There is a time period between the winter months of college application deadlines and the spring months when colleges send out response letters that has become a tense countdown, resulting in expressive displays of elation, satisfaction, or even bitterness.
Many students view this unofficial season of waiting as a long road with a definitive conclusion: a “yes” or “no” answer (and sometimes a “maybe” in the case of deferrals and wait lists). But regardless of the outcome, a student’s college career truly begins with the first day of classes, and what many applicants forget is that their remaining high school grades can affect their newly budding relationship with the college or university they plan to attend.
The 2009 State of College Admission Report states that during the Fall 2008 admission cycle, 21 percent of colleges reported that they had revoked an admission offer, compared to 35 percent in 2007. The average number of offers that were revoked was 10. The most common reason that colleges indicated for rescinding admission offers was final grades (65 percent), followed by disciplinary issues (35 percent) and falsification of application information (29 percent). Public colleges were more likely than private colleges to have rescinded an offer of admission due to final grades (84 percent versus 49 percent). More selective colleges were more likely to have revoked an offer of admission for disciplinary reasons.
Because students have worked so hard to receive a congratulatory letter in the mail, they find it challenging to focus on the remaining months of their senior year once the application process is complete. The condition playfully termed “senioritis” usually begins with the receipt of an acceptance letter and can worsen until grades fall, reflecting behavioral patterns that raise red flags and cause admission offices to reevaluate their previous offer.
Colleges and universities often offer chances of forgiveness before rescinding an admission letter, realizing that senioritis can be an unfortunate side effect of the nature of college admission and the unavoidable emphasis placed on the three and a half years before acceptance letters are sent. But not all cases can be fixed, and formerly admitted students are sometimes rejected from colleges around the country.
A broad range of institutions participated in The NACAC Admission Trends Survey. Colleges were categorized by enrollment numbers, selectivity rates, yield rates, and public or private status. It was clear that final grades accounted for the most prevalent reason for the revocations, but the survey also found that highly selective institutions are not the only ones enforcing this policy.
Many students would assume that Ivy League institutions and other highly competitive colleges would require the same level of performance throughout the school year. But the survey revealed that selectivity did not have a significant impact on the likelihood of a college rejecting an admission offer because of falling grades.
According to the research
, the majority of colleges (74 percent) that accept between 50-70 percent of applicants rejected admission because of final grades. The colleges with higher admission rates (71 percent and higher) as well as the most selective (accepting fewer than 50 percent) said grades were the reason for revoking admission 64 percent of the time.
That means that the potential for admission rejection due to final grades exists at the most selective and least selective colleges. It is also important to note that when looking at the total numbers of revocations (without categorizing the responses into reasons for the decisions), the most selective colleges reported the greatest frequency of rescinded offers. Fifty-seven percent of colleges accepting fewer than 50 percent of applicants confirmed at least one instance of a revoked acceptance.
It is important for students to respect the terms of their acceptance letters and maintain good standing both in and out of the classroom. While grades accounted for the most prevalent reason for revoking an offer, the results of NACAC’s survey highlighted other reasons.
Among the schools that confirmed instances of rescinded admissions, 27 percent said they acted because of falsified application information, and 25 percent said disciplinary issues were to blame. The survey also found that 2.3 percent denied enrollment because multiple deposits were placed.
Based on data gathered from NACAC’s survey, disciplinary actions seem to raise more red flags for private institutions
. For the Fall 2007 Admission Cycle, only 13 percent of public schools said disciplinary issues contributed to instances of rejecting student enrollment, compared to 33 percent of private schools. The rate was also higher for the highly selective institutions (accepting fewer than 50 percent) at 45 percent, compared to 22 percent and under for schools accepting at least 50 percent of applicants.
In addition to surveying colleges about their actual cases of rescinded admission, NACAC gathered data on the weight institutions place on various types of disciplinary actions. Asked to rate the emphasis they placed on violence
, drug-related offenses
, underage drinking, truancy
, and inappropriate Web site posting
, the institutions submitted answers of “very likely,” “somewhat likely,” “somewhat unlikely,” and “very unlikely.”
Overall, violence, cheating, drug offenses, and theft yielded the most “very likely” answers. But, as in the previous query, a sharp contrast can be seen between private and public schools. The biggest disparities fell under the violence and theft categories. Thirty-four percent of private institutions said they would very likely reject an admission because of theft, compared to 9 percent of public institutions. And 57 percent of private schools answered very likely to the violence category, compared to 35 percent of public schools. Highly selective colleges were also the most likely to retract an admission letter for any of the disciplinary reasons.
Sample College Statements on Revoking Admission Offers
University of Michigan
What if I get a case of “senioritis” once I get accepted?
A case of senioritis can have serious repercussions. All students are required to send the Office of Undergraduate Admissions their official final high school transcript with proof of graduation, all of which are reviewed for declining grade trends. If there is a serious, decisive and obvious slump, the office can and will revoke its offer of admission.
Hiram College reserves the right to revoke offers of admission to students who do not successfully complete their final semester(s) of enrollment following the offer of admission or whose level of academic achievement varies significantly from their record at the time of the offer of admission. Students who have been admitted to the College are required to pay a non-refundable financial deposit and submit written intent of their desire to accept their offers of admission by deadlines given to them at the time of the offer of admission. Failure to do so may result in the revocation of the offer of admission without notice.
Read about how to prevent a revoked admission offer in Tips for Avoiding Senioritis.
Written by Sean Nyhan
Updated February 2012
Back to: Guidance for Seniors