There have been any number of stories about students who have had their acceptance to college rescinded after improper or controversial posts they’ve made online go viral. This is due to a little-discussed phenomenon called conditional admissions, or conditional acceptance. So, what is conditional acceptance?
Almost all offers of admission are conditional, meaning that the college reserves the right to revoke the offer if a student’s grades fall precipitously, if a student violates the school’s code of conduct, or if admissions officials determine that any part of their application was deceptive or dishonest. Many students know that they should keep their grades up during their last few months of senior year for this reason, but they are unaware of the behavioral expectations their future university is holding them to.
This article will discuss the reasons why colleges decide to revoke acceptances, and how you can ensure you don’t become one of the students making headlines for the most unfortunate reasons.
The Importance of Social Media
While social media has existed in some form since IRC channels, it has grown in prominence and societal influence every year. Ideas and messages from social media are increasingly publicized in the outside world, and often create lasting impacts for those who create and share them.
Still, that does not mean the broader world has adapted to this new reality, and many people treat what they say online as private, rather than public. This can lead to embarrassment when jokes or photos meant for friends reach a broader–and possibly even global–audience. These kinds of posts can affect admissions chances if colleges see them before making an admissions decision, or even cause colleges to reconsider an offer of admission.
Social media is important, and mistakes on it can hurt your chances of college admissions if they’re truly egregious. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Cleaning Your Social Media Presence
All social media exists on a sliding scale of anonymity. Depending on where your accounts fall on this scale, you will be at more or less risk of being “seen” online by the schools you’ve applied to.
At one end of the scale are sites where your name is inherently tied to the account, and everything you say is easily traced back to you. This extends to platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Next are sites where you have a permanent identity which is often, but not always, tied to your name. Twitter is one such example. Then, there are sites where your identity is known by some, but not all those you interact with, such as Reddit and Discord. At the far end of the scale are the most anonymous sites–typically message boards without permanent accounts or any other information tying individuals to the content they create and share.
The more closely an account is tied to your name and face, the more you should regulate the content you share. This means you should avoid posting offensive comments, harassing other users, and uploading images of criminal acts (including underaged drinking). This is especially true if you are going to be interacting with a school’s official social media in any way using your personal accounts.
The more anonymous an account is, and the further removed from your real identity, the less it feels like anyone will notice what you say. Still, you should be careful whenever you’re posting online–some bored internet fanatics make a habit of finding the real names of those behind anonymous accounts (often known as “doxxing”). Once they’ve done so, they can publish that information for the whole world to see.
While freedom of speech is a guaranteed right, this only applies to government censorship of speech. Thus, private entities, like universities, can still punish you based on your words or other shared media, given that they oppose their values or are generally inappropriate or offensive.
To make sure your accounts are clear, review your posted content and delete posts, photos, or comments made where you participate in or glorify illegal activity. Posts which are political in nature are usually acceptable, so long as they are not racist, sexist, or violent.
Universities strive to be bastions of free speech, where ideas may be discussed openly. That said, there are limits, and it is best to err on the side of caution when dealing with university admissions.
Other Factors in Conditional Acceptance
While scandalous posts on social media are the most widely discussed way to have your college admission revoked, it’s relatively uncommon. It’s far more likely for admission to be revoked because of significant grade drops during the second half of senior year. The term “Senior Spring” is well known among students everywhere. As summer looms and college beckons, high school seniors inevitably feel their interest in high school waning, and lose motivation.
While teachers are aware of this phenomenon and sympathize to some degree, colleges are often stricter. If grades fall precipitously in the time after acceptance to a college, the offer may be revoked. Colleges are seeking students interested in learning for its own sake, who are able to self-motivate even when exceptional grades are no longer needed for college applications.
This does not mean you have to go above and beyond. Instead, try to maintain the same standards you have always held yourself to. The college admitted you based on the grades you had; maintain them (or at least stay in the same general range) and you’ll be fine.
Violating a school’s ethical conduct expectations is another reason student acceptances may be revoked. Getting caught plagiarizing or committing other offenses, legal or otherwise, will frequently result in a revocation of admission offers. You can of course still enjoy your remaining time in high school–just make sure to do so in a responsible manner.
Finally, if admissions officers determine that your application was fraudulent, dishonest, or intentionally misleading, they will revoke your offer of admission. This relates to the code of conduct mentioned above but has recently gained attention and prominence in the aftermath of the Varsity Blues scandal. Most students will not need to worry about this; it simply serves as a reminder to be your honest self when applying to college.
Final Thoughts on Conditional Acceptance
When colleges look for students, they are seeking a whole, complex person, not just a brilliant scholar or promising athlete. They expect the people they are admitting to measure up to the ideals and values of the college, but they understand that people are different in background, ideas, and values. While they do support a variety of viewpoints and intellectual debate, they also want to uphold their standards of what is acceptable in the public forum. Think of social media as a tool – almost like fire. Used well it is incredibly useful, but if you aren’t careful, things can easily get out of control.
Conditional admissions as a whole act as insurance for colleges, who want to make sure that the students they’ve admitted live up to the picture they’ve painted of themselves in their application. This process, and admissions as a whole, can be challenging. At Ivy Scholars we have a wide breadth of experience advising people through every step of the admissions process. If you have further questions about conditional acceptance or any other aspect of college admissions strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out.