The long admission process is over. The SAT or ACT test is done, the college visits are over, the admission essay is written, the applications are sent. Even the long wait is over. Your student has his acceptance letter in hand and can finally breathe a sigh of relief and let senioritis set in. But wait! That might not be a very good idea. Although colleges never like to do it, and thankfully don’t have to do it very often, it is possible for a college to revoke or rescind its offer of admission after the letter of acceptance has been sent.
If your student reads her acceptance letter carefully, it probably says that admission is “contingent on the successful completion of the final year of high school” or language to that effect. Your student has been accepted with the assumption that she will maintain something close to the level of accomplishment that got her into the college in the first place. The college will want to receive her diploma and her final senior grades to confirm acceptance. Unfortunately, some students stop reading their acceptance letter after the “Congratulations” part, and fail to notice or remember the “successful completion” part.
The reality is that most students, in spite of an inevitable bout of senioritis, do complete their senior year successfully, and they happily, if a bit nervously, head off to college the following fall. But a small percentage of students may find themselves having to explain themselves to the college, and perhaps even negotiating being allowed to attend. According to a 2008 report on the State of College Admissions by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, approximately 35% of colleges said that they had revoked admission for students in 2007. With record numbers of applicants and long waiting lists at many schools, colleges may be less willing to gamble on a student who has slipped considerably.
What will cause a college to revoke admission?
Most colleges will not revoke a student’s admission for a slight slip in grades. An “A” student who receives a few “B’s” during senior year or a “B” student with a single “C” probably shouldn’t worry. But a student whose grades suddenly plummet may be asked to explain himself. Typically, a significant change is worth noting. If there are extenuating circumstances such as an extended illness or difficult family situation, the student will need to explain that, and perhaps document it.
There are other reasons that a college might consider rescinding its offer of admission. If a student has been suspended or arrested, has been dishonest on her application, has double deposited at more than one school, has failed to graduate, or has suddenly stopped taking any challenging courses, she might expect to hear from the school.
Students whose admission is in jeopardy may first learn of it by phone. They will probably receive a letter asking them to explain the reasons surrounding their performance or other situation. According to one Dean of Admissions, “saying ‘I don’t know what happened’ is not going to be a good enough explanation.” Your student should be prepared to give a clear explanation with no excuses involved. He should admit to any mistakes or lack of effort, take responsibility, share what he has learned from the experience and be clear about the remedy. The college evaluated your student carefully before accepting him and doesn’t want to lose him, but the school does want to be assured that he is prepared to take on the work of college – both in his ability and in his attitude.
Unfortunately, because colleges need to receive and evaluate high school diplomas and final grades for many accepted students, your student may not receive word from his college about being in jeopardy until late in the summer. This may not allow him much time to make alternative plans. If your student knows that something happened that may put him in a precarious situation, he may want to be proactive and speak with an admissions counselor earlier. Supplying any supporting documentation will help.
What happens if acceptance is revoked?
If your student receives notification that his admission is in jeopardy, he should respond to the college as quickly as possible. He may be asked to send a letter to explain what happened. Depending on the situation and the explanation, he may be admitted anyway. He may be admitted to the college on probation, in which case he will need to prove himself by earning good grades during his first semester. If your student was admitted to an honors program, he may not be allowed to continue in that program. In some cases, your student may be asked to take some courses at a local community college for a semester, earn good grades, and then reapply for transfer later. Your student may be asked to take a gap year to gain and demonstrate more maturity before coming to the college. In some cases, your student may be told that he will simply not be allowed to attend the college.
The reality is that very few students will receive notification that their acceptance to college has been revoked or rescinded. Colleges understand senioritis, and they expect that there may be some changes during the senior year. However, colleges expect that your student will maintain his effort and continue to live up to the potential that they saw in him. Your student should be aware that receipt of that admissions letter is not the final victory. His chosen college has now chosen him, but the college is still watching. A significant change in grades or behavior can have significant consequences.