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When transcripts are submitted as part of your graduate admission's package, how can the graduate admissions staff consider your junior/senior grades, when your applying to the program a year in advance? Basically, when you submit your transcript, you will only have your freshmen, sophomore, and junior grades listed. How do the committee estimate your senior grades when they have not been completed?

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You're right, most programs simply don't take 4th-year grades into account. If you want, you can send them an additional transcript once Fall semester grades are released (some schools will request that you do this), but for the most part that's just how admissions works.

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    Most schools will also ask that you send a final transcript after graduation. In the event that something problematic turns up at that point, the graduate school may then take further action. – tonysdg Dec 15 '15 at 22:22
  • @tonysdg True, but that's only for extreme situations. For the vast majority of applicants who apply during their undergrad, those grades are inconsequential. – Roger Fan Dec 16 '15 at 0:20
  • I think this answer's assertion is not quite true, unfortunately, based on direct experience both pre-computer/internet and "more recently"... And, as in my answer, I think it's important to understand that this answer is inaccurate not just "on a technicality"... at least for mathematics in the U.S. – paul garrett Dec 16 '15 at 23:37
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It is true that spring semester of your senior year will not be reflected in admissions to grad school (unless, heaven forbid, some disaster occurs...) Fall semester is a different matter. Indeed, you yourself cannot have a formal transcript sent at the common U.S. grad school deadlines, ... but this transcript should be sent as soon as possible after the fall term.

Your letter writers and you (in your statement of purpose) will be expected to comment on and/or refer to your fall term courses, which will mostly continue into spring term (in mathematics, for example). Most often, one or more of your letter writers will be the instructors for your fall-term courses, whether or not they were your instructors or mentors earlier. Thus, although contemporary fashion for deadlines makes things awkwardly early, these senior-year courses matter a great deal. Especially for students in the U.S., very often the sophistication of courses taken senior year vastly exceeds that of anything earlier, even perhaps of summer projects. Students' encounters with this more-substantive mathematics, and their reactions, are very, very important in gauging their reactions to graduate programs.

To exaggerate only slightly: if in an application to math grad school a student has taken the usual somewhat-thin U.S. undergrad curriculum, I (as grad admission committee person) will scarcely care about what they did before senior year, nor what the grades were. In some cases, too-good grades in dull courses can be a back-handed compliment. Mathematical reality is often only distantly approached by senior year...

Perhaps other fields have a different pace...

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