Getting into college or university is a big deal. You’re making your family proud and you’re taking long strides toward your dreams and goals, all while you’re already making a mental list of all the courses you’ll be taking. Being a college student is a great time to be alive! Unfortunately, far from everyone gets in.
Oh, and it’s not just your grades that can make you slip up—there are far more bizarre reasons for angering college admission officers. Some of those include cheating, plagiarizing, and having little to no respect for anyone who isn’t you. Getting into college doesn’t happen automatically just because you meet the necessary grade minimum.
Redditors have been sharing stories about the times they had to reject college applicants and went into detail about the exact circumstances. This shows that the human factor might actually be more important than many would-be students realize. Check out the most interesting stories below, dear Pandas, and upvote the ones that intrigued you. If you’re feeling up to it, share your own stories about how you applied to college (and whether your heart was beating as fast as mine was when you got the admission letter).
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 cunts a couple times. Those students were rejected.
I’m a teacher–one of the students I work with just had his acceptance to Stanford rescinded.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 “fuck yeah, I got in.” That prompted them to click on his Twitter and they saw all this fucked up shit about misogyny and drug use. They called our school and told us that they no longer were interested in admitting him as a student.
Getting accepted to university—especially if it ranks among the top educational institutions in your country or worldwide—doesn’t happen by chance. Hard work really does pay off when we’re talking about applications. It’s a long-term project, too.
In essence, getting into college is similar to applying for a job that you desperately want. Your extracurricular activities, volunteering experience, ambitions, confidence, and charisma all play a vital role in helping you stand out from all the other candidates. The main difference, however, is that obviously grades still play a vital role when trying to get into college. They matter quite a bit, though I’d argue that who you are as a person and your drive hold far more weight when it’s time to make a decision.
As an admissions director I repeat: if there is an essay STOP QUOTING ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND MARTIN LUTHER KING!
Super late to the party, but my mom is an admissions counselor (i know i’m sorry i’m not one) but the worst story i’ve heard from here goes like this: The student was outstanding, top gpa, test scores, good essay, but my mom had never heard of the school. So she does some searching and can’t find anything on the school (odd), so she types in the address on google maps. What she finds is an abandoned school, which turns out no one has attended for YEARS. Kid forged the entire application, I thought it was impressive, but she did not. Instant deny.
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?
Your journey toward the university quad doesn’t begin during your last year in high school. No! It starts further back, as soon as you enter through your high school’s gates. What you accomplish over the years can reflect very positively on you or actually harm your chances of getting into a good school.
If you spent the last four years lazing about, odds are, you won’t become a studious and energetic student the moment you start your undergraduate degree. (That’s not to say that people don’t change—they do; however, this takes longer than we’d like.) What you can do, however, is manage your online presence to present yourself in the best possible light.
At one admissions presentation I went to for a good school, the admissions officer told us that one student applied to their school with over 100 letters of recommendation. He didn’t have good grades but hoped he could get in if he got everyone he knew to write him a letter of recommendation. He was turned down.
I was at a program for the University that I wanted to attend, and they talked to us about CommonApp essays.
They told us the story of this one applicant that mentioned the show Dexter in his essay, and then ended his essay with something along the lines of “I would definitely become Dexter, and kill bad guys”. Needless to say, he was rejected
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.
Good grades and a portfolio of philanthropic and extracurricular activities don’t appear overnight out of nowhere. They take time, dedication, and—in my opinion, most importantly—passion. Volunteering at your local soup kitchen will look great on your college application and resume alike, however, don’t do it just because it’s ‘expected’ of you or because you believe that’s how you’ll end up getting into a prestigious higher learning institution. That’s simply lying to yourself about your priorities.
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.
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’m not a college admissions officer, but…
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 Havard.”
Instead, focus on the causes that you truly care about because you can only fake your interest in something for so long before everyone’s aware of the truth. Perhaps you’re interested in helping protect the environment or advancing a social cause in your local neighborhood. Or you might be into helping shelter animals or even supporting your town’s football team as a quarterback.
Once you find your true passion, you’ll be singing an entirely different tune about your activities beyond the classroom. And no college admission officer will be able to resist your desire to change the world for the better in your unique way. But it has to be genuine.
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.
I know 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 here 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.
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 didnt approve. So he didn’t attend that universitiy
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?
Had a kid once send in his own worn and slightly smelly shoe along with a note that said, “Hope this helps get my foot in the door.”
I know for a fact that many universities go on Facebook/Instagram and look at applicants profiles.
Once, one of those college speakers at my high school told us this story when explaining letters of rec to us. One teacher wrote a letter for an extremely good student. She was kind, hardworking, got good grades, ans she also babysat for the teacher, so obviously this teacher had no shortage of good things to say about this student. However, later on, after the letter of rec had been sent in, the college got a call from the teacher, who took back everything she said in the letter and told them to not consider the student. Why? Because she caught the student stealing from her house.
Copy/pasted from an email I received from a perspective student. Nothing was altered here except for his name being redacted. [EDIT: and school and star basketball player]
“I think u were at my school and u r from [School name]. I have some questions first. I took the act and got a 17 but a 23 in math, what scholrships does that get me? do you have classes with [Star BBall player] ? Hes so dope. I wanna study biochemistery and cure cancer. I really want to go to ur school. But im gonna go on my own terms.
Needless to say, even at a state school with a near 90% acceptance rate, he was rejected when his application came around.
Worked in a graduate admissions office in college. We once turned away a woman who would call the office every day, to ask us questions about the program that we were not able to disclose (average gpa/gmat of class accepted so far, job placement rate – this was a brand new program. the first class hadn’t even graduated yet. – for this year, etc.)
Eventually, we rejected her because her resume wasn’t as built out as some of our other applicants (I guess this is different for grad school), though we did look at her application with a slight bias…
She flipped a switch and actually came into our office to scream at us.
I was on the admission committee at my med school. One time we had an applicant who’s personal statement started out saying, in all seriousness, that he wanted to be a doctor because a doctor’s white coat or a surgeon’s scrubs are aphrodisiacs. It was an insta-denial.
Obligatory: “not me, but someone I know” I work in another department at a college, but I’ve heard some great stories from our admissions counselors. My favorite is one girl who was actually admitted. Then the department’s social media person followed her on twitter.
Her profile picture was smoking a blunt in front of a pile of coke. scrolling through, a very graphic picture of her fellating someone…. Yeah, that acceptance letter got pulled REAL quick.
Our application asks students to explain a challenging experience they have had, and how they have overcome it.
We denied a student because she said she had fantasies about drinking another human’s blood, and that she hadn’t quite overcome the temptation.
The student came into the admissions office high as hell. Handed in his CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECK which reeked of weed. He was applying to the Child Youth Care program. That guy was an idiot.
A close friend of mine works admissions at a prestigious University. His latest story that he told me was of a application that he denied where they got a perfect score on the SAT, but submitted 2 essays with 5 sentences total between the two. My friend considered it a waste of his time and portrayed a lack of effort.
An admissions officer at W&M once told me about this student who had submitted a beautifully written essay. It was not only well written but emotional, and spelling- and error-free – overall, a fantastic essay. The admissions officer was just about ready to accept her right there when she saw that at the end of the essay, the student had written, ‘And that’s why I want to go to UVA.
Watching medical school applicants come through my school has been very interesting. I’m not on the admissions team but have been a student interviewer. It’s really interesting to see what people will do, even at that high level.
Seeing someone fall asleep during a presentation on the curriculum. Seeing someone get up during a 15 minute talk by the Dean of the school, and go to get things out of their bag. Hearing someone ask if they have to attend the whole interview day.
You would think you wouldn’t see these rookie errors at such a high level.