Thomas A. answered 11/05/19
Ivy League Grad & Admissions Interviewer with 10+ yrs experience
Well, they certainly can, depending on how bad the grades were and how many bad grades are at issue. Interestingly though, the reasons for the "C" and how you turned things around could be more influential (in the positive direction). Generally speaking, however, it is certainly possible to be able to "make up for it" through excellent grades since then (that is, at least as long as the grades are in line with your top choices) and standout extracurricular activities and/or achievements.
You seem to have now mastered the classroom environment. So, your time is probably much better spent now focusing on setting yourself apart from your classmates outside of the classroom (i.e., your non-school academics or non-academic activities). But please do not misunderstand me. . . You still need to focus on your academics and keep that part strong. But your academics alone are not going to separate you from your colleagues. That is assuming you're going after highly selective colleges and universities. I say this because everybody, without exception, is going to be super smart and have amazing grades and SAT/ACT scores in the most selective schools (EVEN among those who get rejected). The only real difference is that there will be more students in the "rejected" category.
I lecture on this topic frequently; specifically, on the focus and philosophy of Ivy League Admissions, which applies equally well to other highly selective colleges (i.e., your top choices and reach schools).
I think it's safe for you to take a deep breath and feel confident that one isolated "C" during freshman year is not a deal-killer, even for Annapolis. Good luck!