent out at the earliest possible date that would allow for complete accuracy.

At the same time, other students had issues with similar elite colleges. But, when approached by Mrs. Lokke, Harvard University, Duke University, Rice University, Brown University, the University of Virginia, and the College of William and Mary had the same policy in relation to late mid-year reports.

“As long as you let us know that a mid-year report will be late, that will not be a problem,” said one Harvard College Admissions officer. “Sending a mid-year report after the stated deadline, would not be a reason to deny a student.”

Mrs. Lokke said that she was not made aware of many individual cases; Mrs. Lokke and Ms. Grenfell said that student should reach out to their counselors as primary contact points if they have concerns or issues with their applications, and Mrs. Lokke is not notified by colleges about issues, so students must make her aware. Most of the colleges will directly reach out to ether the student or the student’s counselor if there are mid-year issues.

Mrs. Foster stressed that if students have any problems, they should feel free to talk to the various teachers, counselors, and specialists that they have at Falls Church. “I hope moving forward that students will feel that we are here to help them,” she said, “They don’t have to take that on themselves.”

Additional reporting by Max Miracle, News Editor