‘Fear of God’ letters show university’s selectivity

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TCU made news this week when The New York Times noted that the university asks incoming freshmen whose transcripts reflect a serious bout of “senioritis” to explain themselves.

But TCU Dean of Admission Ray Brown said on Tuesday that the warning letters have been sent to wayward students for more than 20 years.

The letter is sent to about 100-120 admitted students each year who have slipped academically, he said.

Most public universities only check to see if their incoming students graduated, but some selective private schools, like TCU, comb through final transcripts to assess each student’s grades, he said.

“It’s an illustration that we really care, we want you to do well, we expect you to do well and this is one of the ways we can assure it,” Brown said.

The letters are sent on a case-by-case basis. There are two variations sent: a mild letter for a minor slip in grades and a severe letter that lets students know that their admission is in jeopardy. Both letters ask the student to send a written statement explaining themselves.

Most students follow up and reply to the letter but about 10 students each year don’t respond. Brown said this could be because the student decided to attend another university or a parent saw the letter, became disappointed and didn't want to send their child to TCU.

The follow-up is also a way the university weeds out the excess amount of students with deposits. The class of 2016 needs to lose about 70 people in order to make the ideal class size by the fall.

This year’s batch of letters have not been sent because final transcripts are yet to be processed, he said.

‘Senioritis’ is a nationwide problem and schools should follow through with warnings like TCU does, Brown said. ‘Senioritis’ is a bad habit that needs to be broken because freshman year can be tough and slacking off for a year will only make it harder, he said.

Below is an example of the severe letter sent to incoming students provided by Dean of Admission Ray Brown.

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.

Sincerely,
Raymond A. Brown
Dean

Brown said the second paragraph is not included in the mild letter sent to students who slipped by a letter grade or two.

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