When Do Colleges Rescind Acceptances?

Question: Under what conditions would a college take back an acceptance?

This question is an oldie but goodie. “The Dean” has answered various versions of it many times before. Yet just as spring has sprung, so, too, have the worries of admitted students who succumbed to senioritis (and other questionable behaviors) after the ink was dry on their acceptance letters.

In fact, The Dean has received so many queries this week from those who stay awake at night wondering if their acceptances are about to vaporize that this blanket reply will attempt to address many of these at once:

Colleges do not like to renege on admission decisions but will do so on occasion. This most typically happens when a student’s grades drop significantly after the student is admitted. In other words, if an A student suffers a bout of senioritis and drops to a B average, it’s not a deal-breaker. But if grades plummet to C’s and D’s (or worse), it can be. If there are extenuating circumstances behind this change in GPA (e.g., an illness or family crisis), they should be explained by the school counselor. The college will probably be sympathetic and stand by their original acceptance, sometimes putting the student on academic probation when the school year starts.

Colleges may also revoke acceptances if the student is suspended from school or arrested outside of school. Again, because the college does not want to do this, the case will be carefully evaluated and the verdict will most likely depend on the nature of the infraction and the circumstances surrounding it.

Finally, if a college should discover that an applicant was dishonest on his or her application, that is likely to lead to a rescinded admission, too.

If a college plans to revoke your acceptance, especially for academic reasons, you should be proactive about making a deal to save it. For instance, you can offer to take a summer class (or several) and let your fate rest upon meeting a specified minimum grade. You can also suggest that you start your first college term on academic probation. (The college may insist on this anyway, even if you don’t offer!)

Finally, for those students who are writing now, in early April, with worries about declining grades, note that the college you plan to attend won’t see your transcript until the school year is over. So you still have time to reverse the downward spiral. Even a “D” or an “F” on your third-quarter report card won’t make a big impact if you’ve managed to pull it up to more respectable turf by the end of the semester.

So, as my Nana used to say, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Although the thought of Nana sewing anything is laughable, her advice was still sound.

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