Can Colleges Revoke Admission After Acceptance?

October 11, 2023

college revoke acceptance after admission

Deciding upon and getting into college is such a long, all-consuming process that when you finally receive your acceptance it can feel a bit surreal. A college acceptance can bring about all sorts of emotions. Joy, of course, but also anxiety and doubt. Many of us experience “imposter syndrome” following an acceptance. Did they really mean to accept me? Was this a mistake? And it leads us to the subject of this article, a question that you will very likely find yourself asking. Can colleges revoke admission after acceptance? Or even, once you’ve decided on your school and put down your deposit, can colleges revoke acceptance after deposit?

The answer to both of these questions is yes. Colleges do have the right to revoke an admission offer. This contingency is often written into the acceptance letter. Colleges take their admissions decisions seriously, though, and they try to avoid revoking acceptances at all costs.

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Until 2009, the National Association for College Admission Counseling collected data on revoked admissions offers. (This is the most recent data available.) In 2009, 22% of colleges reported that they had revoked an offer of admission in the past year. 2/3 of these revocations were due to poor senior year grades. Colleges also cited disciplinary issues and false information on applications as reasons for revocations.

Can Colleges Revoke Acceptance After Deposit — Reason #1: Drop in Grades

Getting into a college of your choice is a big relief. Once you’ve accomplished this, it’s natural to take the pedal off the metal. And letting up to some extent is completely okay. We’ve all heard of senioritis, and the end of high school is an important developmental period. It is a time when we are preparing to live apart from our families and form new, intentional social groups. Colleges most likely won’t pester you if your grades fall from straight A’s to B’s. Dropping from A’s down into the C-minus, D or F range, however, will likely raise eyebrows. It’s important to remember that a “bad grade” is relative.

Whether you have already been accepted or are awaiting a decision, colleges will require the submission of a mid-year report. This is how they might become aware of a grade drop post-acceptance. A mid-year report consists of an updated GPA, transcript, and class rank (if applicable). Deadlines for submitting a mid-year report are generally around the beginning of February. So, the mid-year report allows colleges to see whether you have kept up with your academics in the half-year since submitting your application. This can either be a boon to your application (if you are on the waitlist or have not yet received a decision) or a detriment.

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If a college does take notice of a sizable drop in your grades to the extent that your acceptance might be at risk, they will generally send a warning. This is an important opportunity to explain your situation. You should affirm your commitment to the college, and ask what you can do to protect your admissions offer. No matter the reasons for your drop in grades, you should reply to college with a sincere explanation and a detailed course of action for how you plan to get back on track.

Can Colleges Revoke Acceptance After Deposit — Reason #2: Disciplinary Issues

Another reason that a college could revoke your offer of admission is due to disciplinary issues. This could mean criminal activity or an arrest. It could also mean a school suspension or expulsion or any other disciplinary infraction that the college becomes aware of. An infraction will likely trigger an automatic review of your application.

Plagiarism is one infraction that colleges take very seriously. Plagiarizing or cheating during high school, even as you’re coasting through senior year, could put your admissions offer in jeopardy. These shortcuts can be harder to avoid when “senioritis” kicks in and the stakes appear to have diminished. It’s important, however, to keep up your study habits so that the transition to college will be smooth. There will still be time to enjoy your senior year, especially if you can resist the urge to procrastinate. Teachers and superintendents are aware of the deserved sense of accomplishment and relief that comes with finishing high school. They will often build ways of enjoying this into the curriculum.

Can Colleges Revoke Acceptance After Deposit — Reason #3: Offensive Behavior

Related to disciplinary infractions, but potentially more ambiguous, a college can rescind an acceptance if they become aware of offensive behavior that goes against their values. This behavior might have occurred entirely outside of school. In a well-documented case from 2017, for example, Harvard University revoked admissions offers to at least ten prospective students in response to racist and sexually offensive messages shared in a Facebook group. In 2020, amidst protests following the murder of George Floyd, revoked acceptances again made it into the news. At least a dozen schools rescinded acceptances in response to racist social media posts.

Colleges do not always check their applicants’ social media accounts, but it is not an uncommon practice. According to a Kaplan Test Prep survey from 2018, 29% of admissions officers said they have done this. This percentage is down from a high water mark of 40% in a 2015 study by Kaplan. It should also be noted that colleges will not rescind an admissions offer due to run-of-the-mill social media posts. When this has happened in the past, the social media posts in question have generally been quite egregious.

Can Colleges Revoke Acceptance After Deposit — Reason #4: Falsifying Information

Another reason that the answer to the question “can colleges revoke admission” is yes, is that students occasionally falsify information in their applications. If this is the case, it is well within the college’s rights to rescind their admissions offer. On one hand, falsifying information could consist of literally submitting information that is fake. This could mean forged test scores or transcripts or even letters of recommendation. On the other hand, it could also mean the omission of information that the school should know about. For instance, if you have been subject to disciplinary measures in high school there will generally be a place on the application where you are required to make this known. Completion of the Common App includes signing a clause that states that the information you’ve provided is truthful.

Can Colleges Revoke Acceptance After Deposit — Reason #5: Dishonoring an Early Decision Commitment or Failing to Submit a Deposit on Time

A final reason that a college could potentially rescind your offer of admission is in response to a dishonored commitment. Early decision applications are binding (though not legally). If you apply early decision to a college and are accepted, then you are required to attend that college. Early decision acceptance rates are often higher than those early action, regular decision and rolling admissions, all of which are non-binding. This is because applying early decision demonstrates interest and commitment to the college. It also offers the college a sense of stability regarding the number of students that are guaranteed to enroll.

For the above reasons, you are only allowed to apply to one school early decision. Applying to multiple schools early decision could result in your admissions offer being revoked. College admissions is a smaller world than you might imagine. It is likely that students applying early decision to multiple schools will be caught. Many of the top schools regularly share lists of early decision applicants. And if you are caught there could be repercussions beyond merely the schools in question.

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When you are accepted to a school early decision, you will be expected to commit to that school and submit your deposit within a relatively short period of time. You will also be expected to reject any offers that you might have received from other schools. Failing to honor either of these agreements could result in your admissions offer being revoked. In regards to other acceptances, it is also important to commit to the school of your choosing and submit your deposit by their deadline. If you fail to do this your spot may be released to a student on the waitlist.

Can Colleges Revoke Admission after Acceptance (Final Thoughts)

So, as you’ve seen here, the answer to the question “can colleges revoke admission?” is clearly a “yes.” This shouldn’t be a cause for concern, though. It’s not a reason to minimize your accomplishment or diminish the sense of relief. The school did not make a mistake in accepting you. Your offer of admission is real and well-earned. It doesn’t mean, however, that anything goes now. It doesn’t mean you can throw responsibility to the wind.

The most of important takeaway of this article “Can Colleges Revoke Admission after Acceptance?” is to be honest and proactive. If a situation arises that legitimately puts you at risk of having your acceptance revoked, you should be the one to reach out and assure the school that you are taking all necessary steps to right the ship. When dealing with admissions departments you are dealing with real humans. After selecting you for admission, they will want to be on your side. If you are honest and proactive, it will allow them to fight for you.