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The Ivy Coach Daily

May 31, 2023

Do Colleges Look at Attendance in Admissions?

Do Colleges Look At Attendance
Admissions officers at America’s elite universities only sometimes notice attendance figures (photo credit: Namkota).

Are you considering skipping school to go on a college tour or join a family vacation? If so, you might wonder if your school absences will hurt your case for admission to America’s elite colleges. The answer — with an important caveat — is a few absences will not hurt your chances of getting into your dream colleges.

Most High Schools Show Absences on Transcripts

While not all high schools across America and around the world report absences on high school transcripts, many do feature the figure — often denoting how many days of school a student missed during each year of high school.

And though the number isn’t typically prominent on high school transcripts and pales in comparison to the rigor of coursework and a student’s grades, it’s there for admissions officers to see with their own two eyes. So what often goes through their heads when they process these figures?

Do Admissions Offers Care About High School Absences?

Admissions Officers Pay No Mind to Negligible School Absences

If they notice the school absences — and that is an if since this is not top of mind for most admissions officers at our nation’s most selective universities — they won’t pay it any mind if the number is negligible.

Three to four absences a year, every year of high school? That’s insignificant. Admissions officers will not ding an applicant one bit because they caught Covid or a case of the flu a few times during their high school years.

Admissions Officers May Raise Red Flags to Extended School Absences

If, however, there are extended absences during one or more years of high school, including strings of weeks in which a student didn’t attend school, it should be addressed — by the student in the Additional Information section of The Common Application and/or by the school counselor in their letter of recommendation.

Students Should Explain Extended Absences on College Applications

Admissions officers tend to be compassionate people. Suppose a student misses a semester of their high school years because they endured a major health scare. In that case, admissions officers will understand the absences and will be able to review their grades that year within their proper context.

If Absences Are Unexplained, It Could Prompt Calls to School Counselors

That said, if a student has strings of unexplained absences in high school (such as 20 or more missed days each year of high school) and the student or the school counselor does not address it, it could give an admissions officer pause. At the very least, the unexplained string of absences could inspire the admissions officer to pick up the phone and call the school counselor to find out the scoop.

How to Address Extended Absences

When students do need to address extended absences, we encourage them to be candid and to the point. For example, after one of our students at Ivy Coach received chemotherapy for leukemia during a year of high school and, understandably, received a few B’s that year, they wrote only a few sentences of explanation in the Additional Information section. They didn’t write a whole woe-is-me sob story.

And why not? Because admissions officers will understand and naturally root for the student who didn’t try to pull on their heartstrings. It makes sense when you think about it, right?

The Verdict on Attendance in Elite College Admissions

In sum, high school attendance is a non-factor in the highly selective college admissions process, except in extreme cases when a student’s poor attendance raises red flags — in which case a student must explain.

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