I am currently applying for a mid-range private school that teaches the career I want primarily (software engineering) and a prestigious public school for computer science (it doesn't have software engineering). So if I make it into the public university, I would evaluate between the specific career of the private one and the economic help of the public one, and choose the most appropriate one.

However, reading their entrance rules, I saw that if I decline the offer of admission in the public one, I could not apply to it again for the next two admission cycles (at two per year, that means a year and a half). What is the philosophy behind this? Applying to several schools benefits students, giving them more schools to choose from. And it also raises the funding because of the payment that is done to give the entrance exam (which is not one of the things public schools in my country can brag about). And it doesn't harm anyone, because the next one in the list would enter. The only collateral damage I can think of is extra administrative effort, but a year and a half vetted from applying to the university because of that seems too much for me. So, why? Is there some extra side effect that they are accounting for?

The information @Pete L. Clark requested: I am living in Peru, and here the admission process in public universities is pretty simple: You just present your legal and education papers, pay for the entrace exam, take it, and see if you are admitted or not. So, everything boils down to that 3-days exam. But once it is finished, you are in.

  • @aeismail I just changed a couple of things that I didn't mean, but thank you very much for the edit, I even learned from it! – chubakueno Feb 8 '14 at 22:22
  • I am curious about exactly how this restriction is worded. That might present a clue. – J.R. Feb 8 '14 at 23:24
  • We already have one answer explaining the perspective of the US academic community. But in the comments to this answer we learn that the OP is applying to universities in a different country for which the system is different (e.g. is there a pre-admission exam given by the university? That does not happen in the US). If so, please modify the question to provide more specific geographic information. How can people answer it usefully if they don't know what context you are talking about? – Pete L. Clark Feb 9 '14 at 2:18
  • @JR It is just given as-is:The applicants who decline their vacant cannot participate in the next two admissions(But in spanish). – chubakueno Feb 9 '14 at 2:24
  • @PeteL.Clark I agree, I added some information(mostly the same as the comments) – chubakueno Feb 9 '14 at 2:37

I believe the issue here is that if a student has already been offered admission and turned it down, then the school has already given that student due consideration in reviewing the application. Reapplying in the following year means that the candidate was apparently unsatisfied with any of the offers of admission received, which included the school in question. So what would have changed in such a short period of time that meant the offer wasn't good enough then, but is good enough now?

  • Well, one of the things that would make me reconsider their offer is that I couldn't sustain ong to wait for the next exam. (This is not a problem really, because I am planning on staying their offer if I make it. I am just curious about such a condition...) – chubakueno Feb 9 '14 at 0:37

Programs don't like to be used as a "backup", because offers to people using them in this way delay offers to others, sometimes to the point that the other people give up and accept offers from yet-other places. Thus, making offers that fail tends to degrade the quality of candidates who will accept offers. Thus, since you declined once, obviously chances are good that you'd decline again, thus again somewhat-lowering the quality of candidates that will be made an offer early enough to accept.

  • Actually, the entrance to public universities is simpler in my country. You just give your studies certificates, pay for the exam, give the exam, and see if you are admitted or not. But I agree that it could cause some problems for the ones that weren't given an offer at first because of the ones who declined it. – chubakueno Feb 9 '14 at 0:41
  • Ah, yes, my comments were specific to my experience in the U.S. (30+ years). But possibly people think in some such terms even if it is not so visibly part of the mechanism as in the U.S. Not to mention the "once burned, twice shy" riff, or the "offense" at being refused a "date" upon offer... for kids. This is human nature, I suppose, and some image of it will appear in otherwise-high-tone [sic] situations. – paul garrett Feb 9 '14 at 0:53
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    @paulgarrett I tend to think the human nature thing is very unlikely. Japan has an entrance system similar to what chubakueno describes. But I have never heard of forbidding reapplying or anything of that nature in Japan. If a university does such a thing, it would be perceived as being egregiously unfair. There are various valid reasons that may make applicants change their minds, e.g., serious illness (and unexpectedly quick recovery), a sudden change of their financial situations, and a whole lot of other personal issues. (cont'd) – Yuichiro Fujiwara Feb 9 '14 at 2:04
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    @YuichiroFujiwara: how common is it in Japan to apply for several universities? If the ethics (or application mechanism) is "balanced" in the way that there is not an egregious amount of backup applications so a decline and re-application by the student usually means that something like the reasonable causes you mention are the normal case - then of course there is no reason for restricting the reapplications. Things are different if there is a problem of about everyone sending multiple backup applications. – cbeleites supports Monica Feb 9 '14 at 13:25
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    @cbeleites It's a difficult question because I need to explain a lot of things. But roughly speaking, when it comes to public schools (which OP asked about), you can pick only one school. And if you didn't pass their entrance exam, you can apply for one more public school. And that's it. The reason for no mass application is complicated. But basically, if you apply for a prestigious public school (which is the case for OP), the outcomes of your applications to private schools should come first. You only take the exam for a public school if your first choice is that school at this point. – Yuichiro Fujiwara Feb 11 '14 at 1:55

I guess whether backup applications (and re-applications next time) are or are not a problem depends very much on how many prospective students do how many backup applications.

No problem if a small percentage of prospective students apply for one other university.

But if lots of the people who want to study apply at several places, you end up in a situation where the administrative part of the whole process runs into chaos because one or two more rounds acceptance letters and waiting whether the student accepts are needed. And of course, the chances that a student who ended up on the waiting list with you accepted somewhere else or meanwhile took a job because they thought it unlikely to get a place to study would be high. Thus, administration has a lot of additional work and also stress. You cannot start the application process too early (e.g. the final exam of the schools is needed). But you need to allow a reasonable amount of time for the student to accept or decline the offer of the univerity and students will tend to send the refusal late (or forget to send it at all) because they wait for acceptance of another university. If you are too late sending out the acceptance (for those on the waiting list), this is anywhere between stressful and impossible for the students to accept: they have to find housing and move, and if courses already started they also have to catch up with the learning.
Also, universities cannot overbook like airlines.

In other words, the situation becomes highly stressful for everyone involved:

  • the university has a high unnecessary workload (n "backup exams" have to be graded for each student),
  • university administration also has a high workload and pressure: they need to react immediately on the refusal letters of the students and may need several rounds of acceptance.
  • Students who do not get accepted immedately at the university of their dreams have to stay ready for moving immeditaly without knowing where. Also the prospective student may "hang in the air" because they don't apply for a "regular" job / training while there is still a substantial chance of getting a late acceptance.

I'm wondering whether the fact that you have to pay for the exam is just another symptom of this same problem (or the univiersities' fear of that): both rules may be designed to keep down the number of backup applications.

There are other ways to try avoiding this administrative mess: In my country (Germany) the most overrun fields of study have a central application: you file your one appliation including a statement of backup universities (and backup subjects) and then get an offer according to this. If you end up at a university that was not your first choice, you can anyways start there and try to change later on.
Nevertheless, the last letters of acceptance are usually sent out when the semester has already started (to fill in places of students who accepted but didn't show up or because this is round 3 of the acceptance: the student on the waiting list declined).

  • For Erasmus Mundus master courses, anyone applying to more than two is automatically rejected for all. – gerrit Feb 9 '14 at 17:17
  • @gerrit: but they surely have a clear statement of that rule!? – cbeleites supports Monica Feb 9 '14 at 18:38
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    @cebeleites Yes, this is stated clearly. – gerrit Feb 9 '14 at 19:07

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