Getting rescinded from college?
January 24, 2020 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Do competitive colleges really rescind students for dropping classes in their last semester of high school?

The college in question does not give credit for the classes that were dropped. The student is is still taking many challenging classes.

The college contacted the student’s high school and informed them that the college “knew” that the student had dropped classes, and requested the student’s most recent grades. No worries there - the grades were excellent, and the classes were what the student had put on their application. The college has not yet said the student will be rescinded. However, the student is obviously worried.

An acquaintance of the student apparently took the liberty of informing the college of the dropped classes. Out of jealousy? Injured ego? Who knows???

The student, we feel, is being harassed by this jealous and resentful acquaintance. This acquaintance had bragged that they were applying as “first gen” even though both parents have PhD’s in a professional field. This whole situation is absolutely mind boggling.

The high school has said it is first time they have encountered this situation, ever. They are aghast, as they had told the student it was fine to drop classes, and that it was no big deal to do so.

What can the student expect from the college admissions office, going forward? How much does it matter that the high school advised the student that it was fine to drop classes? How much does it matter that the student is being bullied?
posted by GliblyKronor to Education (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will the student still graduate high school? I had to leave my senior year of high school a quarter early and start community college courses to secure my Social Security for my 4 years of college. (My father was retired and the Reagan administration had just instituted a rule change.) When I contacted the elite college that I had been accepted to, all that mattered to them was if my high school was issuing my diploma and marking me as graduated on my official transcript. They were, so I started classes in the fall at elite college.
posted by hworth at 10:09 PM on January 24, 2020

Yes, the student will definitely graduate.
posted by GliblyKronor at 10:18 PM on January 24, 2020

What do you mean by "rescind"? Did they already get an offer letter to attend and you're worried they'll rescind that offer? I personally think that you're borrowing trouble by letting this occupy your and your student's headspace. Until the admissions office says something to you/your student, there's nothing you can reasonably do to address the situation with them, and I'm unclear what you're hoping for with the answers to your questions. The admissions process for most colleges is deliberately opaque, so I don't think that there's anything like a one-size-fits-all answer here in any case.

The bullying from the acquaintance is possibly addressable, though I don't have any particular insight into what to do about that.
posted by Aleyn at 10:20 PM on January 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Call the college’s admissions office yourself and make absolutely sure that this is actually happening. If this acquaintance is nasty enough to potentially contact a college about someone else’s dropped classes, they may be attempting to terrorize the student with fake calls/letters to the high school. Anyone with reasonable Microsoft Office skills can fake a letterhead.
posted by corey flood at 10:55 PM on January 24, 2020 [30 favorites]

What Corey flood said. This sounds very, very fake to me.
posted by augustimagination at 10:59 PM on January 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is an active thread on this on College Confidential that should help bring you up to speed on what is expected by colleges nowadays. Sally is an expert and she is adamant that colleges need to be notified about schedule changes so that applications are not misrepresentations. I don't really understand what you mean when you say "the classes were what the student had put on their application"-- did the student drop before applying, and leave them off the application?

I say this not to make you worry, but to encourage you to treat this as a real error that needs to be fixed, regardless of the unhinged behavior of the other student. If the classes were on the application, the student should write to the college with an update. Leave emotion and the other student out of it. I definitely wouldn't expect a student to be rescinded in this scenario-- that's mostly reserved for major grade slips (I'm talking Ds or Fs) or major disciplinary/criminal problems. And students usually get a chance to explain themselves-- I would CERTAINLY expect that in a situation as minor as this. If the classes weren't on the application... well that's just silly.

Due to the unusual circumstances the student should probably work with the counselor on what to do next. It sounds like the school hasn't contacted the student yet. I don't disagree with the advice about checking that this is real but... the student SHOULD have contacted the college if the dropped classes were on the application. It could be a legitimate issue. So who knows. And the student should be the one contacting the school, not the parent!!
posted by acidic at 11:09 PM on January 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

This story is somewhat weird to me. It's not that a student who suddenly drops a significant part of their courseload second semester senior year couldn't raise eyebrows, it's that in this specific case the college is said to have gone to the high school first, rather than asking the student to have the high school send an update, or even communicating with both about the issue simultaneously. Also, how would the identity of the supposed snitch get out? The college certainly wouldn't say anything of the sort, so is this kid bragging about it, or what?

Five years ago I wouldn't have even believed that a college would bother following up on a random tip from a random classmate about dropping classes. Colleges are likely to be extra-sensitive these days about anything that might seem to be application fraud, but something still doesn't quite add up here. Proceed with caution. If we're not actually talking someone who dropped 5 AP classes, as you indicate we're not, even if there's not more to the story (impersonation sounds insane, for instance, but we are talking about teenagers here), I think it very unlikely that the student's admission (is he actually admitted? a little early for competitive schools unless he's early action/decision) is likely to be rescinded unless he does something stupid out of panic like lying, or going after the supposed snitch. If the college asks for information, provide it, concisely but honestly. Without knowing how significant the change in courseload it's hard to say whether the student had a moral duty to inform (dropping 1 of 6, probably not, dropping half his courses, probably), but it doesn't sound like there was an intention to mislead, so he should act like someone with a good conscience.
posted by praemunire at 11:47 PM on January 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I worked in the fundraising office of a public university and heard from at least one angry parent whose child's acceptance was rescinded after dropping classes for mental health reasons. I don't know any other details of the situation, though, and whether it matches with yours.
posted by HeroZero at 2:44 AM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

My child is the student.

Student has already been admitted early. The college emailed the counselor to say they had received an email about the dropped classes and requested information from the counselor, which the counselor sent. They are supposed to talk soon. I will ask the counselor to make sure they themselves call a number from the school’s website to make sure the counselor is really talking to the admissions office.

The college does not offer credit for the classes dropped and the classes are not required for graduation. Student is still taking a very challenging course load by any reasonable standard.

The college has not reached out the student.

The college has not said who the anonymous tipster is, or if they even know the identity. However, the acquaintance has made several very specific and pointed comments to the student, so we can guess their identity. The student would never make accusations or retaliate because there is no proof. Furthermore, the acquaintance comes from a family of significant means, and we do not.

Having browsed the college confidential link, I now understand how big a deal dropping classes is, and that the student should have sought permission from the college first. However, the high school had told her it was not big deal, that graduating seniors do it all the time and it’s never been a problem.

There was no intention to mislead on the part of the student. The classes that the student put on their application for fall semester of senior year, are the classes that appear on their transcript. Grades are excellent. Student would not have received college credits for the classes that were dropped.

Student has not misrepresented himself at any point, nor had any intention to mislead. Student is behaving as someone with a good conscience because the student has absolutely nothing to hide at all.

That said, this situation is surreal. Student withdrew applications to all other schools after being admitted to this college, so there is no backup, and it’s too late to apply elsewhere. To think that some jealous acquaintance has made it a goal to ruin the student’s life, and that the college is taking it seriously, absolutely horrifies me. Perhaps this is the norm these day, and just another ordinary day at the college admissions office.

I really think that it should all work out fine once the college gets the full story. Still, it’s hard not to worry about the worst case scenario.
posted by GliblyKronor at 5:21 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think anyone's life will be ruined over this. The college is probably just doing its due diligence to check whether this is a case of a student dropping rigorous academic classes because hey, I already got into college, senior slide, or if they just dropped an elective or two to concentrate on the rest of their course load.

Anecdotally, I've read that taking less than the full number of courses possible shouldn't be an issue as long as the ones they do have are sufficiently challenging (because I had a similar moment of OMG is the resident junior shooting herself in the foot by only taking 6 classes instead of 7). This seems like a similar situation.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:15 AM on January 25, 2020

Honestly if the application and the current course load are the same then the school will read the accusations unfounded because well, according to the application nothing has changed. Just wait. It's going to be okay.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:24 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I do think you should explore back up plans just in case. It is not too late to apply elsewhere, February 1st is usually the deadline. So if there were other schools that he considered, preparing to submit applications next week would be my plan. Also, the"rules" about Early Decision are in flux due to fear of Justice Department intervention, so unwithdrawing applications may still be a possibility too.

I would also try to not focus too much on this sneaky other student. The school would have been getting updated final High School transcripts in the summer, and would have eventually learned of this change.

I think the only way this question can be answered is by the college. Planned senior coursework is part of the application. If a student has been on the border of being denied, this type of change could lead to a rescinded acceptance.

Best suggestion is to have him email his admissions counselor, stating the changes he's made and ask for a confirmation by January 31 that it isn't impacting attending. With lots of "I was so excited to be accepted" and "I can't wait to come in the fall"
posted by saffry at 6:30 AM on January 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I would cut out any discussion (even at home) blaming the other student for this misfortune—first, you don’t know it was them; second, being a tattletale is by no means the same thing as being a bully, and what they seem to have tattled to the college is indeed true; third, the person who deserves your anger is not another child but rather whoever advised your kid it was okay to drop the classes and not to tell the college; fourth, some of your comments about this other kid (particularly complaining about them using “first gen” status while coming from an affluent and educated home) are not legitimate complaints and sound like anti-diversity sour grapes, which you should not be passing onto your child; and fifth, none of that solves the actual problem here.

Going further and trying to make this point about “bullying” to the college itself would be a massive mistake. They care about whether what the tattletale said is true, not the fact that the other student is mean, a tattletale, or has educated parents. You would get a lot further if you can document to the college that your student’s counselor or high school administrator said “go ahead and drop those classes, no worries.”

A more creative thought—would the high school, in repayment for their bad advice, let your kid re-enroll in the dropped classes if the college thought that solved the problem?
posted by sallybrown at 6:32 AM on January 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

Sally brown -

I agree on all your points. The blaming of the tattletale is not something we are discussing with anyone; not the counselor, and definitely not the college. It is simply something I and my husband have been privately angry about. We understand that it has no bearing whatsoever on the choices my child made under the advice of the school counselor.

It is absolutely not too late to reenroll in the dropped classes! I have read their district policy and we are well within the time frame.

My child’s grades were excellent all through the fall semester of senior year and we expect that to continue though the spring semester with no issues. Hopefully this just blows over.
posted by GliblyKronor at 7:09 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Student has not misrepresented himself at any point, nor had any intention to mislead.

The college application should have had space for both fall AND spring semester classes. Did the student drop any of those classes? If yes, then that was effectively a misrepresentation, and you should stop saying it wasn't. If no (say if the student dropped the class in September) then this is a total non-issue.
posted by acidic at 7:19 AM on January 25, 2020

It is absolutely not too late to reenroll in the dropped classes! I have read their district policy and we are well within the time frame.

I would consider asking the high school’s point of contact to have a phone call or meeting with the decision-maker at the college and say “I [or Principal Smith, whoever it was] advised Student that it was no issue to drop these classes. There’s still time for Student to pick these classes back up and Student is willing to do so if you think it’s necessary. Student is so excited to attend and doesn’t want to put that in jeopardy. What do you want Student to do?”
posted by sallybrown at 7:26 AM on January 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

Acidic -

The student picked their spring schedule with their safety school in mind, and made changes depending on what school accepted them. Some school accept all AP scores for credit, some accept very few.
posted by GliblyKronor at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2020

Do competitive colleges really rescind students for dropping classes in their last semester of high school?

They sure do, and one of my kids had a similar snafu at an Ivy. I am well familiar with AP classes and credits and all of that.

But your kid's offer hasn't been rescinded, so I am not quite getting the worry or the story about some jealous kid.

Somewhere in the application process or the acceptance letter colleges make it clear the acceptance is based on what the student has told them about the rest of the year and it's often based on consistent academics--all acceptance is ultimately conditional.

I understand that this is anxiety producing and upsetting, but I strongly advise you to step back and take ALL the deep breaths. Competitive school or not, it all works out.

While you do that, have your kid contact the college admissions office AND his guidance counselor and have them get a clarification about their actual admissions standing and have them get something in writing.

Have your kid work this out. They have not had an offer rescinded and they need some clarity.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 7:39 AM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your insight. The fact that there was a tattletale involved is something I will urge my child not to dwell on. My child made the choice to drop classes, no one forced them to do so. They now have to deal with the consequences of that choice and will do so on their own.
posted by GliblyKronor at 7:49 AM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some school accept all AP scores for credit, some accept very few.

Please understand this is not why colleges care about dropped classes, and if this is your kid's explanation to the college, the college will be extremely confused. Colleges like to see AP classes because it demonstrates an ability to handle "college-level" (not really) coursework, intellectual rigor, love of learning, and so forth. Dropping multiple AP classes can be read as: 1) Student can't handle the coursework; or 2) Student is lazy, doesn't care about learning or applying himself now that he's gotten into college. Neither of these are flattering.

I will add that it also depends on the specific classes and college. MIT would be rightly concerned if a student dropped Calculus BC or a hard science. I wouldn't expect many colleges to care too much if a student dropped one of the "lighter" elective-type APs (say, Human Geography) but was still taking plenty of regular APs.
posted by acidic at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

This being Ask, sometimes you get sideways answers, and I want to add this:

The fact that there was a tattletale involved is something I will urge my child not to dwell on.

This isn't a fact at all and indeed, I cannot imagine a college admissions office that chooses to investigate an incoming student's current caseload based on a random phone call where someone is ratting the kid out. I mean, they're pretty busy.

So, now going wider with my response, I would really do some thinking about the choice to accept this entire scenario as the work of a terribly nasty, lying and jealous classmate. That seems to be quite an important concern, because you are stating it's a fact. It is not a fact.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Actually I now think of this series of events as something that was caused by my child not communicating with the college. I don’t think it was anyone else’s fault now that I have had time to think about it

I’m not sure what you mean about the college admissions office being too busy to investigate and that I’m making an assumption about the existence of a tattletale.

The college itself stated that they had received information about the student’s schedule and that was their reason for reaching out to the high school. This is what the high school told us. I think it’s clear that there was a tattletale. But I do not think that is the main concern, because the school would have received final transcripts in any case.

If anything, student is fortunate to be able to deal with this now, while there is still time to make changes if that will satisfy the college.

The existence of the tattletale seems like fact to me, though I agree it is not the central concern any longer.
posted by GliblyKronor at 9:56 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think people are reacting to your description of the first-gen student being "harassing", "bragging", and "has a goal to ruin Student's life out of jealousy".

Another interpretation could be that the first-gen student cares about fairness and justice, and chose to share an accurate update to the college. It is true that your child was not interested in the AP classes for the sake of learning, only for the sake of college credit.

Or perhaps the first gen student casually mentioned it in an interview with the college. Or perhaps a different admin in your high school notified the college. It is interesting that you chose the first gen student to direct your anger toward.

When your negative assumptions about the first-gen student were pointed out to you, you merely said that you would stop focusing on it, not that you would actually re-examine these assumptions.

A commenter above remarked that your view comes across as anti-diversity. You said that you would stop saying this out loud in your home, but not that you would actually re-think your view. I think commenters are hoping that you will re-consider your view.
posted by cheesecake at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

The reason I pointed used the first gen description is because the acquaintance said he was going to use that in their applications, despite the fact that it is not true. The acquaintance is NOT first gen. Both parents are highly educated professionals.

This colored my perception of the acquaintance’s character long ago and made me feel that my child was the victim here. I’ve since come to realize through all the comments that the chain of events were my child’s responsibility. The fact that the acquaintance bragged about planning to claim they were first gen when they are not, is irrelevant.

I’ll have to go back and read my comments, I think I must have been unclear. The acquaintance is NOT first gen.
posted by GliblyKronor at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

[GliblyKronor, just a quick note, it's not customary for OPs in AskMe to respond to most comments; usually we ask that OP responses stick to necessary clarifications but not "rebutting" comments or elaborating on the backstory - you can mark the answers that are most useful to you.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:28 AM on January 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

A family relative is a guidance counselor at a private high school and has advised us about our senior's college applications. My son dropped an AP class after one marking period and our relative advised him to email the colleges that he really wanted to go to and let them know he had dropped it. His own public high school's guidance counselor expressed some surprise at that, but he did it anyway. Our relative has been doing this job for decades and we trust his opinion. He didn't seem to think that it would necessarily impact on acceptance, but was in favor of full transparency. However, no early decision schools have rescinded his acceptance because of the dropped class and they seem unlikely to do and have kept in touch with him since they accepted him.
posted by ceejaytee at 11:31 AM on January 25, 2020

The college application should have had space for both fall AND spring semester classes. Did the student drop any of those classes? If yes, then that was effectively a misrepresentation

When we talk about misrepresentations, we usually consider whether they are material--whether one could reasonably expect them to affect whatever decision is relying on them. In the current atmosphere, full transparency is best and safest, to be sure. But even at the prep school I graduated from, which was cozy enough with the competitive colleges that they found out I got into [Ivy] before I did, I'm not sure they would have previously bothered to update the school if the kid dropped some random elective second semester, especially since the college should be getting the final transcript at the end of the year, so it will be being informed regardless. We don't know the number/weight of classes being dropped, especially in comparison to the rest of the workload, and, yes, I do remember a story of a particular slacker getting their admission rescinded at my school (presumably having ignored our counselors' advice), but part of the issue here is going to be whether the admissions officer reads the kid as manipulative, gaming, and dishonest or not. (They see a whole lot of that.) A lot of class/race-based nonsense goes into that read that you can't necessarily control, but the more one can present an appearance of genuinely not having understood that there would be a problem and happily providing all information requested, the better.

I would seriously consider having your kid re-enroll in the classes. That won't solve the problem if the school becomes convinced the kid is shady, but it should address substantive concerns about the level of achievement of the student.
posted by praemunire at 11:52 AM on January 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

WOW this is a stressful situation. I graduated from college several years ago now and this story is still getting my blood pressure up. Perhaps that is because I am still closer to college age than sending-a-kid-to-college age.
I think all advice here is good, but please please PLEASE do your child and your family a giant favor and do NOT blame them for this problem. One of your comments made it seem like you may have been heading in that direction. Whether it was indeed their responsibility to communicate with their school about this class is irrelevant now—how could they have possibly known. They did not know what they did was going to cause any sort of problem, they did NOT do this on purpose, and they are probably terrified every minute of every day. The fact that you are posting here about this shows how deeply you care about your child’s future, but also how much this has probably been talked to death in your household. My parent was very similar. Your child needs you now more than ever, and they need to you be calm, reasonable, and willing to work with them to fix this rather than figure out who to blame. Again, it is incredibly obvious how much you love and care about them but please make sure you are showing it. Your kid is going through hell right now.
posted by leafmealone at 8:42 AM on January 26, 2020

Little late, but: I suspect OP is referring to a first-gen college student, as in the first generation in the immediate family to attend college, and not a first-gen immigrant.
posted by moira at 12:12 PM on January 29, 2020

This situation has worked itself out. College acceptance is not at risk.
posted by GliblyKronor at 11:14 AM on January 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

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