Vaguely defined rescission standards create unnecessary stress for seniors

January 30, 2019 — by David Koh & Victor Liu

The second semester of senior year is a time when all the buzz of college apps, standardized testing and academic rigor slow down as many seniors anticipate upcoming college admissions decisions, revel in acceptances and anticipate living a life outside of the parents’ home. However, despite the seemingly carefree nature of this time, some seniors worry they will be rescinded from the colleges they’ve been accepted to if they relax too much or otherwise mess up.

Colleges reserve the right to rescind accepted students later in the spring for a couple of reasons: if they discover that the student lied on their application to the college, if the student runs into trouble with the law and perhaps what would be most applicable to Saratoga students, if they feel that the student has not maintained their academic performances after first semester.

All three reasons colleges might have for rescission are valid — most colleges probably wouldn’t want compulsive liars or convicted felons walking on campus — but while the first two reasons are pretty self-explanatory, that third criteria for rescission isn’t so clear. And to make matters worse, what constitutes as a dip in academic performance that warrants a rescission differs from school to school.

Although some colleges explicitly tell students the specific criteria for rescission — for example, they may say that admitted students must maintain a GPA above a certain baseline — students are more or less left in the dark on rescission policies for the vast majority of colleges.

Most colleges just tell students that they cannot have a “serious deterioration” in grades, but that’s still incredibly vague. A serious deterioration can mean anything from barely passing a class with a borderline C grade or earning B’s in second semester after getting A’s first semester.

Schools such as MIT and Columbia University have allegedly already sent out warning letters to those with just one or two B’s in their second semester, and Columbia is one of those schools with a vaguely defined criteria for rescission. They write on their website that “Columbia reserves the right to withdraw that offer of admission if ... the candidate shows a significant drop in academic performance,” but what a “significant drop” entails isn’t clarified.

This lack of communication coupled with senioritis translates to passive aggressive warning emails and threats of rescission while students don’t know how to prevent them from being sent to their inboxes.

For students who get into top colleges through Early Decision, which means they have to attend the school come fall, a rescission is much more devastating. Because they’re locked into just one school, they have no options left if their only choice decides to revoke an acceptance letter. Students are committed to attend colleges if accepted, but colleges can arbitrarily decide to rescind acceptances, leaving the student with no other alternatives.

And schools have been guilty of crushing student dreams with rescissions, for reasons that are as bogus as they are arbitrary. In 2017, the University of California, Irvine, notified some students that they were rescinded in July, just two months before the school year formally started. Although the school cited poor grades and incomplete forms as grounds for rescission, many quickly accused the school of using rescission as a tool to free up space in an overenrolled incoming class.

Of course, students can always strive to get all A’s in their last high school semester, but this time should be spent connecting with friends, learning to cook, drive and other valuable skills that students will inevitably need once they leave their homes for college. A senior who ends second semester with a sub-2.0 GPA and failing grades in their classes probably can’t defend themselves when they receive their rescission notice, but someone who gets one or two B’s shouldn’t be put into the same predicament.