It's November of their senior year. Yes. Yes it's too late, but the question is for what? Is it too late to try to leapfrog over your classmates that have been working their tails off for 4 years and have already submitted their early action applications? Yes. Is it too late to have your grades in a position that allows you to relax for your senior spring and embrace the senioritis? Yep. Is it too late to be in a position to give that valedictorian speech at graduation? Sure is, but is it too late to accomplish something that you can be proud of? No.
What I told this student was that they needed to work hard through the end of the year. There's also no manual that says you have to or should go right into a 4 year university straight out of high school or you will be a failure. I encouraged this student to work hard and if her goal is UT then there's no shame in take a year or two at the community college of her choice and transferring. Education is a long game in so many ways.
Why shouldn't she feel bad about herself? Both her and many of the kids in the top 8% got around a 16 on their ACT. Sure, they get to automatically go to the state schools of their choice, but guess what? Pretty much nobody is college ready so she has plenty of time to work hard, acquire the skills she needs to compete, and do something that makes her proud of herself.
The last thing I told she was that she is more than a number. I've seen her grow over the past few years and I'm extremely proud of what she's accomplished. Does she have room to grow? Sure, but it's never to late to accomplish anything. Nothing is impossible, things just get harder.