After spending a great deal of time and energy preparing applications, collecting materials, drafting essays, submitting applications, and finally getting your admissions decisions, many students find themselves wondering if anything could go wrong and if their admissions decisions could be rescinded, revoked, or changed after they’ve been admitted. The short answer is that yes, it is possible for offers of admissions to be revoked. However, this is a fairly rare occurrence, and when it does happen it always happens for one of several reasons that are easy to avoid.
When you are admitted to a college or university, that offer of admission is provisional pending the completion of your high school degree. Once you officially enroll at a college or university, then you become an enrolled student. As an enrolled student, there are certain actions that might lead to you being suspended or expelled from college, and these are often the same reasons that students might have their offer of admissions revoked before becoming an enrolled student.
Reason 1: You Violate an Early Decision Agreement
The most common reason admissions decisions are revoked or rescinded
By a large margin, the most common reason that students’ admissions decisions are revoked is because that student is in violation of their early decision agreement (ED agreement) that they’ve signed with another school. When you apply as an early decision applicant, you, your parents, and your school counselor all sign an early decision agreement that states that if you are admitted to that school, you will attend. This is a legally-binding agreement that you should only sign after careful consideration and consultation with your parents, school counselor, and your admissions consultant. There are some instances where it might not be possible for you to attend that school after all, but in those cases you must ask for, and be granted, a release from your early decision agreement by the school where you were admitted. You can’t decide on your own that you can’t attend, you must make a case to be released from your binding agreement and your school must agree to it. Almost always, this is because of unexpected financial complications that make the cost of attendance prohibitive. If you were admitted to a school through a binding early decision, then congratulations! That is the school where you will be attending college. Your early decision agreement states clearly that if you are admitted through early decision, you must withdraw your applications from the other schools where you have applied and have pending decisions. If you don’t withdraw your applications from these schools, then it is possible that you may be admitted to them. However, you cannot attend these other schools, because you have agreed to attend the school that admitted you ED. These new offers of admission are in violation of the early decision agreement that you signed with the school where you were admitted ED, and therefore those offers of admissions have the potential to be revoked, and likely will be. This is by far the most common reason that students’ offers of admission are revoked – when a school that admitted you finds out you were admitted ED somewhere else, they will revoke your offer of admission. The easiest way to avoid this is to withdraw pending applications once you are admitted ED, as your agreement requires, or successfully request to be released from your ED agreement.
Reason 2: You Commit a Crime, Break the Law, or Have a Disciplinary Incident at School
Any illegal behavior or disciplinary incidents at school can lead to expulsion or your offer of admission being withdrawn
The next most common reason your offer of admission could be revoked is because you committed a serious offense, like plagiarism or breaking major school rules, or criminal conduct and other illegal activity. Suspensions and expulsions from your high school will be reported to colleges and could likely lead to your offer of admission being revoked or rescinded. A good rule of thumb is to think that any incident that would lead to your expulsion if you were an enrolled student will also lead to your offer of admission being revoked. Very serious offenses, especially those involving law enforcement, often will lead to your offer of admission being revoked in all cases. Other types of incidents that are more minor, such as in-school suspensions and misdemeanors, can also be grounds for your offer of admission to be revoked, but will likely be decided on a case-by-case basis once your college learns of the incident. When you apply, you will be asked whether you have been convicted of a crime or have received a disciplinary infraction at school. If your answer to that question changes because of something you do after you submit your application, then your application status would change as a result. In some instances, you may be able to submit an explanation to your college for their consideration. However, of course the best option is to avoid committing any sort of crime or disciplinary issue in school. Especially common is the issue of plagiarism or cheating in a senior year class after you’ve already applied to colleges. In any and every instance, this short-term advantage is just not worth it. Colleges won’t rescind your offer of admissions for a minor dip in grades, but they absolutely will if you cheat on a test or plagiarize a paper, so be smart and thoughtful as you continue in your senior year classes.
Reason 3: Your Academic Performance Suffers
This is the most common cause for concern from students about their offer of admission
After working hard throughout high school to achieve great grades and gain admission to college, students might wonder if a change in their grades or academic schedule could undo all their hard work. Though rare, colleges do rescind offers of admissions based on academic performance. However, these are often situations where a student’s academic performance is drastically different than how they presented it on their applications. For example, if you drop out of high school entirely after being admitted to college, stop showing up to class, or withdraw from all of your classes, colleges will likely rescind your offer of admission. If you were a strong student who had never failed a class before and finish senior year with multiple failed classes, colleges will likely reconsider your offer of admission. If you took very rigorous classes and then switched into the easiest classes at your high school right after being admitted, colleges will also likely reconsider your offer of admission. However, if you were a straight A student who will end senior year with a few B’s (for example), or decided to switch out of one class because it is too difficult, your offer of admission will likely not be affected. When considering scheduling changes, it never hurts to ask the college where you have been admitted if they would allow that change. In other words, once admitted, you should run any major changes to your schedule by the college that admitted you.
Reason 4: You Lie on your Application
This situation is very straightforward
This one is self-explanatory – If you’ve made a material misrepresentation on your application and the college that admitted you finds out about it, they will rescind or revoke your offer of admission. This might include misrepresenting your race or ethnicity, lying about your grades, taking credit for work done by others, falsifying documents or materials, or anything else that would constitute a material misrepresentation.
College Admissions Decisions Can be Revoked, but it is Rare
In short, it is indeed possible for your offer of admission to be revoked by a college. However, it is rare, and never an arbitrary decision. You will in almost all instances be given a chance to explain what happened and demonstrate remorse and having grown from the experience. While possible, having your admissions decision rescinded is a situation that is very easy to avoid if you continue to behave inside and outside of the classroom in the way you did before being admitted.
Almost all of the things that can lead to your offer of admission being revoked – lying on official university documents, plagiarism, committing a crime, dropping out of or failing multiple classes, etc – would also lead to your expulsion from that college as well. If incidents do occur, it is best for you to be honest and upfront with your college and offer an explanation about what happened. And when in doubt, you can always as your admissions consultant for help in deciding what to do.