The college admissions process is very mysterious. When applying to university, who knows what the admissions people are really looking for.
To give a better idea, here are seventeen of the worst ways people have been rejected from college.
Many thanks to the Reddit user who posed this question and to those who responded. You can check out ore answers from the source at the end of this article!
I'm a teacher--one of the students I work with just had his acceptance to Stanford rescinded. He's a low-income minority student with an excellent GPA and ACT scores. On paper, he's a score for schools that value talent and diversity. So he got accepted to Stanford.
When he got the letter, he tweeted AT STANFORD saying something like "Oh yeah, I got in." That prompted them to click on his Twitter and they saw all this messed up stuff about misogyny and drug use. They called our school and told us that they no longer were interested in admitting him as a student.
Copy and Paste Is NOT Your Friend
I'm an Admissions Officer now and the worst one I have seen was a beautiful essay ending in "that's why I want to attend (not the university I work for)". Like really dude?
Off topic but I just recently read an essay that made me cry due to everything the poor student had gone through in life. I felt like a jerk for complaining I had brought pretzels instead of chips for lunch that day.
A variety of felonies, from armed robbery to manslaughter. On the application is a check box question: "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"
What it doesn't tell you is that not only are you unlikely to be admitted if you check yes, but felony convictions are an automatic disqualification by the "review committee". But the other half of the story is, if you check the no box, it's not like we run a background check on you. So I'm confident there are quite a few convicted felons walking around our campus right now.
I rejected a student who applied to our PhD program to work with me because she PLAGIARIZED MY PAPER in the personal essay of her application. Who does that?
Comedy In Tragedy
I once went and visited a college that my brother was interested in. All of the potential students and parents sat down in an auditorium. The admission officer must of have been having an awful day because he proceeded to go on a full blown rant.
He said "If ANY of you write a college essay about a tragic event in your life, it has to be tragic. An essay about how you moved in your sophomore year of high school to another state and no longer had friends with you, THAT IS NOT TRAGIC.
If it is supposed to be a tragedy or huge overcoming then it must be a tear jerker. EVERY TIME I see an essay about overcoming a lame obstacle, it instantly hits the bin."
Needless to say, my brother did not attend.
I am a college admission officer.
EVERY college admits students in a different way. Some will admit top 10%, then go on to top 25%. Some will NOT admit students who are well above the caliber of the average student who attends the school. Some have a tuba quota, and some just have lousy employees who make lousy choices.
I will not admit a student that I don't think has a chance of coming (too high). I also won't admit a student who will not be able to cut it academically (too low). Admitting a student that you know won't be coming hurts the acceptance rate, and therefore, your rankings. Admitting a student who won't continue to graduate hurts your persistence rate, and therefore, your rankings.
When I decide not to admit a student, I generally have a good reason. In fact, it's generally a combination of things. If you are the applicant, I will never tell you these reasons even if you ask for them because at that point, it's over.
For what non-admissions people would consider "worst," I'd say there are two reasons. First, what a student had on his or her social media pages. Second, for just being boring.
Think Before You Submit
Just graduated college last summer, worked in the undergraduate admissions office for 4 years as a student ambassador (tour guide, shadow host, etc) and as an admissions counselor's assistant. Worst case I've seen is a kid openly admit in his application essay that he was a habitual cheater throughout high school but it taught him how to become resourceful and think outside the box. I've never seen an application get denied faster.
I worked in the back of the admissions office with all the paperwork/application when I was in college. If you weren't absolutely amazing, the smallest thing could cause a rejection - being rude to the people in our call center (who also processed applications) was a big one on the list. The six women who worked there were SO nice to everyone on the phone and were still called stupid a couple times. Those students were rejected.
I attended a top 3 school in the US (recently) and worked closely with their admissions office during my time there. Each year we have new student orientation, a week where students are allowed to visit other dorms, do activities, etc in order to get acquainted and make any changes to their schedule or living arrangements. My school is popular among high school obsessives, they pine over it and dream about attending. Some get obsessive. One got too obsessive.
He was just starting senior year in high school and hadn't even started applying to college. He decided, however, that it was his RIGHT and OBLIGATION to attend this school. So, what is an un-admitted high school student to do?
He lied to his parents and said that he had been admitted into a special program at the school, hopped a bus for a 4 hour drive to campus, and pretended to be a student. I believe his reasoning was that if he attended classes there for a year he would certainly get in because he'd be able to prove that he could do it. He made friends, convinced desk workers at dorms that he'd lost his key card, slept in various peoples' rooms after making a variety of excuses as to why he couldn't stay in his (roommate was mean, allergic to something, etc), and hopped from one dorm to the next after being found out and banned from his current living arrangements.
I think he was on campus for almost a week and a half. His plan was to stay for the entire year and attend classes. He even went so far as to find a handicapped girl, convince her that the school had assigned him to her as an official note-taker, and was going to use her as his "in" to lectures.
Admissions had their eye on him for a while prior to this - he was really active in the admitted students Facebook group (even though he hadn't even applied) and nobody could really figure out what his deal was. When they started getting reports of this sketchy compulsive liar on campus who was sleeping in dorms he didn't live in, was attending events he wasn't permitted to attend, and exploiting handicapped students, they put two and two together and tracked him down.
They eventually found him and contacted his parents. He was escorted off campus by two police officers who travelled with him all the way to the bus station to send him home. They informed him that there was a standing order for his arrest if he ever stepped foot onto school property again. And that was that.
So, I asked some friends of mine in the admissions office, "I'm not sure what it takes to earn an instant rejection, but would that do it?"
And they did.
There is a scholarship in my area provided by a business. It's an amazing opportunity and I never thought I would get it. Well, lo and behold I get it. The organization has a representative at my school so I asked her why I got picked. She asked me what I wrote my essay about and I told her. I was at camp one year and I helped a girl with some serious problems.
She then told me that both scholarship people and colleges have gotten to the point that they will turn you down if you write about how the mission trip you went on changed your life. They're sick of it. Freaking everyone goes on a mission trip, sees starving children and suddenly their life is changed.
She says that they totally support missions and the things they do, but she also said "If you write about the mission trip you went on, you may go to heaven but you won't go to Harvard."
My mother does this - at her college, they get so many applicants ever year that it basically comes down to really simple things when rejecting potential students.
When you've got thousands of people vying for a limited number of places, eventually you've whittled down the list to a bunch of equals and you're still left with too many. At that point, it's basically up to the seemingly inconsequential and random choices of your admissions officer.
What's On The Menu?
I have a friend who is at one of the Ivy League Schools. She said the worst thing about the admissions process is the randomness that happens all the time. There may be two people with very similar profiles, and one is from Georgia and the other is from California, but they don't have enough kids this year offered admission from the South, so the kid from Georgia gets it. Next year could be different. Or the Marching Band needs another trumpet player, so it sucks for the guy who plays with the flute.
But she really hates it when people whose parents are wealthy alumni get pushed in the front of the line.
Scammers Get Canned
I worked as an admissions advisor for one of those online universities. Literally everyone got in, but we could still reject individuals if they didn't meet certain criteria (minimum GPA, recommendation letter, etc).
Every morning we would get a list of leads to call. This was basically comprised of individuals who clicked the university's banner on a website and entered their phone number.
So I get a lead for this fellow whose 85 and wants to complete his MBA. He turns out to be the meanest person I've ever talked to. Starts yelling at me from the get go. Didn't want to hear anything about the requirements. He just wanted to know about the student loan process.
I ask him for a ballpark of his GPA and he goes off on a tangent about how that's none of my business..... Clearly trying to scam the system. Needless to say I rejected him, and it felt good.
Some schools will reject people if their grades are too high, they have too many extra curriculars etc. The thought being that these students are basically perfect and will probably get into an Ivy League school; what is the point of accepting them if they aren't likely to attend?
College Financial Aid Counselor here (USA) who works with our admissions staff.
Its common sense but some students don't seem to realize that if you receive federal student aid at one school, other schools can see this on a variety of national databases. The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) for example.
Several years ago we had high school student with decent grades, selected for additional documents (verification) and completed the process... but... just seemed off.
Well during our awarding process we discovered that she attended prior schools and received aid. Lots. Several years worth. That right there, lying on the admissions app, is enough to get the boot. What was the real shocker - she was 26. She was not only lying about school but her age. She said she was 18 on the app.
She came in to see about her package and we directed her to her admissions adviser. She said "Ok, I'll be right back!" and I said, under my breath "oh-no-you-wont....".
Following up with admissions I asked how it went and the counselor said "Good right up until she started crying and walked out".
So.... TRANSFER STUDENTS - DO NOT LIE/LEAVE OFF INFO ON PRIOR ATTENDED SCHOOLS ON YOUR APP - WE WILL FIND OUT.
Devil's In The Details
My cousin* attended sports science. His grades where all very good. But on the physical exam, it was stated that branded clothes weren't allowed. They had to wear a white T-shirt and black shorts without a brand. He didn't know and was wearing a nike t-shirt, with the logo showing very small on his shirt. He got send away for disregarding the rules. My aunt was there and would get another t-shirt in the store immediately, but they didn't approve. So he didn't attend that universitiy.
The whole process of college admissions in the US is quite interesting. In Australia we don't have to write essays or know anything about the university you are attending. In your final year of high school, you list your top 5 preferred degree from your preferred university. Then everyone is ranked at the end of the year according to tests and assignments done over the past 12 months of study. They apply some weighting to account for poverty index based on your area etc and out comes a number that ranks you according to everyone in your state. It's all very efficient and impersonal.