College miscalculations lead to rescinded acceptances and out-of-luck students

Claire Gilliland, Editor-in-Chief

March, April and May are always important months for college-bound seniors; they’re the time when admissions decisions are released, and students have to decide which schools they want to attend and submit their Statements of Intent to Register, or accept their admission offer. The spring season only becomes more stressful if students have to consider the possibility of their acceptance getting rescinded, as has happened in the past.

Colleges and universities sometimes revoke a student’s acceptance due to behavior issues or if a student’s grade slips to D’s and F’s. Colleges may also rescind acceptances if they don’t receive transcripts or test scores by their deadline.

Students who do behave and keep their grades up often believe that their acceptances are guaranteed; however, a college can revoke an acceptance for a reason beyond a student’s control.

Colleges grant acceptances based on a tricky formula that includes some statistical guesswork on how many will actually attend — a number that often is hard to predict with accuracy when students are often told they should apply to between five and eight colleges.

“Typically, [colleges] rely on statistical models to predict which students will take them up on their offers to attend,” Kate Zernike said in a “New York Times” article entitled “In Shifting Era of Admissions, Colleges Sweat.” “Colleges consider an amalgam of factors, comparing them to past trends, to predict whether a student will attend…. They consider how many phone calls, Web hits, campus visits and applications they have received.”

Colleges use a process called ‘yield management;’ they look at last year’s yield — how many of the admitted students accepted the school’s offer — and from that can estimate how many students will accept their admissions offer and therefore how many students to accept if they want to have a certain number of students in that class.

Students believe that these calculations are good for colleges, but that colleges should make sure they’re not wrong in their numbers.
“It’s good that they try to calculate [student populations] but they also have to take into account the corrections they have to make in order for it to work,” senior Lewis Catapang said. “In past years [UC Irvine] overestimated and… withdrew the acceptances of a lot of students and I don’t think the student should have to go through that.”

For the 2017-18 school year, UC Irvine underestimated how many students would accept their admission offer, and was therefore left with more admitted students than it could handle. Of the students that UCI had sent admissions offers to, 7,100 accepted; they had only been prepared for about 6,250 students, and therefore had to cut the list by rescinding 499 students’ acceptances over the summer, leaving those students stuck without a college to go to at the start of fall semester.

Although the admitted students hadn’t done anything to warrant their acceptances being rescinded, UCI said it had no choice because it did not have adequate facilities to accommodate all of the admitted students.

As of July 30, approximately 64 students appealed and had their acceptances restored, according to a “New York Times” article by Jacey Fortin entitled “UC Irvine Rescinds Acceptances for Hundreds of Applicants”; UCI’s spokesman Tom Vasich said in an interview with Vernike that if students had met all of the terms and conditions in their admissions offer — turning in their transcripts and test scores on time and keeping good grades — they could appeal. However, some students didn’t have much luck with that.

“I called [the Admissions office] and was on hold for 40 minutes then I called 50 more times after work,” one of these students wrote in a statement by UCI’s student organization, Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine, featured in Fortin’s article. “No answer. I have sent out three emails and no response.”

Students whose admissions offers are rescinded are left with limited options for their future in terms of what college to attend. In submitting a Statement of Intent to Register to one school, students are telling other colleges that they won’t be going to any other school. If a student’s acceptance to the one school that they chose is revoked, then they cannot easily switch to another school and must either appeal to their chosen school, attend a community college instead or simply wait another year.

“It isn’t right because students already have all these plans and dreams of going to this particular college and then [their acceptances are revoked],” senior Thuy Bo said.

Other colleges or universities have had acceptance mishaps, too. Many schools — such as Carnegie Mellon University in 2015, Cornell University in 1995 and 2003, UC Davis in 2002 and 2004 and UC San Diego in 2009 — have erroneously sent out acceptance letters to students that they had either already rejected or that they were planning to reject, and then had to tell the students the news that they had not actually been accepted, according to Time article “The Long, Sad Tradition of College Admissions Mistakes” by Katy Steinmetz.

“That’s unacceptable for a college that’s supposed to be prestigious and… it just looks bad on any college that make these simple mistakes,” Catapang said. “This is a child’s future, a simple mistake could devastate them.”

“They’re a serious thing and shouldn’t make those kinds of mistakes because it gives them a bad reputation,” Bo said. “College are picky, you know?”

These mistakenly-sent acceptance letters were typically due to technical errors; UCI’s mistake was in its calculations of how many students to accept compared to how many would attend.