I applied to PhD program and gladly received official admission offer on the 29th of March. They guaranteed me four-year funding. I accepted the admission offer and was preparing for obtaining student visa. I accepted the offer on the 13th of April, declining two admission offers from other institutions.

However, my application page suddenly changed that my admission is rejected. A staff of the department said that they decided to rescind my admission offer on April the 22nd. What can I do now?

I received this message this morning:

My sincere apology for this unfortunate admission circumstance. There was a misunderstanding after the initial admission process, and the initial determination of "Deny" for your application made by our faculty was indeed the decision that should have been maintained. Later, due to a misunderstanding, we reversed the admission decision from "Deny" to "Offer". After this change was made, the faculty who had considered your application - and who denied your admission - confirmed their denial of admission due to lack of funding available to support you. For this reason, we needed to change your offer of admission back to the original "Deny" status. Yours was a very competitive application, and I am sorry to have to rescind our offer of admission. We therefore ask that you disregard our offer of admission and funding, which were made in error.

My sincere apology for this misunderstanding, and best wishes to you as you pursue other graduate program offers,

  • Side discussions on similar cases, answers in comments, and similarhave been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before writing another comment.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 7:58
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    Given your username, the details, etc., I assumed that this is happening in the US and tagged the question accordingly. Please edit your question if this was incorrect.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 8:03
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    Are you sure there wasn't any fine print or language saying your admission was contingent on available funding or something similar that would allow them to do this? It does seem odd they wouldn't feel at all obligated to follow through. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 2:44
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    @GotoSeattle Would be interesting to hear how this went on further? What did you do and what was the outcome?
    – lordy
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 9:49

3 Answers 3


I would recommend the following:

  1. Contact the other universities and ask if they might still be willing to admit you (this might be your easiest way out). If the answer is negative make sure to keep their answers for the later points.
  2. Write to the university that revoked the offer stating (in a friendly tone) that you turned down other offers due to their offer and that this situation leaves you (and them) is a suboptimal situation. If the result of point 1 was negative then add this information too. Ask them for a solution. If the mistake was made just on your application then they might consider admitting you to avoid a law case. If they wrongly offered to all applicants (e.g. software bug) then they will not be able to do this.
  3. If point 1 and 2 do not lead to anything then write to them a second time threatening with a law case in order to cover your damages caused by their mistake. But still in friendly words along the lines that you would prefer not to etc ... (Many people in the comments below suggest to skip this step and go for the lawyer right away "Never threaten to sue. Either do it, or don't").
  4. Get a lawyer to discuss further actions.

Other points to consider:

  • How long was their offer there? If it was just there for 30 min it might be different to being there for days and they decided to revoke weeks after you accepted.
  • Was the offer conditional on anything?
  • Assume you win with the help of a lawyer - do you want to spend the next 4-5 years of your life in this environment? I am not saying yes or no - it is just something to consider.
  • 87
    According to the original question, the admission offer was made on March 29, and the rescinding email was received on April 23. That's almost four weeks. In particular, the rescinding email was sent out after April 15, which is the common US deadline for accepting all first-round graduate funding offers (and by extension admission offers), making it much less likely that other universities can still extend admission and funding.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 9:46
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    You may want to flip points 3 and 4. Having the letter on attorney letterhead will carry much more weight. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 12:31
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    @lordy I suppose, but I think you'd be in that venue anyways if you are intending to write a letter threatening legal action. At least if it's on an attorney's letterhead, the attorney will help craft the letter that cites specific and appropriate law; ideally the letter is forwarded to the university's legal department and they determine it's not worth the cost of a legal battle and provide a concession presumably with an NDA attached. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 12:37
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    @lordy I would be surprised if such letters were not shown to the legal department on the Uni side of things from the very start anyway. By threatening to use legal action without seeing a lawyer first, OP just gives Uni opportunity to be the first party that actually puts lawyers at work on this.
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 13:36
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    -1 Never threaten to sue. Either do it, or don't, if you decide to seek a lawyer's input into this,do it before point 3, not after. You don't want to play your hand prematurely, and IF they believe you, they will cease communicating with you entirely. If they don't believe you're really going to sue, you just look like a jackass to them and erase all goodwill that they could have possibly had towards you for their mistake. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 14:27

I wouldn't bother with the legal threats. Call the institutions that made the other offers as soon as possible. Probably one will come through.

It's unfortunate and makes the uni look bad. But in reality things like this happen some small fraction of the time. Just like job offers get pulled a small but noticeable amount of time. It's part of why I am on the side of people who find things have changed substantially and decide to go somewhere else (job, school) even after acceptance.

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    Yes, confirm that the alternate offers are no longer recoverable before considering the lawyer route with the rescinded offer.
    – MaxW
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 18:45

Allow me to respond from the point of view of the head of academic support teams. We generally have contingencies in place for occurrences such as these, which happen from time to time. It's pretty unlikely to have occurred due to a computer system error, although that's been the case in the past. This sounds to me like human error.

It is part of our protocol to explain the issue to the affected applicant in a way similar to the snippet you quoted. In most cases in fact, I write the letter of apology since I oversee operations.

Before we write to you, we would have considered your case in detail. In my institution, that would mean an automatic review by the admissions academic, program head PLUS the head of the school. This is because of the gravity of the mistake. We would review not only your application, but also the admissions data, the admissions academic's notes AND the process that was undertaken. One of the considerations is whether there are reasonable grounds to accept you due to our error. In most cases, unfortunately, there aren't. This is because there are pretty clear reasons for upholding the original decision to deny an application. For example, it might be a weak application that does not meet our criteria.

Availing yourself of legal advice is, of course, your prerogative. However, I think the other responders overestimate the effectiveness of pursuing a legal case and underestimate the costs. Universities have legal teams themselves for just this situation (and many more besides). They also have deep pockets. The question really isn't whether threats to sue be successful. The question should be whether any legal action will be successful in the long run. By that I mean do you have the resources to match the university's?

Is there reputational risk to the university in a situation like this? Maybe, but it's not likely to be substantial. There might be more reputational risk by accepting a weak application.

I've handled cases in which an appeal has resulted in the acceptance of the applicant following a communication sent in error. In my university, I am not aware of any legal suit that has resulted in a reversal of the admissions decision.

I hope that this gives you more information about your options.

Good luck to you.

  • This is interesting information - but probably won't help the OP, since the question was asked two years ago. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 23:22
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    Thanks. I'm not writing for the OP, though. I've composed this for others who might experience the same or similar thing, which is a point of these boards that is often overlooked.
    – user96258
    Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 23:24

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