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How to remove a school record?
January 5, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Can I remove a college from my record which I attended for a semester and then failed out of? I didn't earn any transferable credits, and I don't want it to follow me through graduate school and beyond.

I went to a relatively terrible college right out of high school (99% acceptance rate, no advising, free-for-all), and I realised this a few months in and stopped putting in any effort. I think I must have a C average for the first semester, and then I stopped going without withdrawing properly and failed my second semester (of course I still have to PAY for that second semester, but that's another story). I have now since transferred to a local community college, and though I tried to transfer my previous credits over, only one class succeeded (3 cr.) and I ended up taking the CLEP test for the subject anyway (6 cr., or both semesters). I know I have to legally include that waste of my life when applying to 4-year schools, but I don't want this to carry over into my graduate school applications (I know how they like to see *everything*, and I'm planning on applying to top-tier schools; I just can't have this stain).
I really want to do something about this. Can I call the school and tell them something and have them erase me from their record somehow? Can I stop including that school without anyone noticing? Can I do anything?
I am in the US, and the graduate schools I want to apply to include Oxford, Cornell, Stanford, Brown, etc. This particular college experience had nothing to do with my current performance, and I want to forget it forever!
posted by anonymous to Education (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think they'll know when they see the transcripts and the dates that it had nothing to do with your current performance. It happens much more than you think. I really wouldn't worry.
posted by liketitanic at 11:57 AM on January 5, 2010


This is an honest question, not a rhetorical one, and someone probably has the answer: is there really such a thing as a "permanent record" that schools check when you apply? How would they know, and why would they want to know, about schools you do not choose to list on your application, so long as they know about the schools you do list and like what they see of that performance?

Again, that's really a question. Does anybody know? I just don't know why that stuff would matter to schools, but I don't want to be wrong and have you take my wrong advice.
posted by koeselitz at 12:02 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


It depends what sort of graduate school. I know that for law school, you're required to submit records for all post-high school education. Leaving anything out is considered lying on your application and can be grounds for dismissal from law school. So you'll really have to check the requirements for your specific grad program and the specific schools you want to attend.
posted by decathecting at 12:06 PM on January 5, 2010


You don't say what field you want to go into and this might be relevant. Without this knowledge I'll just say that, as far as I'm concerned, honesty is the best policy. There are plenty of people who have had some kind of a blip early on as an undergrad that go on to do graduate work at top schools.
posted by ob at 12:11 PM on January 5, 2010


Can I call the school and tell them something and have them erase me from their record somehow?
It depends on the school. Some schools will retroactively withdraw you and some won't. It can't hurt you to call them and ask. It might help if you have some sort of documented explanation, like medical problems or some sort of family emergency.

I don't think it's necessarily going to be a huge stain, fwiw, as long as your subsequent performance makes it clear that you've moved on from whatever issues caused you to do poorly in the past.
posted by craichead at 12:16 PM on January 5, 2010


When I applied to graduate school (top-tier school), I had to include the time I failed out of university. I literally failed out and was asked to leave. After I got my shit together, I attended a community college to take some classes I thought might help me get back in to my university. When it came time to re-apply, I was able to write an essay explaining how I failed out and what steps I took to make sure it didn't happen again. I was accepted again and ended up staying on the Dean's list (4.0 average) for the next two years and graduated with honors.

So when I applied to graduate school, they saw what happened and how I turned it around, and I was able again to include that learning experience on my application essay. I was accepted and lived happily ever after.

My point is that they'll see what happened, how you turned things around, and you can use the essay to turn the whole thing into a learning experience.

One more thing: don't think of that period as a "waste" of your life. It wasn't. You learned valuable things about yourself, things you may not have learned had you not failed.
posted by cooker girl at 12:18 PM on January 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Same here. I failed out of a four year school. Went home got my act together, got my BA. Applied to grad school, I'm months from my PhD at my first choice grad program.

They see this sort of thing all of the time. How you did in your first school is not nearly so important as how you reacted and how well you did subsequently.

Furthermore, some schools will include all of your academic history in your transcript. My grad school transcript includes my grades from community college.
posted by oddman at 2:06 PM on January 5, 2010


My point is that they'll see what happened, how you turned things around, and you can use the essay to turn the whole thing into a learning experience.

Yes. There are a lot of grad departments who actually like this kind of thing, it shows character and willing. Of course, we still don't know the field and I can imagine that law or MBA programmes etc. might be different.
posted by ob at 3:18 PM on January 5, 2010


The National Student Clearinghouse would be why I would wary of unilaterally dropping the school from your record. I would suggest poking around there to see what info they have on you or the school or both.

Also, since you did transfer over credits to your CC, there's a record coming from there. You should check and see what kind of format that will take.

I would agree with the idea to attempt to erase yourself from the school's records by contacting them first rather than by 'forgetting' to include them in grad school apps.
posted by librarylis at 4:34 PM on January 5, 2010


follow-up from the OP
Thanks everyone for your responses so far. For the record, I am planning on applying in the humanities, not an MBA or law. I will make sure to find out if the schools will end up needing all my records. I also see how it could possibly work to my advantage to have those old grades on my record, but it DOES cost me $10 every time I request my transcript from that school, and I don't like to take up space on applications trying to explain bad grades, when there are many other applicants who will look a lot better.

Do you have any recommendations as to what I should specifically ask my old school that would make them more likely to want to let me withdraw? I'm predicting that I will have to hassle my way through incompetent work-study students on the phones, then talk to similarly incompetent people who won't even know where to direct my question...
posted by jessamyn at 5:32 PM on January 5, 2010


I know I have to legally include that waste of my life when applying to 4-year schools, but I don't want this to carry over into my graduate school applications (I know how they like to see *everything*, and I'm planning on applying to top-tier schools; I just can't have this stain).

Respectfully, you're jumping the gun, here. Concentrate on doing well in your community college and doing well in your four-year school. If you can show that you've been a stellar student at those two institutions, you won't need to worry about graduate school.

This is an honest question, not a rhetorical one, and someone probably has the answer: is there really such a thing as a "permanent record" that schools check when you apply? How would they know, and why would they want to know, about schools you do not choose to list on your application, so long as they know about the schools you do list and like what they see of that performance?

Again, that's really a question. Does anybody know? I just don't know why that stuff would matter to schools, but I don't want to be wrong and have you take my wrong advice.


Having worked in college advisement as an undergrad, I can say that if you've transferred credits from one institution to the next, as OP has, it shows them as transfer credits and the transcripts includes information on previous institutions attended. It's possible that, if you never request credits to transfer, et cetera, you could just flat-out lie, but that's pretty unethical, if you ask me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:48 PM on January 5, 2010


Thanks everyone for your responses so far. For the record, I am planning on applying in the humanities, not an MBA or law. I will make sure to find out if the schools will end up needing all my records. I also see how it could possibly work to my advantage to have those old grades on my record, but it DOES cost me $10 every time I request my transcript from that school, and I don't like to take up space on applications trying to explain bad grades, when there are many other applicants who will look a lot better.

I can almost guarantee that you'll have to suck it up. I had to pay to have records from a community college I attended for honors classes in 8th grade forwarded when I applied to MFA programs; Mr. WanKenobi just got done applying to history programs (with a record similar to yours, but for different reasons) and even the Ivies wanted to see all of his records when he asked.

You need to be able to spin this as a learning experience, either about yourself or your academic goals. Don't look at it as wasted space: look at it as an opportunity to illustrate how you might know yourself better than students who haven't been through what you've been through.

Do you have any recommendations as to what I should specifically ask my old school that would make them more likely to want to let me withdraw? I'm predicting that I will have to hassle my way through incompetent work-study students on the phones, then talk to similarly incompetent people who won't even know where to direct my question...

Find the advisement office, or the office of student affairs. You'll have the best chances of withdrawing retroactively if you had some health issue (mental or physical) come up, or some other significant hardship. If it boils down to "I stopped going and didn't withdraw because I forget," your chances are less good.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:54 PM on January 5, 2010


If you lie, and get into grad school, and they find out about it, they will almost certainly kick you out and you will not be able to get into another school again.

It might be possible to get your old school to change your grades retroactively. Many colleges have policies like that. It never hurts to ask.

I personally had a few bad grades on my transcript and they were changed retroactively, but I still had to provide that transcript to all of the grad schools I applied to.

You need to provide transcripts from all of the schools you attended. There is no way around this.
posted by twblalock at 5:56 PM on January 5, 2010


I applied to law school, not grad school, and law schools all go through an organizing board that collects all the application info. When I submitted my transcripts and materials, I completely forgot to include info on a dual-credit community college class I took in high school. They sent me a letter and said I needed to submit a transcript from the community college.
So, if grad school is anything like law school, they will find out you went to the school.
posted by ishotjr at 6:13 PM on January 5, 2010


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