Can a College Rescind My Acceptance?

So you’ve just been accepted into college. Congratulations! The next question you might ask yourself is whether or not that acceptance really is final. Do colleges or universities ever rescind an acceptance letter, contacting you to say you didn’t make it in after all? The short answer is yes… although colleges and universities don’t like doing this, and do it sparingly.


Reasons acceptance may be rescinded

The most common reason for getting an acceptance into school rescinded have to do with high school grades and high school completion.  Typically, students apply for undergrad study before the end of their senior year of high school, possibly applying as early as their junior year.

This in turn means that nearly all college acceptance letters are sent out to students before they actually finish high school, in spite of the fact that finishing high school is a prerequisite for entering college. As a result, acceptance letters are sent out with a caveat that acceptance is conditional on successful completion of a high school diploma. So obviously if something happens to delay your graduation from high school (hopefully not!), your acceptance into college might be rescinded.

You can also get your acceptance into school rescinded even if you do graduate, but your grades slip considerably in the process. If you were maintaining a 4.0 or close to it at the time you applied, and your grades slip to—say—a 2.5 or below, there’s a definite chance that your college will change its mind. The general rule of thumb is that your average shouldn’t drop more than one grade point or letter grade between your application date and your high school graduation.

Another reason that colleges rescind acceptance relates to bad behavior. If it’s revealed that a student cheated on their SAT, ACT, or high school courses, that’s grounds for acceptance to be rescinded. The same goes for deliberate lies or misrepresentation in any other application materials—false information in an admissions essay, fraudulent letters of reference, and so on.

Being convicted of a crime can also lead to a rescinded application. This is especially likely to happen if the crime is serious and involves a victim—convictions related to violence of fraud may cause a school to view an already-accepted student as a potential threat to others on campus. In this case, the accepted student may be barred from entry into the school they had hoped to go to.


Things that won’t cause acceptance to be rescinded

It’s also important to know what types of things will not get your acceptance rescinded. In most cases, a drop in just one letter grade or grade point is something universities will forgive if you’ve already been accepted into school.

Moreover, an incident of cheating that doesn’t cause you to fail a class and only results in internal discipline at your high school will probably not lead to revoked acceptance. (But you should treat that as a wakeup call to behave from then on!)

Similarly, pending criminal charges seldom cause a school to retract acceptance, as criminal accusations are not the same as actual guilt. Minor, non-violent offenses (underage drinking citations, disorderly conduct, etc….) do not matter to most universities, even if a conviction has been handed down after the student received his or her acceptance letter.

Above all, universities will not rescind your application because they later decided to make room for other applicants, or because they simply changed their minds. Rescinding an acceptance to school without good cause is very much frowned upon in higher education. So if you haven’t seen a significant drop in your late high school grades, haven’t cheated or been accused of cheating, and haven’t been convicted of a serious crime, you don’t need to worry about losing the acceptance you’ve been granted.

If a college has rescinded your acceptance or if it looks like it might happen, there are steps you can take to possibly still get accepted. In my next post on this subject, we’ll look at what you can do if your acceptance into college has been reversed…. and what you can do to prevent this from happening, if it’s starting to look like a possibility.

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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