Can a College Revoke Your Acceptance?
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- Colleges can revoke an admitted student's acceptance at any time.
- The most common reasons include poor grades, disciplinary infractions, and honor code violations.
- Students at risk of not graduating high school can have their admission revoked.
- Colleges typically reach out before revoking an admission offer.
In 2019, news of the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal broke. Wealthy families bribed college coaches, standardized test proctors, and administrators to land spots for their children at elite colleges.
Immediately, several of the colleges involved opened investigations into admitted students. At elite institutions like Stanford, Yale, Northwestern, and Georgetown, students involved in the scandal were expelled, or the school revoked their admission.
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Operation Varsity Blues sent parents to jail. But front-page scandals aren't the only reasons colleges revoke acceptance. The most common reason colleges withdraw acceptance offers is grades.
Colleges take decisions to withdraw an admission offer seriously. And applicants need to understand the reasons colleges revoke acceptance letters.
Can Colleges Revoke Admission Offers?
Yes, colleges have the right to revoke student admission even after learners pay their deposits. Colleges only withdraw admission offers in serious circumstances. In many cases, schools give students a warning so they can correct the problem.
For example, if a student's grades drop significantly, colleges may issue a warning to notify them that their acceptance is at risk. In other cases, colleges may revoke an acceptance offer with no warning.
How Often Do Colleges Revoke Acceptance Offers?
It's rare for colleges to revoke acceptance offers, but it does happen. The most recent data on rescinded admission offers comes from 2009 when the National Association for College Admission Counseling surveyed schools on revoked admissions.
At that time, 22% of colleges stated that they had revoked at least one admission offer during the past year. These schools reported that around two-thirds of these withdrawn acceptances were due to poor grades. Another third were because of disciplinary issues, while 30% were due to dishonesty on applications.
What Can Cause a College to Revoke an Admission Offer?
Colleges take their admission decisions seriously. And they don't revoke acceptances lightly. Here are some reasons colleges have revoked an acceptance.
A Drop in Grades
Most of the time when schools revoke an admission offer, it concerns the student's grades. And most of the time, colleges only revoke an acceptance if the student shows a significant drop in performance during their senior year without a good explanation.
How bad do grades have to be to get an admission offer revoked? Schools generally will not reconsider an acceptance if an A drops to a B.
If a well-performing high schooler suddenly reports failing grades, colleges generally reach out to warn students that their acceptance may be at risk. This is particularly true if the drop in grades might affect the student's graduation.
If you receive a warning from a college about your grades, use the opportunity to explain the situation. And ask how you can protect your admission offer.
Criminal activity, disciplinary problems, or a school suspension can put your college acceptance offers at risk. This category includes suspensions for behavioral problems, failing grades, or serious legal troubles.
At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, students accused of a disciplinary infraction undergo an automatic review from the Dean of Students, admissions officers, campus police, and the counseling center.
When the school determines that an admitted student poses a risk to campus safety and security, the university can rescind their acceptance.
Dishonesty on Applications
Lying on your college applications can mean losing your acceptance offer. As Cornell explains in its policy on revoking admission, "The university reserves the right to revoke admission should the information an applicant certified prove to be materially incomplete or false."
This policy also applies to current students — in some circumstances, lying on your application can mean losing your degree.
And dishonesty can extend beyond cheating or fraud. If you list challenging senior year classes on your applications and then drop those classes for easier ones, schools might consider that dishonesty. Misrepresenting your ACT or SAT scores can also mean a revoked acceptance.
Colleges can revoke an acceptance based on the student's behavior. In 2020, several colleges rescinded admission offers because of offensive and racist social media posts.
In 2017, Harvard revoked offers to 10 students who participated in an offensive Facebook group that included jokes about child abuse and the Holocaust.
What qualifies as offensive behavior? It depends on the school. Cornell reserves the right to rescind admission when students show "a significant lack of judgment, integrity, or moral character." Some admissions officers even seek out social media posts to check on students.
Accepting Admission Offers At Multiple Colleges
Colleges can also revoke your acceptance if you accept admission offers from more than one school. As Santa Clara University explains in its rescission policy, students should not accept an offer at one school and then accept another offer after May 1, known as decision day.
This policy does not extend to waitlists, however. Students accepted off the waitlist at a higher-choice school should inform other schools of their decision as soon as possible.
What Happens When an Acceptance is Revoked?
Every year, a small number of admitted students receive a second letter — but this letter revokes their acceptance offer. In many cases, students have a chance to appeal.
If the school revoked your acceptance for low grades, for example, you can write a letter explaining the circumstances. Unfortunately, a revoked acceptance can affect your future college prospects.
When students learn of the school's decision, other admission deadlines are often long past. And a revoked acceptance can also affect your admission chances at other schools. As with a college expulsion, you will need to let other schools know about the revocation and the reasons behind it.
How can students avoid risking an acceptance letter? Make sure you understand the college's policies for admitted students. Contact the admissions office before dropping classes in high school. And stay focused on your academics to finish strong.
Frequently Asked Questions About Colleges Revoking Acceptance
Can colleges take back an acceptance letter?
Yes, colleges can take back an acceptance letter. When prospective students apply, they agree to the college's policies, which include the right to revoke admission.
Colleges can take back an acceptance letter if the admitted student's grades drop significantly, they have a disciplinary infraction, they misrepresented information on their application, or they violate the honor code.
Can colleges revoke acceptance after deposit?
Yes, colleges can revoke an acceptance offer any time, including after admitted students put down their deposit. Most revoked admission offers occur between May 1 and the start of the fall semester.
Even after students enroll, the college can take disciplinary action against them, including expulsion, for many of the same reasons they revoke admission offers.
Why would a college revoke acceptance?
Colleges try to avoid revoking a student's acceptance offer. However, it does occur. A majority of revocations happen because the admitted student's grades drop. Students at risk of failing and not receiving a diploma will typically receive a warning from the school.
Colleges also revoke acceptance if the student violates policies with dishonesty in their application or a disciplinary infraction. Even offensive social media posts have led to colleges revoking acceptance offers.
How bad do grades have to be to get an admission offer revoked?
You can lose your spot in an incoming college cohort because of low grades. But will a minor drop risk your acceptance? Colleges may reach out to students with a minor GPA drop — for example, the straight-A student who earns all Bs their senior year.
As Greg Roberts, dean of admission at the University of Virginia, tells Forbes, these students are generally not at risk of losing their spot. But students who rack up Ds and Fs can find their admission offer at risk. "We require these students to respond with a written explanation for the decline," Roberts says.