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Can Schools Rescind Admission for Students Who Defer Because of COVID-19?

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By Ashley Ravid on July 31, 2020 8:00 AM

With the pandemic making a return to in-person schooling dubious, incoming college first-years are still in a state of uncertainty as to how their first year of university education will look.

What if your school is insisting on in-person instruction and you don't feel safe heading to campus? What if you don't want an online college experience and want to defer your admission until next year, so you can get the full four years of on-campus living?

Can a college rescind your offer of admission if you choose to defer due to the COVID-19 pandemic? That mostly depends on the policies of each individual school administration.

Why Are Acceptances Rescinded?

Most schools reserve the right to rescind admission at their own discretion — meaning that they can revoke a student's admission for pretty much any reason that doesn't break the law, such as discrimination. Otherwise, most reasons are fair game.

Traditionally, rescinded admissions happen after drastic grade drops or serious disciplinary issues that occur between the time of admission and the beginning of a student's attendance at the school.

Other times, students have had their acceptances rescinded for falsifying information on their applications, such as in the case of the students involved in the 2019 college admissions scandal. Recently, there have also been several notable cases of universities revoking acceptances after incoming students' racist behaviors were exposed online.

In 2017, the University of California at Irvine made headlines for rescinding hundreds of students' acceptances for allegedly not submitting final transcripts. The school administration later admitted that the school's overenrollment had played a role in the mass rescinding, and the school reinstated those students' acceptances.

Where Does COVID-19 Factor In?

Many students fear that deferring enrollment — meaning that they choose to begin school at a later term — may mean having their admissions revoked by universities who wish to have full class sizes and tuition incomes even with online-only classes.

Schools like the University of Illinois and the UC system are permitting students to request a deferral due to the pandemic, though the schools will likely evaluate and either approve or deny the requests on a case-by-case basis.

If you are worried whether your acceptance could be rescinded for requesting a deferral, or wondering whether your school will permit you to defer enrollment due to the pandemic, your school's FAQ page on coronavirus response may have the answers.

Ultimately, it is a school's choice to rescind admissions, but it's hard to imagine that any school would welcome the backlash that will likely come if they rescind the admission of students who want to defer enrollment until they can safely begin in-person classes.

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